For 23 years I have been building Medicine Wheel as a place for people to gather, remember, memorialize, pray, and reflect on A Day With(Out) Art/ World AIDS Day. In the early years there was so much fear and stigma attached. It was devastating time for all of us affected, the living, the dying, and the dead. The need to create safe space was urgent. Just this past week I was reminded of those early years by a post on Facebook of the AIDS Quilt, shown on the Mall in Washington DC which coincided with the National March on Washington October 11, 1987. The AIDS Quilt, which would become known as the Names Project, offered comfort and intimacy, literally taking the message home. I was at that march with my two best friends, Michael Brown and Neil Byrnes, and had borrowed a pair of boots two sizes too small from Robert “Gina” Giorgio. A Day Without Art would begin in 1989 and three years later Medicine Wheel.
In the spring of 1992 I set up a ceremonial circle that I called “Medicine Wheel” in the cavernous Cyclorama Building at the Boston Center fort the Arts. I invited people to bring an offering of what connected them to the earth and to leave it wherever they felt it belonged. Michael Brown brought a wooden box filled with peppercorns. He knew exactly where he wanted to put it and placed it slightly to the right at the foot of the pedestal that stood in the east of the wheel. All during the day I wanted to move it to the center of the pedestal. Later that year I was invited to build a ritual space for a Day Without Art/ world AIDS Day in the Cyclorama. We scattered stones though out the building inviting folks to pick one up and carry it to the center of the room to build a memorial cairn. Two women picked the heaviest stone. I offered to help and they refused, another young man offered to help and again they refused. I offered a third time and one of the women said to me, “ You don’t get this do you? Her son, my nephew, just died form AIDS. This is our weight. ” In June of 1994 Robert “ Gina” Giorgio died from AIDS. That year Michael Brown carried another box to Medicine Wheel, this time containing Bob’s ashes.
Medicine Wheel has long been the keeper of stories like these. Last year we catalogued 16,000 objects that had been left in the wheel, each one of them having an intimate story. Medicine Wheel like the Names Project has been a reminder that we are not numbers that; we have names; that we have stories; that we are loved; that we are grieved; that we are missed; that we lived; that we are alive; that we are remembered.
This year we are bringing Medicine Wheel to Castle Island in South Boston on Sunday November 30 at Midnight we will have a lantern procession into Fort Independence and hold a twenty-four hour vigil on Monday December 1, 2014, World AIDS Day/A Day With(Out) Art. The hours of the day will be marked with, prayer, song, dance, poetry and ritual.
It has been an honor beyond anything I could have imaged to help facilitate this space. But I have never done it alone. It has been you who have been willing to be part of an ever larger core of people joining forces to make a better world that have supported met in my efforts. In keeping with the Medicine Wheel tradition this particular project has always been funded by the generosity of many. I hope that you will consider making a donation. Donations may be sent to:
Medicine Wheel Productions
110 K Street
South Boston, MA 02127
Artistic Director, Medicine Wheel Productions
Medicine Wheel 2010