Los Angeles, CA
United States
Carl Bean House, 2146 W Adams Boulevard Los Angeles Black AIDS Memorial since 27 June 2021
188 names
About the Los Angeles Black AIDS Monument [excerpt]
Thousands of African American women and men have succumbed to the ravages of HIV/AIDS since it was first identified in December of 1981. In June of 2021, a monument was unveiled in Los Angeles to remember those who have transitioned. The design and concept for what is known as the Los Angeles Black AIDS Memorial (LABAM) was created by Jeffrey King, Executive Director of the In The Meantime Men’s Group. The monument was actualized by the renowned Los Angeles sculptor Nijel Lloyd Binns. Mr. King’s design concept infuses three very significant symbols (the Sankofa bird, the tekhen, and a written statement) into one very empowering monument. The basic structure of the monument is a 6 foot tall dark granite structure in the shape of what is commonly called an obelisk.

In Washington, D.C. and in many major European cities around the world what is mis-named an obelisk is actually a “tekhen” and was used to instruct those who would march forward on the road to spiritual progress. From it’s base the towering, four sided stone pillar rises and grows smaller as it reached the apex. At it’s apex it suddenly made a sharp inward angle to form a pyramid. The tekhen or “tekhenu” as it was also called, was used by the ancient Egyptians to explain the “process of evolution of the human soul” that begins at the lowest or basement level, steps forward and going inward, rises up to the apex.

A bronze Sankofa bird stands atop the monument, left foot forward. Among the Akan people of Ghana, there is a symbol of a mythological bird with it’s feet stepping forward, but it’s head is turned backward. The bird is called “Sankofa” which translates to mean, to “go back and get”. It implores Africans to reach back into ancient and modern history for traditions, customs that have been left behind. Thus the Akan believe that the past and the wisdom of those who have gone before us must serve as a guide in planning for and moving forward into the future. The Sankofa bird also holds another meaning in that it stands atop the tekhen with the left foot going forward.

The third and final message of the Los Angeles Black AIDS Monument is engraved in the center of the tekhen. It completes a circle along with the meaning of the tekhen which is to go within and rise up to our highest point, and then with the Sankofa bird, to look backward for the wisdom of our ancestors. Now we come back down and are guided by the words of giving back which says, “Pouring Into Each Other.” This is the message for the ages. It is a real movement towards change and transformation. That is the lesson behind the Los Angeles Black AIDS Monument.

Photos © In the Meantime Men's Group Los Angeles Black AIDS Memorial

28 June 2021
In the Meantime Men's Group, Los Angeles