On Saturday, May 23, 2015, “Still Here: Defiant Aging with HIV,” a unique and powerful LGBTEI Conversation combining art, storytelling and community building, was held at the John C. Anderson Apartments in Philadelphia, PA.

Artists, activists, and community members from across the city came together to transform outdated HIV medical materials into beautiful, new paper. They then used the new paper to document their own stories about the impact of HIV/AIDS in their lives and communities. For participants, it was transformative to take materials that were no longer useful in the fight against HIV/AIDS and turn them into a community history of survival, resilience and defying expectations.

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People’s Paper Co-op facilitator, Mark Strand Quist, kicked off the event by placing a stack of books in the front of the room and inviting participants to rip pages out of the books as they introduced themselves and shared why they had come to the event. Then, while Mark and Co-op co-founder, Courtney Bowles, prepped the shredded books to be transformed into new paper, AIDS Library staff librarian Cyree Jarelle Johnson led a writing workshop for participants.

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Mark and Courtney followed with a hands-on demonstration of how paper is made. They then helped participants make their own sheets, embed the writing they had done into them, and hang them up to dry. The finished sheets were bound into a book that is now housed at the AIDS Library of Philadelphia.

Collaborating Partners & Sponsors

“Still Here: Defiant Aging with HIV” was a collaborative effort of the LGBT Elder Initiative, the AIDS Library of Philadelphia and the People’s Paper Co-op.

This program was made possible through the support of Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, John C. Anderson Apartments, and Philadelphia Gay News.