Cleve Jones is a well-known labor and gay rights activist and his recent memoir, When We Rise: My Life in the Movement, follows his activism and life as a gay man during the 1970s and 80s in San Francisco and on. He worked with Harvey Milk and State Assemblyman Art Agnos, created the AIDS Memorial Quilt, cofounded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and now works with the hotel, restaurant, and garment workers’ labor union, UNITE HERE. When We Rise is a powerfully authentic memoir about his life, travels, work, and experience with HIV/AIDS and offers an amazing insight to a rarely talked about piece of US history.
- Harvey Milk Protégé, AIDS Quilt Creator Cleve Jones on Queer Activism in the Age of Trump – Karen Iris Tucker, Slate
Jones is critical in this book as well, including taking aim at Sen. Dianne Fienstein and former Rep. Barney Frank. Frank had written the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and said to Jones that housing protections weren’t necessary, as “landlords love gay people” apparently. (That sentiment is not universal – several surveys and studies have shown that LGBTQ folks often face additional obstacles and often express a strong concern around housing.)
- This Legendary Gay-Rights Activist Wants You to Get Up and Fight – Alex Sammon, Medium
There’s an immense amount of honesty in this memoir as well – Jones doesn’t strive away from much. He’s open about being diagnosed with HIV and having lost so many friends to the virus and because of the slow progress by the federal government. He also writes about the death threats that followed his interview on 60 Minutes about having HIV and about feeling like he was the only gay person in the world when he was growing up. This book is both an honest truth of a gay rights activist as much as it is a call for justice.
On February 27th of this year, a miniseries with the same name will be on ABC and this memoir was the partial inspiration for it. The series will be a docudrama and speaks on the history of the modern gay rights movement. Based on the trailer (above) and having read Jones’ book, I’m so excited to see this miniseries. Not only is it taking LGBT history and putting it in the forefront but based on the trailer, it doesn’t look like it’ll be completely and utterly focused on white, cis gay men like other recent films on LGBT history.
You can watch When We Rise on ABC starting on Monday, February 27, 2014 at 9pm. The rest of the schedule can be found here.