A Community within Communities: 1,000 Bones
By The Rev. Bill Terry, Rector St. Anna’s Episcopal Church
Bones, the last remains of life once lived. Bones, the vestiges of existence that carried the frames of men, women, and children and within those frameworks were housed tears, joy, hope, despair, the full range of humanness. Gay History month is part of these 1 Million Bones. There was a time, not so long ago, when medical treatment was withheld from Gay persons because of even the perceived threat of AIDS. There was a time when AIDS was a death warrant and the religious right said it was the condemnation of homosexuality. I recall a sign on I-12 that proclaimed AIDS as the hand of God. It remained the hand of God until straight men and women became infected, it remained the hand of God until the story of thousands of Africans dying because of AIDS. Then it was no longer the hand of God it became a pandemic and treatments were developed to combat its effects. 1 Million Bones.
The 1 Million Bones project was originally designed as a graphic art installation project that will be installed on the Washington Mall in 2013. The original intent and I suppose the current intent is to bring attention to genocide; specifically the genocide in Ethiopia and Sudan. But, as always, the project found its way to New Orleans as one of many project sites worldwide. In New Orleans it morphed. For us it is now about death by neglect (a form of violence), death by urban violence in our own city, AND genocide where ever it happens or happened.
Visiting Dachau Prison Camp the story of the extermination of Gay men and women if graphically told; programmatic extermination of Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies, and anyone who did not fit in. So, it is that 1 Million Bones in New Orleans has come to be changed at least locally. It will tell a story.
This project invites people to make clay bones of all sorts. Any group can gather for a day of bone making. St. Anna’s Church in collaboration with several other groups including 1 Million Bones will send an artist to get the group started and supply the clay.
The bones will then be collected and installed at St. Anna’s Church from November 1-3 which includes All Saints and All Souls days. You, at your pub, at your Krew, at your circle of friends are invited to make bones and name them if you wish as memorials to those who have died of abuse, AIDS, social neglect, urban violence, write the names on the bones. If you cannot find a group: Anna’s Arts and the children will be making bones every Saturday starting at about 3 p.m. until the installation date. St. Anna’s congregation will make bones after Mass on Sunday October 7 you are invited and need not attend mass- we will start at about 11:45.
You will be invited to “lay the bones to rest in homage” on Thursday November 1 in the late afternoon. Our goal is to collect 10,0000 bones and do a massive art installation using most of the outdoor property of St. Anna’s Church campus. The bones will and installation will remain on site for the three days. Security will be provided for those that wish to come and contemplate, maybe pray, or simply to meditate upon the reminders of humanity 24 hours a day until 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Make a statement about the state of our human condition. Become connected to all of the loss, all of the sorrow, all of the hatred, and make a stand against it. It is a social issue that is greater than a community within a community. We are the community of the human race for better or worse. We want and MUST bring attention to our city of the violence and death that permeates every neighborhood. This is an ecumenical enterprise that invites Jew, Christian, Muslim, and secular humanists to make a statement.
Yes, St. Anna’s will host a traditional All Saints service at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday November 1st and along with the Litany of Saints we will name all of the murder victims in 2012. Yes, St. Anna’s will host a traditional All Souls service at 6:00 p.m. on Friday November 2nd naming the dead family members of St. Anna’s congregation and friends. A list is posted in the Parish Hall for those names. Saying the names, the Hebrew Bible teaches us that those persons still live in memory.
On Saturday the church will host an all day event that will include a preview of “Shell Shocked” about youth violence in New Orleans; talks by “The Lost Boys” of the Sudan and the genocide in the Kush Mountains; loss by Gay and Lesbian persons to AIDS; music by choirs and individuals featuring the Treme Community Choir it will be a day to take notice. So please, come out and take notice, just this one time help support your community church and your greater human community – make a bone, place a bone, honor 1 Million Bones as an homage to life itself.
If you or your group wish to participate and have an artist and clay delivered please contact Fr. Terry or Darryl Durham at 504-947-2121 or by e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us and remember.