A living archive honoring those we love with messages, prayers, gratitude and tributes - both living and deceased.
December 21, 2020: Prayer Ribbons: Witness Together
Prayer Ribbons were initiated in 1993 at the Provincetown Swim for Life to provide a visual witness to the swimmers as they crossed the Provincetown Harbor from Long Point to the Boatslip, each swimmer with his or her own personal images, hopes and fears. All are invited to inscribe the names of those they love on one of the five-foot long colored ribbons – and personal messages – to those they wish to celebrate in their lives, both living and deceased.
Prayer Ribbons commemorates the devastation that AIDS has done to the community, the courage of the town to fight governmental indifference, and to symbolize the model supportive community that responded. Prayer Ribbons also challenges us to live our lives more fully and joyfully. It creates a visual statement about Provincetown as a community – its contradictions, its conflicts, its possibilities.
The Compact brought the Prayer Ribbons to the State House for World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011 that initiated the first such event at the Massachusetts state capitol. State Rep Sarah Peake organized the gathering that included many state officials and activists. Jay Critchley spoke about the Swim for Life and the Prayer Ribbons and read some of the inscribed messages on the 2,500 ribbons.
With the horrific killing of 49 people at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, The Compact felt a kinship with the city of Orlando and an urgency to respond to such unimaginable violence against the LGBTQ community. At a special ceremony at Provincetown Town Hall to honor the victims, each person’s name was inscribed in gold on black ribbons and then attached to a strand of colored ribbons. An additional ribbon was dedicated to those injured. Each name was read aloud by a different member of the community.
In November, The Compact was then invited by Frank Billingsley, Chief of Staff to Mayor Dyer to bring this strand to share with the city of Orlando. We were honored to install it at beautiful Leu Gardens and meet privately with the families of the victims. The ribbons were then on view outside Orlando City Hall.
On World AIDS Day, December 1, 2016, The Compact was invited to display the Prayer Ribbons in the Canon Office Building of the US Congress, hosted by Congressman Richard Neal, and included Congressmen Jim McGovern, Bill Keating, Joe Kennedy and Congresswomen Katherine Clarke. The event, organized by filmmaker Lise King, brought our message of hope and community building to the nation’s Capitol.
As the significance and emotional impact of this living archive becomes more evident over time, The Compact wishes to extend its message of hope to other individuals and communities. This comes at an historic time for both the nation and Provincetown, both rethinking their identity and values.
Originally created to honor a courageous community struggling with the tragedy of government inaction towards HIV/AIDS, Prayer Ribbons would like to reach out to communities, both nationally and globally, that have experienced tragedy and violence. Participation in Prayer Ribbons offers individuals the opportunity to honor those they love in this living memorial while bringing people together and building community.
If you wish to honor someone, either living or deceased, please send us your message (link to form) and we will inscribe it on a colored ribbon and attach it to a strand of Prayer Ribbons. You may also let us know if you are interested in bringing Prayer Ribbons to your community. (Link to form coming) There is no charge for your participation, but donations (link to button) are appreciated.
As we commemoration the 400th anniversary of the significance of the Pilgrims’ arrival in Provincetown in the New World in 1620 and honor the First Nation people, the vision of The Compact becomes increasingly relevant. Founded in 1993, and inspired by the signing of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor, the Provincetown Community Compacts “Compact” broadens and elaborates on the legacy of Provincetown as a community with an historic global reach of inclusion and acknowledges that difference creates richness.
The Prayer Ribbons project is supported by a generous donation from Jane Barber and Linda Rohler.