A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[PHOTO] National AIDS Memorial, Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City

Last Monday was my day for exploring the upper half of Manhattan island, and one of my stops was the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, a massive edifice at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, towards the southern end of Columbia University’s main campus.

The Cathedral has an excellent reputation in many things, one of these being a forward and progressive early response to HIV/AIDS and the epidemic’s victims. In the realm of the ephemeral, for instance, it hosted Diamanda Galás‘s 1990 Plague Mass performance; in the realm of the more enduring, it hosts a Keith Haring altar (unphotographed by me, alas) and the National AIDS Memorial, a complex of altar and book commemorating the victims of the disease.

National AIDS Memorial, Cathedral of St. John the Divine (1)

Candle and rainbow banner were both present.


The National AIDS Memorial Book of Remembrance is a sadly thick book, protected behind glass.


I was shocked by the date cited for publication on the book’s front page: “November 9, 1985”? (The use of the term “A.I.D.S. Related Complex” dates the book as surely if less precisely, as does the absence of the term “HIV”, as does the spelling-out of the disease.) The Cathedral responded at such an early date? Especially in the context of the ambient linked homophobia and hatred of even potential AIDS victims from the circles of American religion at the time, this is exceptional, and laudatory.


Written by Randy McDonald

June 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm

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