For the third year in a row, students from the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy commemorated World AIDS Day on December 1st by writing the names of people lost to AIDS in chalk on the sidewalk of Castro Street.
Dubbed "Project Inscribe," the now annual event was created by longtime HIV survivor George Kelly, who volunteers at the Milk Academy.
Kelly — who has been HIV positive for 35 years — conceived of Project Inscribe in 2015. He spoke to Hoodline again as Inscribe 2017 was getting underway.
"My school is part of why I'm alive," he said. "I want the students to hear the stories from those of us who experienced and survived the AIDS years."
Project Inscribe began with students and their teachers gathering inside Strut, the Castro's health clinic for gay, bisexual and transgender men. Several speakers told the kids about the history of the AIDS pandemic and of the importance of remembering those who were lost. Sister Gaia Love of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence then offered a blessing.
"We thank George and the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, and we give thanks to Strut and to our students, our shining future," the sister said. "As we go out to Inscribe these names, we do so with love, joy and remembrance."
The students then took to the sidewalks of Castro Street from Market to 19th Street. Each was given a card with the name of a person lost to AIDS. The names—some from the local community, some from the AIDS Memorial Quilt—were written in chalk on the sidewalk.
"I'm doing this because I really care for all the people who died of HIV," said Quinn Sapone, a nine-year-old student. "I really want to find a cure so this doesn't happen anymore. This is a beautiful thing we're doing to honor the people who died."
John Muratet, a 4th and 5th grade teacher at the Milk Academy, told Hoodline that Project Inscribe was a great teaching tool.
"The Inscribe event is a perfect way to engage my class with the community," he said. "During this event they learn about the community that surrounds our school, and they learn to give back."
Kevin Lamana Ramirez, an 11-year-old student, told Hoodline that he learned about HIV and all the people who died because of his participation in Project Inscribe.
Community members were also invited to participate. Close friends Tim Snyder, 62, and David A. Diaz, 52, came to Inscribe to honor loved ones they had lost.
Snyder drew a portrait of his late husband Paul Williams on the sidewalk, while Diaz commemorated his late friend Charlie Haberman.
"I'm here to remember our love," said Snyder. "And to remember the countless men, women and children we've lost, and to remind myself that the fight is not over. Time will not erase our loved ones if we keep telling their stories."
"I honor this day every year, keeping alive the memory of my brothers and sisters lost to HIV/AIDS, especially my dear friend Charlie," added Diaz.
Many pedestrians stopped to watch the students work and to read the names being written on the sidewalk. Hundreds of names were inscribed, all of which were photographed and will be preserved at the GLBT Historical Society.
Boxes of chalk were left on the sidewalk after the students return to class. When Hoodline visited Castro Street early Friday evening, people were still inscribing names—hundreds more had been added.
George Kelly was delighted with the third edition of Project Inscribe. "People who help other people are happier, healthier people," he said.
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