Cleve Jones is an American human rights activist, author and lecturer

Cleve joined the gay liberation movement in the early 1970s and was mentored by pioneer LGBT activist Harvey Milk and worked in Milk’s City Hall office as a student intern until Milk’s assassination in 1978.

Cleve co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983 and founded The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, one of the world’s largest community arts projects.  

In 1985, while planning an annual candlelight march to honor San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, Jones learned that more than 1,000 San Franciscans had died from AIDS-related complications. Jones asked each of his fellow marchers to write the names of friends and loved ones who had died on placards. At the end of the march, Jones and others stood on ladders taping these placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. 

The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt. It was this seemingly simple act of love and defiance that led to the first panels of the Quilt being created, and sparking a national movement that continues today.

"Today we have borne in our arms and on our shoulders a new monument to our nation’s capital. It is not made of granite or steel and was not built by stonecutters and engineers. Our monument is sewn of fabric and thread, and was created in homes across America and wherever friends and families gathered to remember their loved ones lost to AIDS."

– Cleve Jones, speaking during first display of AIDS Quilt in Washington DC 1987

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