Jones was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona. His career as an activist began in San Francisco during the turbulent 1970s when he was befriended by pioneer gay rights leader Harvey Milk. He worked as a student intern in Milk’s office while studying political science at San Francisco State University. In 1978, Milk was assassinated along with San Francisco’s Mayor George Moscone. Jones went to work in the district office of State Assemblyman Art Agnos.
In 1983, when AIDS was still a new and poorly understood threat, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Jones conceived the idea of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at a candlelight memorial for Harvey Milk in 1985 and in 1987 created the first quilt panel in honor of his friend Marvin Feldman. The AIDS Memorial Quilt has grown to become the world’s largest community arts project, memorializing the lives of over 85,000 Americans killed by AIDS.
While in San Francisco, Jones took part in a documentary, Echoes of Yourself in The Mirror, about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, speaking during World AIDS Day in 2005. In the documentary he talks about the idea behind the AIDS Memorial Quilt, as well as the activism of San Francisco citizens in the 1970s and 80s to help people affected by AIDS and to figure out what the disease was. The film also looks at the impact HIV/AIDS is having in communities of color, and the young.
Jones has been working with UNITE HERE, the hotel, restaurant, and garment workers union on homophobia issues. He is a driving force behind the Sleep With The Right People campaign, which aims to convince LGBT tourists to stay only in hotels that respect the rights of their workers. Another part of Jones' work with UNITE HERE is making the labor movement more open to LGBT members.
Jones is portrayed by actor Emile Hirsch in Milk, director Gus Van Sant's 2008 biopic of Harvey Milk.
Jones is prominently featured in And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, Randy Shilts' best-selling 1987 work of nonfiction about the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Jones was also featured in the 1995 documentary The Castro.
Jones was one of the Official Grand Marshals of the 2009 NYC LGBT Pride March, produced by Heritage of Pride joining Dustin Lance Black and Anne Kronenberg on June 28th, 2009. In August 2009, Jones was an official Grand Marshal of the Vancouver Pride Parade.
Jones participated as an actor in the Los Angeles premiere of 8, a condensed theatrical re-enactment of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial's closure, on March 3, 2012.
Cleve Jones at The Quilt Center/The Names Project, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1121491)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers.
Stitching a Revolution: The Making of an Activist by Cleve Jones
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperOne (May 22, 2001)
Amazon: Stitching a Revolution: The Making of an Activist
From the frontlines of one of the greatest human struggles of our time comes this powerful and moving tale. Both an important cultural history of the AIDS crisis and an intimate personal memoir, Stitching a Revolution is the story of a man who, besieged by discrimination, death, and despair, found the courage and strength of spirit to conceive and create a unique healing vision-the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Against the turbulent backdrop of politics and sexual liberation in San Francisco during the seventies, Jones recounts his coming-of-age alongside friend and mentor Harvey Milk -- and, later, Milk's assassination and the ensuing riots that threatened to tear down all they had accomplished. But Jones's political aspirations were put on hold after the emergence of an insidious, unexplainable "gay cancer" that would soon become known throughout the world as AIDS. Demoralized by the tide of death and despair sweeping his community, brutally assaulted by gay-bashing thugs, and faced with the specter of his own positive diagnosis, Jones sought a way to restore hope to a world falling apart beneath his feet.
What started out as a simple panel of fabric stitched for his best friend now covers a space larger than twenty-five football fields and contains over eighty thousand names. The Quilt has affected the lives of many people, bridging racial, sexual, and religious barriers to unite millions in the fight against AIDS.
Stitching a Revolution is a compelling, dramatic tale with a cast of memorable characters from all walks of life. At times uplifting, at times heartwrenching, this inspiring story reveals what it means to be human and how the power of love conquers all -- even death.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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