Red is the color of many things, both positive and negative in our culture. Among them are the roses we give to our heart’s desire on Valentine’s Day or the ribbons we wear in solidarity with the fight against HIV/AIDS.
For some of us red is the color of paraphernalia that we wear with pride during fraternal or sororal gatherings. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famed book The Scarlet Letter, its heroine was forced to wear a red letter A on her clothing as a stigmatizing mark of shame. In some ways, all of those emblems embody the reason why a group of people donned red and gathered in the basement of a Harlem community center on a late winter morning: love, solidarity in the fight against HIV/AIDS, pride, and stigma – or rather, the rejection of stigma.