I was there to hear what the FBI and Department of Justice could do to work with the LGBT community about the recent hate crimes. But as I walked up to the Cathedral the night before World AIDS Day, there was this huge-ass AIDS ribbon projected on the John Thomas AIDS Memorial Wall.
John Thomas died in 1997. He wasn’t supposed to die. We had drugs that were saving lives in 1997. The drugs just didn’t work for John. His service packed the church. One of the largest overflow crowds the church has ever seen. John’s ashes are in the Cathedral’s columbarium.
For those who didn’t know John, he was the original executive director of Resource Center. He was an early vice president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He organized the community as it had never been organized before and he was relentless, whatever the issue was. He’s an important reason Cathedral of Hope was built, even though he wasn’t a member of the church. He’s the reason Resource Center recovered from the fire on Cedar Springs Road.
That gezunte ribbon can be seen from Inwood Road. It’s not meant to be subtle. It’s not meant to be a little lapel ribbon neatly pinned on a jacket. It’s meant to scream the message, “There’s still not a cure.”
Cathedral of Hope was the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in Dallas. Although Dallas avoided AIDS longer than most large cities, when it hit — about a year after Houston first started reporting cases — it hit hard. The little church on Reagan Street (now home to Resource Center) was bursting at the seams with those attending funerals. By the time Cathedral opened at its current location, the building quickly became a funeral factory, not just for its own members, but for the entire community. Congregation Beth El Binah, the LGBT synagogue, said goodbye to as many of its members here as anywhere else. People who had no other place that would handle their funerals had them at Cathedral of Hope.
Multiple funerals were sometimes scheduled in a day. Multiple funerals were always scheduled within a week. How many did I go to? In 1990, I decided to stop counting. When the number hit 50, I knew it wasn’t healthy to keep counting.
Times have changed, but there’s still no cure. Yesterday, amFAR announced it would create an institute devoted to finding a cure. Drug companies certainly have no interest in curing the disease. They make their money price gouging on drugs that maintain HIV, and will make nothing on their high-priced medications once those people are cured.
So that gezunte AIDS ribbon isn’t just projected for the church to remind its own members it’s World AIDS Day. It’s a reminder to the community. It’s a message to the city and beyond.
More than anything I heard at that meeting on hate crimes last night, that ribbon inspired me. I’m remembering friends I lost to the disease, but I’m going to spend the day being pissed off about a number of things, and since I’m the only news writer in the office this week, my rantings will just have to make it into this week’s paper.
(And gezunte is the Yiddish word that literally means “healthy,” but like most Yiddish words, it doesn’t really quite translate that way. A common — and yes, very sexist — use of the word would be to describe large breasts. They’re “healthy” or, as I described the CoH’s projected ribbon, the word’s usually used to mean huge-ass.)