July 21, 2009

The AIDS Quilt Creator is Reengaged

Clive Jones, who mentored a politician named Harvey Milk and who initiated the AIDS memorial Quilt in the late 1980's, has reengaged in the gay rights movement. Here is an excerpt from the AP article:

There was a time when I thought I would never be happy again," Jones says, standing barefoot in the tiki-torched yard of the California desert bungalow where he has lived since 1999 but is rarely home long enough to enjoy. "I feel so connected to the movement again."

That he feels compelled to comment on his good fortune says a lot about the twists Jones' own life took after 1978, the year openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated.

Culture watchers will remember that Jones, the 23-year-old City Hall intern portrayed in "Milk," went on to create the 47,000-panel quilt that humanized the lives lost to AIDS. Less widely known is that during the decade he spent weaving one of the world's largest folk art projects into the nation's fabric, Jones was preparing to die himself.

Instead, he became one of the AIDS epidemic's earliest survivors.

"If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have saved money and joined a gym," laughs Jones, who shows the puckish sense of humor actor Emile Hirsch exhibited as his on-screen alter-ego.

When talk turns to the National Equality March scheduled for the second week of October in Washington, however, Jones turns serious.

His goal is to build an army of activists drawn from each of the nation's 435 congressional districts. Afterward, participants will be sent home to pressure their representatives and the White House into removing the remaining barriers to gay equality, such as the policy that prevents gays from serving openly in the military.

If successful, Jones' vision would represent a sea change in the gay rights movement's strategy of securing victories piecemeal on the local or state level.

"We got locked into this pattern of fighting for fractions of crumbs — 'Oh please, sir, in this county could we please not be fired for being gay if it's all right in this county for you to evict us for being gay?'" he says. "It's been this ping-pong with our basic civil rights....If you are a free and equal people, why would you settle for this?"

Jones agreed to organize the march at the urging of veteran activist David Mixner, who proposed it as a way to lobby President Barack Obama to follow through on his campaign promises.

"When he has a sense of righteousness about a mission, he has a tenacity I have rarely seen," said Mixner, who has known Jones since the 1970s. "He is not a person who has ever put himself before the mission."

The National Equality March has yet to be universally embraced by leading GLBT advocates, but then again neither was the AIDS Quile and look at the lasting impact that has had on our culture and the was that AIDS is viewed by society.

Click here to read the rest of the AP article.

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