Spoiler Alert Cleve Jones is gay. He found out he was when he was a preteen and was treated badly by his school peers and community members so hes always wanted to leave where he lived to go somewhere else where he felt normal.
His boyfriend took him to San Francisco and he fell in love with the place. He met many gay people who he befriended. He got odd jobs and lived in a small apartment with a lot of people. He did a lot of drugs and still experienced hatred towards him because he was gay but not as much and at least this time he was with people that were like him. At last he found a place to call home.
Being gay in the '70s was hard because people discriminated against you. Straight officers would beat up gay men and they couldn't do anything about it. So one day a man named Harvey Milk decided to change this by running for office to stop the discrimination from the inside out. One day Jones met and then started working for Harvey Milk. He became Milk's right hand man and one of his closest friends. Jones would lead the rallies through San Francisco to protest the unfairness gay people had to go through. He was very good at leading these protests but more importantly he had fun doing it.
After a few years Milk was assassinated and Jones was without a mentor. He still worked in City Hall but as the "Speaker's legislative aide on health concern" meaning he had to report what kind of diseases were being spread and what people were being diagnosed with. Then all of a sudden everyone was beginning to be infected with AIDS. But only the gay community was aware and only the ones who were already infected with it. So Jones quit his job to get people conscious of the this hidden threat.
AIDS is a disease where it attacks your white blood cells and leaves them weak and unable to protect your body against other viruses. Its transmitted sexually and there are many symptoms for it. But back then they didn't know this and because they were oblivious to what AIDS was, that was more deadly than the disease itself.
So far only a few people died from AIDS, most people didn't care about it because they thought they were never going to get it but the truth was that they all already had it but it didn't activate yet. Cleve Jones found this out and tried to tell as many people as possible. Unfortunately no one listened so he got a group of people who did and they're goal was to raise the awareness of AIDS. And it did but not the way they wanted it to. As more and more victims died people became aware of what it was but also more frightened about it so this made gay and straight tension even worse. Even diagnosed gay people felt outcasted from their community that they fought so hard to find. This went against Jones plans because he wanted people to learn what it was and to help victims not shun them.
In the button above Cleve Jones talks about how he felt when no one cared about AIDS so he had to do something about it
When you talked about AIDS back then there were two main type of people: ones who knew what AIDS was and was terrified of it and those who had no clue what it was. Cleve's goal was he wanted to change that. He wanted people to know what it was, so that they wouldn't shame the victims and to inform those who didn't know what it was so they can avoid getting it if they weren't infected yet. This was a challenge for Jones and his team because they tried everything; flyers, talking, protests and they still didn't have a way to get peoples attention when it came to AIDS.
Then one day at the end of the memorial march in memory of Harvey Milk, Jones started passing out note cards and markers he asked everyone to write down a name of a loved one they lost because of AIDS. He then started taping it all over the federal building. When he finished he saw that everyone was interested in it because they saw people whom AIDS affected. He looked at the wall then he thought of a quilt. It was random but the way the postcards were placed it looked like one. Then he got the idea of making an AIDS quilt.
The AIDS quilt took two years to make and a lot of perseverance. All of Jones friends thought the idea was dumb and wouldn't work but he tried to make one anyway. He had a partner who saw the possibilities that the quilt could have but quit because he thought having it on the ground would be dumb but he would rather do it alone than change his idea. He felt strongly that the quilt would only make an impact and raise attention about AIDS if they did it his way. What he wanted was to make a quilt about a fallen loved one who passed away because of AIDS. They would make it 3 by 6 (around a size of a person) and customize it the way the dead person would have wanted it. It would have their name, maybe a picture, and accessory's on it. And most importantly it would be placed flat on the ground. Jones believed that this would grab peoples attention. They would be go towards it and maybe interact with it and be interested. And if they had enough, if every family who lost a relative would make one then they could put the quilts together. And since one quilt equals one life and you have this sea of blankets people could see how much this disease destroys.
Look and see how long the quilt is. Also notice how he said why he thought it was a good idea and how no one believed in him
Luckily after a lot of hard work and not giving up the quilt worked and became very popular! Everywhere you go people knew about AIDS because of the quilt. It made its first debut in the pride parade of 1987 where there was a total of 40 made by Cleve Jones himself and a few friends. People loved it so much so that when they saw it they offered Jones to make their own so he could display it. Later on it became so popular that it went all the way to Washington DC on the Washington Mall covering the whole strip. That's 24 football fields
Above is a graph of the number of people who died and was diagnosed with AIDS. (The numbers on the Y-axis are by the thousands) and remember that there were even more silent cases. Almost everyone had it but it didn't activate until later.
Above is a link on how to make a quilt for a fallen loved one. It also talks about the quilt today and many more.