Friday, September 17, 2010

Cleve Jones

Two nights ago, I went with Jeannine and friends Karen, Brian, and Margaret to the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst to hear a talk given by Cleve Jones, who is the originator of the idea for the NAMES Memorial Quilt, currently considered the largest community art project in the world, memorializing (to date) over eighty thousand people who have died from AIDS. (Full disclosure: Jeannine is the proud owner of a personal note from Cleve Jones congratulating her for her 2003 picture book, "A Name on the Quilt" -- a book inspired by her friend Karen's work helping to document the Quilt.)

Jones' talk was very enlightening and emotional, and I thank Jeannine for letting me know about it (and Karen for letting Jeannine know about it) and inviting me to come along. I already knew about some of the history he related, of his friendship with Harvey Milk, the early days of gay liberation and the initial spread of the AIDS epidemic, but it was powerful to hear it from someone who had been there, literally in the streets, at that time. And I never knew of the connection between the murder of Harvey Milk and the genesis of the AIDS memorial quilt project.

Jone's talk was lengthy but not at all tedious. He was passionate and inspiring. And it was refreshing to hear someone remind this audience of mostly younger people, mostly UMass students, that the recently almost-sainted former president Ronald Reagan was actually a miserable failure when it came to dealing with the epidemic which arose during his watch. (Here's a pithy article I found online about his -- and his administration's -- failure to do much of anything during those crucial early days.)

I highly recommend going to hear this man speak, if he comes to your area.

(I forgot to bring my good pocket camera with me to the event, so here's my slightly crappy iPhone photo of Cleve Jones during his talk. -- PL)


mikeandraph87 said...

Ronald Regan was busying with other things on his agenda and your right it wasn't until a personal friend, Rock Hudson died in October 1985 did AIDS have a face and did Ronald ask for personal briefs on it.I read a letter to the editor he wrote to the Washington Post in 1990 recently expressing on of his greatest failures was the lack of attention he gave to the then new threatening disease of AIDS.

One of the most enlightening and enjoyable things I've found are listening to great speakers when on tours. Some can be attention grabbing even on subjects that you or I may not care about.

From Mary's Pen said...

It seems ironic to me that I was listening to Joe Dallas speak in church yesterday on much the same subjects, but perhaps from a different perspective...

He spoke on the church's failure in the AIDS crisis. When a vulnerable population needed help the most, the Christian community largely turned their backs, to our great shame. He talked about bold love... acknowledging the failures of the past and stepping up to the plate with real honest love and tangible support for those still in need.

Sometimes when the world seems very big, coincidences happen to remind us it's smaller than we think.

I hope things are well with you.

Rejoicing in the day,

Tyr Germanic said...

I hate AIDS!not because people i never met died,but because it ruined the 80s version of The Fly.people cant talk about it without mentioning how its about AIDS.its not about AIDS.its about a man turning into a fly godammnit!

i dont have any political affiliation.reminds me of gangs.they even have the colors. also sometimes i think the public has been tricked into thinking we have any say.

As America remembers the life of Ronald Reagan, it must never forget his shameful abdication of leadership in the fight against AIDS-allen white

right off the bat,you can tell this is guy is a disrespectful prick with no shame.(stooping to reagans level)and probably biased.subjective journalism is so much cooler,like why tora tora tora is cool.

I think this is why so many conspiracy theorists say the government invented AIDS to eradicate the gay or black communities.that punishment from god stuff is so messed up.especially at the time.

Hindsight is a bitch,reading this i cant help but think of ways this could of been adverted(or not 6 years behind in development of a cure). 'cause Reagan was the most powerful man in the world.and everyone else failed as well. screw that when its my turn.tooth and nail,you know.

heres to hoping Obama or Franken(hopefully the next president)dont let the next epidemic kill us all!