Cleve Jones is an American AIDS and LGBT rights activist. He conceived of 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.
Jones was born in West Lafayette, Indiana on born October 11, 1954. 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.
LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have contributed significantly in several ways to the advancement of our community. Limited by the number of days on the calendar, showcasing every individual who has made a major impact would be difficult. Yet, across decades and eras, revolutions and wars, and discovery and enlightenment, SPART*A honors past and present LGBT figures in our history this month.