A capacity audience packed into Chicago's DuSable Museum of African American History, which had partnered with the groundbreaking Art AIDS America exhibit Jan. 27 in order to bring a living legend back to Chicago.
For one spectacular hour, dancer, choreographer, revolutionary artist, author and passionate HIV/AIDS activist Bill T. Jones took a breathless audience by the hand as he led them through an intimate journey through his life at the height of the United States HIV/AIDS epidemic and the art which it inspired.
There were laughter, audible sobs and rapturous cheers as Jones told that story through song, dance, film, poetry and prose.
Even as the lights went down to show film of a tapestry of human expression created and danced by Jones and late partner Arnie Zane, Jones' silhouette could be seen privately replicating each of the movements on screen. It was as if they were as much burned into the fabric of his body as the piece-by-piece loss of his beloved Zane was into his mindsomething he imparted in singular detail to the audience as he read from his book Last Night on Earth.
The manner in which he imparted the savagery of the disease and the nobility Zane showed even in the face of it was that of one friend recalling those days to another.
Jones concluded with a commentary on the 2016 Electoral College win of Donald Trump that was as introspective as the presentation which preceded it.
The narrative he used was not his own but a Nov. 18 essay in The New York Times by Mark Lilla.
"One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end," Lilla wrote. "The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life."
It was not only a warning but the denouement to Jones' illustration of the human cost exacted because a society was unaware.
For more information of Art AIDS America, visit ArtAIDSAmericaChicago.org .