Those friends were not forgotten in this mini-series. When We Rise focuses on the stories of Cleve Jones, Roma Guy and Diana Jones, Ken Jones, and Cecilia Chung, and the struggles they went through to see change become a reality in the LGBTQ community. Jones shared that the experience was one that he wasn’t sure would happen. “The fact that ABC was willing to do [the show] was remarkable. What many people don’t know is ABC already committed to doing this before they contacted Lance Black or heard about my book. Usually in a situation like this, network guys would be pitched. So it’s pretty remarkable that ABC, owned by Disney, of course, would take this on, and I think it was good. There are parts that are jarring because they are so inaccurate, but I think it remains truthful, if not exactly accurate.”
And the fight continues. Our current administration, causing many to rise up in protest, seems determined to extinguish rights that had advanced the community through the Obama administration. Jones is witness to the fight with the rest of the country and has his take on what the biggest fight in the community is now. “I think the LGBTQ community needs to understand that we are part of the larger movement and that the entire movement is under attack. What we need more than anything is solidarity--solidarity between men and women, solidarity between people of different colors and ethnicities, solidarity between the generations, because everything is at stake right now. Whether you care about the environment or voter’s rights or reproductive rights...if you care about democracy, if you care about any of this, you need to be involved and engage and participate.”
The pain could be heard behind Cleve’s voice as the interview continued. He shared that he was still grieving the loss of his good friend and long time activist, creator of the Pride rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker. Baker’s death was acknowledged on social media and with a candlelight vigil in the Castro under the flag he helped create. I asked Jones if he wanted to share his memory of his friend. “[Gilbert] was a very compassionate man,” Jones shared while holding back tears. “He was a drag queen. He was a veteran. He was a seamstress. He could be quite imperial, but he was very intelligent and very compassionate--a sweet and kind and gentle soul who wanted to move us forward. He dedicated his life to this, so here’s an example of a person who had an idea but also was also going to work hard, persevere and persist and end[ed] up literally touching the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people all across the planet. So, I hope anybody reading this, knowing of this story, would think, ‘Hmmm, wonder what I could do?’”
Jones has created a legacy for himself with the actions he chose to set in motion. But he still sees himself as an “ordinary person,” hoping that folks will take the same kind of action he did. But when it comes to how people will see him once he’s gone, he looks at his greatest achievement. “I was very lucky with the people that I met and the events that I witnessed. But I’m not special. I think my greatest achievement is that I’m still happy,” Jones says with a laugh. “That’s my greatest achievement. I’m 62, and I’m still doing this. I’m in love, and I’m happy, and I survived. That’s possibly my greatest achievement.”
For many, that is an achievement to look forward to.