On Sept. 13, Keene Pride brought a sobering piece of LGBTQ+ history to the Alumni Center.
The event came during a week of pride-themed events leading up to the Sept. 17 Keene Pride Festival, with one of the events being the AIDS Memorial Quilt Exhibit.
According to The National AIDS Memorial, the larger quilt was conceived in 1985 by human rights activist Cleve Jones. In 1987, the full quilt was on public display for the first time, comprising of 1,920 panels, each representing a victim of the AIDS epidemic. To date, the quilt now has up to 50,000 panels, with eight of the panels being displayed at the exhibit, according to The Keene Sentinel.
According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 100,777 deaths due to AIDS in the United States were recorded from the years of 1981 to 1990, during the peak of the epidemic.
The quilt panels were on display for public viewing at the Norma Walker Hall from Wed., Sept. 13 to Wed., Sept. 20. The opening reception for the exhibit was held on Sept. 13, with a speech from President of Keene Pride Adam Toepfer, who gave remarks on the importance of the exhibit to the LGBTQ+ community.
Each panel displayed at the exhibit is a 12 foot by 12 foot tribute from families to their loved ones who were impacted by the epidemic.
In attendance at the exhibit, Heather Cutler, who works at the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, said “HIV and AIDS continues to be a major public health crisis in the United States and around the world, while we have come a long way, there is still work to be done.” Cutler also explained that there is more that can be done to acknowledge the impact the AIDS epidemic has, such as having more access to public health funding, more education and more events similar to the AIDS Memorial Quilt Exhibit.
Paulee Mekdeci, who serves as vice president of Keene Pride, was in attendance at the exhibit. Mekdeci explained in an interview what the importance of holding events such as the quilt exhibit means for not only himself as an individual but also to the local LGBTQ+ community overall. “It is really important to remember that the HIV and AIDS epidemic was a really devastating time for the LGBTQ+ community, where they were being ignored by the government and it was considered a gay disease.” He said that the epidemic also impacted countless amounts of people, “millions of people were dying left and right,” and “to be able to honor those lives and to know the history is important to the LGBTQ+ community.”
Samantha Smalick can be contacted at