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Gay City, AIDS Memorial Pathway host World AIDS Day commemoration

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Photo by Kylin Brown
Photo by Kylin Brown

On December 1, Gay City partnered with AIDS Memorial Pathway organizers to host a World AIDS Day commemoration. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic.

Art, progress, and remembrance
Shortly before dusk, dozens of people meandered above Capitol Hill Station as award-winning writer Rosette Royale, the AMP's appointed story-gathering consultant, took to the stage to make introductory remarks.

Royale's keynote detailed actions by AMP organizers and Gay City in the fight against AIDS, and he explained the significance of the space and its correlated artworks.

At the center of the AMP, the piece "andimgonnamisseverybody" by artist Christopher Paul Jordan, has now seen several gatherings in its shadow. Still, some passersby have yet to discover its deep significance.

Jordan, in his accompanying artist statement, says the piece is made from speakers from historic LGBTQ spaces which "carry stories, [acting] as witnesses of our gathering and connections across time." Referring to the piece's large X made of speakers, Jordan's statement explains: "In a time where mass-incarceration, housing insecurity, HIV criminalization, anti-Blackness, transphobia, colonialism, sexism, and ableism deepen the impact of HIV and AIDS on targeted communities, this X is a call for transformative action."

Gay City Executive Director Fred Swanson also spoke briefly about the importance of art and installations such as the AMP's impact on HIV/AIDS awareness. He recognized the progress that has been made in the last 40 years as well as "tremendous amounts of loss in our city alone."

Other keynote speakers at the event included Bill Hall, a long-time HIV/AIDS activist and Tlingit native from southeast Alaska; psychotherapist and writer Julene Tripp Weaver, who performed two poems; and Horatio Hung-Yan Law, another artist with the AMP whose work explores issues of identity and memory.

A candlelight vigil, led by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Abbey of St. Joan, followed, and it included a surprise sainting ceremony for Rosette Royale. Royale's saint name is now, "Saint Roses are Read, Why Mess with Perfection, Scribe of the Underrepresented."

Audience members were pleasantly allowed a moment to smile and even laugh, thanks to the Sisters in that moment, before receiving individual candles that would later be placed near the AMP's List of Names.

While the pathway has now been open to the public for months, this commemoration of World AIDS Day allowed visitors to engage in history, art, and remembrance. Reaching 40 years of the AIDS crisis is a major milestone, and progress is slowly inching forward. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, new research is underway but, as Royale mentioned in his keynote, vaccines for the coronavirus wouldn't be possible today if not for the tireless efforts by AIDS activists in this epidemic over the last four decades.