By Marc Smolowitz, HIV Story Project Executive Producer & Board Chair and
Mike Shriver, National AIDS Memorial Grove Board Co-Chair
Every story has a voice. The history of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is filled with the challenge of remembering and learning from these stories, our stories. It is also about finding and empowering our voices. Stories have the power to heal but only if they are told. After three decades of this pandemic, there is an urgent need to tell and preserve the HIV/AIDS stories of survival before they are lost, before they are forgotten. In remembering, we heal and through our healing we inspire. Hope emerges from this healing.
It is in this spirit of hope, healing and remembrance that we are thrilled to announce “Joining Forces—Surviving Voices,” a new collaborative partnership between The HIV Story Project (HSP) and the National AIDS Memorial Grove (the Grove). This collaboration is born out of a shared vision to ensure the lessons of the HIV/AIDS pandemic are forever secured as an oral history across the vast and diverse stories of our surviving voices.
Throughout the pandemic, specific groups and communities have disproportionally borne the burden of HIV. In many cases, these disproportionately impacted communities share a history of being on the margins and being often overlooked. All their stories, across all their experiences, however, are important. All need to be heard, recorded and preserved.
On a more personal level, we all bring with us our own stories, those of the countless family members and friends, volunteers, communities and professionals who have lived through the pandemic as caregivers, emotional support, service providers, fundraisers, advocates, neighbors, friends, partners. It is imperative that any HIV/AIDS storytelling project find ways to capture this incredible diversity of voices.
We are excited that this partnership takes advantage of state of the art documentary filmmaking and digital media to provide 21st century technology and accessibility. We will record survivor stories through professionally directed and produced interviews and HSP’s highly regarded interactive storytelling booth. The stories that are recorded in the booth will be added to HSP’s newly launched Generation HIV: Online Archive.
On Friday, June 5th, HSP, along with the Grove, launched Generation HIV: Online Archive at an event in City Hall (see: http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?article=70653&sec=news.) The June 5th date was chosen as is was the 34th anniversary of the CDC’s announcement of the first reported cases of AIDS.
Recently, HSP and the Grove were the first collaboration ever to become a recipient of grants from both Folsom Street Events — the organization which sponsors both the Up Your Alley and Folsom Street Fairs — as well as Grass Roots Gay Rights Foundation — the organization which sponsors REAL BAD. These grants will help HSP and the Grove expand the reach of this collaboration and in 2015 to focus on gathering the stories from the Leather Community and their response to the AIDS epidemic.
HSP is an award-winning nonprofit that uses multi-platform media, filmmaking and personal stories to advance education and awareness, support nonprofit organizations, fight the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, and give a voice to the HIV positive community. The Grove, located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is a dedicated space in the national landscape where millions of Americans touched directly or indirectly by AIDS can gather to heal, hope, and remember. The mission of the Grove is to provide, in perpetuity, a place of remembrance so that the lives of people who died from AIDS are not forgotten and the story is known by future generations.
History provides us with valuable lessons—living histories provide both real time lessons and if recorded and preserved those lessons can be passed on to future generations. Joining Forces—Surviving Voices brings two great organizations together to do just that.