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HOLLYWOOD — Ten sections of the historic AIDS Memorial Quilt — each hand-sewn section inscribed with the names of residents who died of the disease — will be on display April 29-30 at the Hollywood United Methodist Church to mark 35 years since the first panels were created during the dark days of the epidemic.
Each year, thousands of panels of the quilt are shown throughout the United States and world. The panels to be displayed in Hollywood reflect the names of members and friends of the church who died from HIV/AIDS.
They will be on display from noon to 4 p.m. each day. The room where the panels were sewn also will be open for viewing. The church hosted a similar display April 22-23.
The Hollywood United Methodist Church holds a special place in Los Angeles history. Before there was an AIDS Project Los Angeles or Project Angel Food, or the lifesaving medication AZT — when the LGBTQ community was sometimes excluded from houses of worship — the congregation on Franklin Avenue rose to help the afflicted, according to Rev. Kathy Cooper Ledesma, senior pastor of the church.
In 1986, the first member of the congregation was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. That began a domino effect as more and more members of the church became ill, Ledesma said.
The disease was usually misunderstood. As late as 1993, the LGBTQ community was being denied services at barber shops and nail salons, teenager Ryan White was not allowed to attend school because of his diagnosis, and even churches were closing their doors to LGBTQ people for fear of “catching AIDS.”
That’s when the Hollywood United Methodist Church proclaimed all were welcome by affixing two giant red ribbons to the sides of the building’s Gothic-style bell tower — ribbons that remain today, and which were recently repainted.
“We took care of one another, brought meals to people, held vigils,” Ledesma said. “In those days, there was such a stigma attached. If you’re over 50, you understand — if you’re under 50, you don’t. People are living with HIV now, but in those days, there was no AZT. And there was persecution of the gay community. It’s important to remember the history.”
Now, under the stewardship of the National AIDS Memorial, the quilt is considered the largest community arts project in the world. It consists of 50,000 individually sewn panels with the names of more than 110,000 people who have died of AIDS.
The sections of the quilt on display at the church consist of 80 hand-sewn panels, each honoring a life lost to AIDS. For each section of the quilt, there are personal stories and photos sharing information about the people behind the names.
More information is available at www.hollywoodumc.org/red-ribbons-30.
The quilt can be viewed in its entirety at www.aidsmemorial.org/quilt.