AIDS Memorial Quilt heads to Northeast Philly for first time

The lives of those lost to HIV/AIDS will be honored in Northeast Philadelphia for the first time next week.

Fourteen panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display Nov. 17 at the Tacony Library, a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The free event will feature beer, wine and live music from local band SB Deluxe.

AIDS Fund and Southeast Northeast Philadelphia Arts Collective will present the event with support from Tacony Community Development Corporation, Tacony LAB, Tacony Library and the office of Councilman Bobby Henon.

“Events like the AIDS Memorial Quilt Display reflect the diversity of Northeast Philadelphia,” Henon said in a statement. “This powerful event will serve as a reminder about the impact of the AIDS epidemic and provide a way for the community to come together.” 

The inaugural event will also include the AIDS Fund’s text and photographic timeline of HIV/AIDS history, “1981-Until It’s Over … ”

Additionally, the event is an opportunity for those who attended the organization’s annual AIDS Walk/Run Philly last month to see the quilt; due to rain, the organization was not able to put the panels on display as usual. AIDS Fund Executive Director Robb Reichard said families who attended the October event with the intention of seeing their loved ones’ panel will be prioritized at the Nov. 17 event. 

“We’re really excited to be partnering with the Free Library of Philadelphia to be able to do that,” Reichard said.

He noted there has been a dearth of attention on the epidemic’s impact in the Northeast, a gap the event addresses.

“We haven’t seen as high a rate of infection in Northeast Philly as we’ve seen in some of the Center City neighborhoods, West Philly or North Philly,” Reichard said. “There are people living with HIV in the Northeast, and certainly, families in the Northeast have been impacted by the epidemic. I don’t think we see as many outreach efforts because the numbers of infections aren’t as high, but that doesn’t mean the impact hasn’t been there.”

Troy Everwine, of Southeast Northeast Philadelphia Arts Collective, said in a statement that his organization is “committed to bringing new, creative programs to our community in and around Tacony.”

“The AIDS Memorial Quilt is a powerful piece of public art, and I’m excited by the opportunity to share it with the Northeast,” he said. “Art can speak to us where words sometimes fail. The quilt is a poignant reminder that the HIV epidemic isn’t over.” 

Reichard said this event is “a wonderful opportunity to see the large range and beauty of the quilt.”

“If people have seen it before, it’s a great opportunity to come out and see it again,” he said. “We don’t talk about HIV enough anymore and our goal is to make sure that those conversations continue to happen and that people don’t forget that HIV is still a serious issue in our community.”

The AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display 6-9 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Tacony Library, 6742 Torresdale Ave.