Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones; leaders of the American equality rights movement

Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 20130-November 27, 1978), was an American politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the State of California, after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Politics and gay activism were not his early interests. He was not open about […]

HomoCulture Equality + Rights Chris Mason

This article was published on May 22nd, 2014

Equality rights leaders, Cleve Jones and Harvey MilkHarvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 20130-November 27, 1978), was an American politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the State of California, after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Politics and gay activism were not his early interests. He was not open about his homosexuality and has not participated in civil matter until he was around the age of 40. However, when Harvey Milk came out, he really came out. He was influential part of a movement, which started as an idea and would continue on to become a massive revolution.

In the middle of the entire movement of equality rights in the United States of America was Cleve Jones. Cleve was portrayed in the film MILK, by Emile Hiersch, as an AIDS activist and became a fundamental part of Harvey Milk’s political campaign for equal rights.

Born in West Lafayette, Indiana, and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, Cleve Jones began his activism career in San Francisco during the 1970’s when he became friends with Harvey Milk. Jones worked as a student intern in Milk’s office while studying political science at San Francisco State University.

AIDS activist and equality rights advocate, Cleve Jones

AIDS activist and equality rights advocate, Cleve Jones. Photo contributed.

In 1983, when AIDS was still new, and for the most part an unknown disease, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Jones conceived the idea of the AIDS Memorial Quilt as a candlelight memorial for Harvey Milk in 1985, and in 1987, created the first quilt panel in honour of his friend, Marvin Feldman. The AIDS Memorial Quilt has grown to become the world’s largest community art project, memorializing the lives of over 85,000 Americans killed by AIDS.

Jones has also spent time working on homophobia issued with United Here, a hotel, restaurant and garment workers union, and has been the driving force behind the ‘Sleep with the right people’ campaign, which aims to convince LGBT tourists to stay in hotels that respect rights of their workers.

In his work with Unite Here, Jones is helping to make the labour movement more open to LGBT members. Recently, while writing his memoirs, Jones has lead the boycott of the anti-gay Sultan of Brunei, who owns a chain of luxury hotels around the world. Through protest and education, Jones has successfully been able to decrease the number of people staying at these hotels and encourages guests to stay at other gay-friendly accommodations.

Just as Harvey Milk put a foot forward in the name of progress, rest assured, Cleve continues the legacy, giving hope for equal rights around the world.

Jones says endurance is the biggest factor in growing and for the continuation of progress in the equality rights movement. Jones and the people around him have been working tirelessly for over 40 years, and he encourages today’s generation to get involved to keep the equality movement going. Do it for your friends, family, those who have past, and for future generations.

Earlier this week, the United States Postal Service released a limited edition stamp honouring Harvey Milk. The release of the new stamp, featuring a smiling Harvey Milk and a small rainbow, was dedicated at the White House in a formal ceremony. Stamps are available at post offices across the United States.

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