Bobby Orr-Foreman cut out letters and affixed green fabric cut to look like grass on a 3-foot-by-6-foot panel Saturday afternoon at TPAN.
“I thought I’d help to memorialize him because he hasn’t been before, and he really loved landscaping,” Orr-Foreman said. “He had a really natural green thumb and anything he planted would blossom.”
Orr-Foreman was one of about 20 creating new panels for the AIDS Memorial Quilt as a part of the Call My Name Campaign’s Chicago workshop. His panel memorialized his partner Scott’s former lover, who passed away in 2002 of AIDS.
Hosted by the Names Project, aChurch4Me MCC and TPAN, the outreach initiative provided materials and support for the creation of new panels in the quilt, the largest folk art project in the world, currently composed of more than 47,000 individual panes, each commemorating someone who has died of AIDS.
The Call My Name Campaign’s media coordinator Deven Trowers said the campaign was developed to increase the number of panels dedicated to people of color.
“The Quilt is about 50 miles long, but only half a mile is dedicated to people of color,” Trowers said. “We’ve been trying to create awareness.”
Trowers said the 10-city tour and push to create panels for minorities affected by AIDS comes in advance of the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival this summer, when the Quilt will be back on the National Mall.
One of the co-organizers Rev. Rachelle Brown, pastor of aChurch4Me, a Metropolitan Community Church that meets in Rogers Park, said the Names Quilt is about more than just memorializing the deceased.
“It’s a way of naming communities that have been silenced,” Brown said. “Even in 2012, there are so many people who are ashamed of their status. It’s a way to memorialize but it’s also about taking shame away and making it public.”
Brown said there is a real need in minority communities and with younger members of the LGBT community.
“The Quilt shows this affects everybody – it’s not just a gay thing,” she said.
Brown said aChurch4Me has worked to create a positive space for those living with HIV and has created an HIV Ministry that meets monthly to educate church members.
Allan McClendon, chairperson of aChurch4Me’s HIV Ministry, brought pictures along that he drew when he was sick to attach to a panel. McClendon said he is 25-years positive. The drawings, one of a tiger and one of his body in the clouds.
“The tiger symbolizes my zodiac sign as well as the tiger in me,” McClendon, a Leo, said. “I had this energy inside even when my body was weak. For the other I was dreaming of peace, my body at peace, my soul at peace.”
McClendon said he was considering making a panel for his partner who passed away 18 years ago at the age of 25.
“The only medication they had back then was AZT and it was toxic for him,” McClendon said.
Chris Locklear, the Call My Name Campaign’s tour manager said people put all sorts of things on the panel, magazine clippings, old sweaters – even Gucci slippers.
Locklear said he and friends in Detroit created eight panels, an entire 12-foot-by-12-foot block in remembrance of a dear friend, Kenny Williams.
“Kenny was big into fashion so we have actual clothes, hangers and shoes on it,” Locklear said.
The workshop welcomed people of all sewing abilities.
“You don’t have to know how to sew,” Trowers said. “I’m here cutting out letters because I don’t know how to sew.”
After being pinned on Saturday, the panels headed back to the Names Project’s main office in Atlanta, where a “talented woman puts it all together.” The memorial items will be sewn onto a heavier backing and grommets will be affixed to enable easier presentation and storage.