Los Angeles, CA
United States
Carl Bean House, 2146 W Adams Boulevard Los Angeles Black AIDS Memorial since 27 June 2021
188 names
The Los Angeles Black AIDS Monument, a reflection [excerpt]
During the two intense waves of the AIDS crisis, the Black LGBTQ community often had to rely on each other in the face of government neglect.

LOS ANGELES – Anyone remember when National HIV Testing Day was launched on June 27, 1995? There was no International AIDS Conference that year – apparently none was planned because of a supposed “slower pace of advancement” in finding treatments. Meanwhile there were rumors about a scientific breakthrough that would take the Vancouver Conference by storm in 1996 – the miracle three-drug cocktail that changed AIDS from a possible death sentence into a chronic manageable disease. But, of course, you couldn’t access the meds if you were tested. And there was a huge gap in access to care for people of color.

I thought of that on Sunday, June 27 as Noor Singh sounded the gong to announce the ceremony dedicating the Los Angeles Black AIDS Monument installed by In The Meantime Men’s (ITMTM) group at the Carl Bean house at 2146 W. Adams. The house had once been a hospice where Morris Kight among many others died. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation rescued it from the wrecking ball and turned it over to Jeffrey King for his ITMTM headquarters. Jeffrey’s been saving lives and helping Black gay, trans and same gender loving people – especially Black gay youth – find wellness ever since. ITMTM’s HIV Testing van provided the backdrop for the speakers, all of whom were poignant, down-to-earth and recognized that this was hallowed ground.

During the two intense waves of the AIDS crisis, the Black LGBTQ community often had to rely on each other in the face of government neglect, lack of access to healthcare information, education, prevention material and funding. And often Black gay men with AIDS would be rejected by their own families and churches.

The hand carved brown granite Egyptian-influenced Tekhen/ Obelisk has a bronze sculpture of the Sankofa Bird resting on top. The mythical bird is firmly planted but leaning forward with its left foot slightly extended, as if the bird is leading with its heart. But its head is turned backward, looking to the past for wisdom about how to move into the future. The quest for knowledge, then, balances the heart and the head, the past and the future in the present moment. And for those in love with symbolism, the fountain and the obelisk speak to the female and male in our human condition.

For Jeffrey and those who attended the ceremony the call is to remember the journeys of our Black brothers and sisters taken the ravages of AIDS – to contemplate, grieve and remember their names or their likeness or their dignity or their human frailty – but to remember they were here and now they’re gone. All Black Lives Matter.

Photos © Jeffrey King Los Angeles Blade

3 July 2021
Karen Ocamb, Los Angeles