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    Panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

    In this issue of the San Francisco Bay Times we are launching a new column on the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which was conceived by Bay Times founding contributor, San Francisco AIDS Foundation Co-Founder, and renowned LGBTQ activist Cleve Jones. He envisioned the project in 1985 during the candlelight vigil that year marking the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

    Numerous panels of the quilt returned to the Bay Area earlier this year after a showing in Atlanta. They were being readied by the National AIDS Memorial for an historic display marking the 150th anniversary in April of Golden Gate Park. The coronavirus pandemic unfortunately put a stop to those plans, which would have in size and scale rivaled the quilt’s 1987 unveiling at the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C.

    Focusing on just a panel at a time, this column provides an intimate look at each individual tribute to those whose lives were lost as a result of HIV/AIDS. It is overwhelming to consider the loss of life and talent, which particularly affected—and continue to impact—our LGBTQ community. This panel, for example, pays tribute, in part, to Jon Sims, Allan Estes, and Robert Michael Flaherty.

    Volumes could be written about Sims, who founded the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band (now the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band), the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and much more.

    Estes, in turn, was the Co-Founder, with his partner Lanny Baugniet, of Theatre Rhinoceros. Estes went on to serve as the theater’s Artistic Director.

    Robert Michael Flaherty was one of the owners of the Hayes Street Grill and Vicolo Pizzerias. Both businesses are still thriving.

    These three men, and the others honored in this panel, left lasting legacies that still benefit our lives. We are grateful for their contributions to our community and beyond. Thanks also go to Jones, John Cunningham (Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial), Memorial Spokesman Kevin Herglotz, and to the many other workers, family members, volunteers, and partners who continue to make the quilt possible.

    Gert McMullin, the quilt’s longtime Production Manager, is now using leftover fabric from the quilt to make face masks safeguarding against COVID-19. She says about the quilt: “This is my life’s work. These are my boys. I watch over them and they watch over me.”