Gay Phoenix

When We Rise: My Life In The Movement by Cleve Jones is due late November from Hachette Books.

gayphoenix

The title suggests the mythical bird reborn from the ashes and the forthcoming memoir definitely reflects that.

Its author, Cleve Jones, first came to San Francisco from Arizona in 1972, the year I returned to the city from the East Coast. We met in the early 70s and I remember attending a party he and his roommate, Eric Garbor, hosted when we lived half a block from one another on Castro Street.

He’s long been a highly visible member of the community and a prominent activist for over four decades.

The book traces the trajectory of his life beginning with a low point. His experiences at school were so hellish that he was considering suicide during his early teens. He overcame despair after he began working for social change and discovered he was not alone in the world.

Cleve was especially active during the bleakest period of the AIDS-HIV pandemic. He was the founder of the Names Project that created a public memorial for thousands of individuals who died of the disease. The ever-growing quilt was displayed widely both in the US and beyond, helping to mobilize government agencies to fund studies and speed up treatment options.

The movement for social justice not only gave meaning to his life but also provided him with employment over the years. He worked in politics and is presently engaged in labor advocacy.

He was mentored by Harvey Milk and encouraged the development and eventual production of Milk, the narrative film about Harvey directed by Gus Van Sant in 2008.

Earlier this year Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter of Milk, teamed up again with Van Sant to produce an ABC miniseries partly inspired by the manuscript of When We Rise.

The memoir allowed me to fill in some of the details of Cleve’s life story and will undoubtedly inspire present and future generations of women and men to positive action.

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