On this cold Valentine’s Day I was whisking past storefronts in the Castro, when something grabbed my attention. Through the window of Under One Roof, between 18th/19th on Castro, a vibrant set of patterns caught my eye. From these patterns my brain started to discern words. From these words came emotions that cannot be described.
Flanking the left and right sides of Under One Roof are portions of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Upon walking through the doorway you will see the third, I repeat third panel ever made. This panel has the name of Bobbi Campbell. I didn’t know who that was. If you also don’t know, read on.
Bobbi Campbell (January 28, 1952 – August 15, 1984) was an early United StatesAIDSactivist. In September 1981, Campbell became the 16th person in San Francisco to be diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma. He was the first to come out publicly as a person living with the then unnamed disease. He became known as the “KS Poster Boy” (even appearing with his partner on the cover of Newsweek on August 8, 1983), and wrote a column for the San Francisco Sentinel from January 1982 describing his experiences. Campbell, who was also a registered nurse, joined the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the time of the health crisis in early 1982; in his “sister” persona as Sister Florence Nightmare, he co-authored the first San Francisco safer-sex manual, “Play Fair!”, written in plain sex-positive language, offering practical advice and adding an element of humour.
The panel on the right has a name I know very well, disco legend, Sylvester. Mixed among other names I didn’t know, the message was clear. It’s rare, in this day and age, for something to speak so loudly that isn’t fueled by the internet or electricity.
Vivid impressions captured in this post are from the same tour you can do. Either start at the old Tower building, next to Cafe Flore, or at Under One Roof. Between these two points stop at Body, between QBar and 440, and Catch, next to Pottery Barn.
While the tower location holds the largest display, Catch is the most historical as this was the original headquarters for the Names Project Foundation before moving to Atlanta.
I can’t tell you how sad it makes me we don’t have a permanent display of the quilt in the Castro. It’s a living history of one of the darkest and brightest moments in our history.
This display is only going on until Feb. 20th, so get your ass to see it this week.
To donate to the Names Project, click here: http://www.aidsquilt.org/store/
Fast Facts from the official AIDS Memorial Quilt Website:
• Funds Raised by The Quilt for Direct Services for People with AIDS: over $4,000,000 (U.S.)
• Number of visitors to the Quilt: +18,000,000
• Number of names on the Quilt: more than 91,000
• Size: 1,293,300 square feet
• Viewing time: To see the entire Quilt spending only one minute per panel – over 33 days
Video of Bobbi Campbell, Speaking in Front of The Democratic Convention — 1984