The man who played an instrumental role in keeping Harvey Milk’s name in the public’s consciousness will be one of the grand marshals leading the 2009 Pride Parade Sunday.
Cleve Jones is perhaps best known for being a close friend and protégé of Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected into public office in California.
Milk became an icon in the LGBT community and was heralded as a martyr following his assassination in 1978. Jones promised to keep his name alive and fulfilled the promise by playing a seminal role in the creation of the 2008’s Academy Award-winning film Milk. Jones’s character was portrayed by actor Emile Hirsch.
“Meeting him was the single most important thing that ever happened to me,” said Jones. “The LGBT community has had many martyrs — martyrs that we’ve lost to murders or suicides or alcoholism or drug use, people who were never able to fulfill the promise of their lives because they were so damaged by homophobia — but Harvey was our first collective martyr.”
Jones is also founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which currently comprises 46,000 panels that celebrate the lives of more than 91,000 people who have died of AIDS-related causes. Weighing nearly 54 tonnes, it is currently recognized as the world’s largest piece of community folk art.
Having been a LGBT rights activist for more than three decades, Jones believes Canadians should be proud of the progress that’s been made here.
“It’s very exciting to see what’s happened in Canada, and the fact that equality under the law has been extended to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Canadians,” he said. “I think it’s a really good example for (the U.S.).”
Joining Jones as grand marshals will be local LGBT activists Jeremy Dias, Janine Fuller and Cindy Kampmeinert.
The parade begins at noon.