Cleve Jones

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Cleve Jones
Cleve Jones.jpg
Cleve Jones at the 81st Academy Awards
Born (1954-10-11) October 11, 1954 (age 62)
West Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.
Known for NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt

Cleve Jones (born October 11, 1954) is an American AIDS and LGBT rights activist.[1] He conceived the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt which has become, at 54 tons, the world's largest piece of community folk art as of 2009. In 1983, at the onset of the AIDS pandemic Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation which has grown into one of the largest and most influential People with AIDS advocacy organizations in the United States.


Cleve Jones marching at the National Equality March

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, as a newcomer to the city, he was befriended by pioneer gay-rights leader Harvey Milk. Jones worked as a student intern in Milk’s office while studying political science at San Francisco State University.[2][3] 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.[4]

In 1983, when AIDS was still a new and largely underestimated threat, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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' labor union on homophobia issues.[5] 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.[8] Another part of Jones's 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.[5]

Jones is prominently featured in And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts's best-selling 1987 work of non-fiction about the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Jones was also featured in the 1995 documentary film 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 28, 2009.[9] 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.

Jones is portrayed by actor Guy Pearce in the 2017 ABC Television Mini-Series When We Rise, directed by Gus Van Sant, currently filming in Vancouver, BC.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aldrich, Robert; Garry Wotherspoon (2001). Who's who in contemporary gay and lesbian history. Routledge. p. 218. ISBN 0-415-22974-X. 
  2. ^ Leff, Lisa (July 12, 2009). "At 54, Cleve Jones is ready for his comeback". The Guardian. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  3. ^ Laird, Cynthia (January 22, 2009). "News in brief: Jones to speak at UC Berkeley". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Interview: Cleve Jones". Frontline. PBS. December 7, 2004. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Harmanci, Reyhan (November 23, 2008). "Milk actors and the people they play". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  6. ^ Wilson, Craig (December 7, 1987). "The man who sewed together the stories of thousands". USA Today. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  7. ^ Merkle, Karen Rene (November 20, 2000). "The Cathedral of St. Paul has been displaying the AIDS Memorial Quilt". Erie Times-News. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  8. ^ Kerr, Bob (October 31, 2007). "The Quilt has taught us for 20 years". The Providence Journal. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  9. ^ "NYC LGBT Gay Pride - March". New York Pride. June 24, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 


  • Jones, Cleve, with Dawson, Jeff (2000). Stitching a Revolution: The Making of an Activist. ISBN 0062516426
  • Shilts, Randy (1982). The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-52330-0

External links[edit]