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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 14
Activist Cleve Jones thinks corporate money has too much influence on LGBT movement
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Activist Cleve Jones thinks corporate money has too much influence on LGBT movement

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Longtime activist and close friend of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco supervisor assassinated in 1978, Cleve Jones recently said in an interview that the LGBT movement may be losing its way and that corporate money has too strong an influence.

Jones is best known for founding the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1987, which grew to become the world's largest community arts project, memorializing the lives of more than 85,000 Americans who died from HIV/AIDS.

'One of the most important and central questions is whether or not we are a progressive movement and whether we care about other communities and other issues,' Jones told EDGE reporter Peter Cassels. 'The big philosophical question is what kind of movement we want this to be now that we appear to winning. A movement that seeks to advance only its own members is going to accomplish little. I want to be in a movement that transforms the lives of millions of people.'

Jones said he worries about corporations that pour large amounts of money into the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and other national LGBT organizations. Citing HRC's appointment of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as a spokesperson for its national marriage equality campaign, he expressed fears that LGBT groups have become indebted to corporations.

Jones told EDGE the move shows HRC is 'either remarkably tone deaf, is incredibly cynical, or it was maybe bought and paid for.'

And then there was the uproar over the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's endorsement of AT&T's decision to merge with cell phone service provider T-Mobile. Last year, then-GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission supporting the merger. After public protest, GLAAD eventually withdrew the endorsement and Barrios lost his job.

Cleve points out, 'This would not have happened had it not been for AT&T's influence.'

The activist also has a bone to pick with the Hyatt Corporation. Cleve says the hotel chain is marketing 'very aggressively to the Gay community, offering sponsorships and deals and claiming to be this great place for Gay people to work.' But Cleve contends that the company 'brutally exploits immigrant women, has a very high rate of on-the-job injuries and non-union Hyatts require workers to endure conditions that I would find intolerable.'

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