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Cleve Jones named a Grand Marshal for Pride

Activist worked with Harvey Milk

US gay activist Cleve Jones, who worked with slain activist Harvey Milk, will be one of this year’s Vancouver Pride Parade grand marshals.

Also being honored are the late Cindy Kampmeinert, Vancouver’s first openly lesbian firefighter; student activist Jeremy Dias; and Little Sister’s manager Janine Fuller, who has fought for queer voices for two decades.

Jones was portrayed prominently in 2008’s Academy Award-winning film Milk starring Sean Penn.

A primary resource in the scripting of Milk, Jones began his career as an activist when Milk befriended him in the 1970s.

He became Milk’s protégé and played an important role in Milk’s campaigns for political office for the San Francisco board of supervisors among others.

After Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in 1978 by former city supervisor Dan White, Jones continued his work as an gay activist and co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983.

Soon after, Jones conceived the idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt to raise awareness of the disease. In 2009, the quilt became the world’s largest piece of community folk art.

Jones was played by Emile Hirsh in the film and attended last year’s Academy Awards ceremony where Penn took home the Best Actor Oscar.

The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) announced its parade marshals this week. The selections are part of its three-year theme, Educate, Liberate, Celebrate.

This year, Pride marches under the pillar of Educate to remember gay history and those who shaped it.

VPS president Ken Coolen says Jones is one of those people, as are the other marshals.

“We want to look at education about our past and Cleve Jones works into that,” Coolen says. “We refer to him as a role model. We have a role model, a local hero [Fuller] and a national hero [Dias].”

Kampmeinert is this year’s Honourary Pride Hero.

She was instrumental in securing the fire department’s first Pride parade entry in 2002.

She died suddenly in India in December after a motorbike accident.

Fuller, with Little Sister’s co-owners Jim Deva and Bruce Smyth and bookbuyer Mark Macdonald, spearheaded the battle against Canada Customs’ seizures of books destined for the store for two decades.

The Little Sister’s legal challenge pushed for unrestricted access to gay ideas, stories and images in Canada, and has been instrumental in the development of Canadian free-speech jurisprudence.

Dias too comes with a pedigree involving the courts.

After coming out in high school, Dias faced discrimination from school officials when he attempted to create a Positive Space program.

At 17, he filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission in November 2002.

He alleged that Sault Ste Marie, Ontario’s Sir James Dunn Collegiate and Vocational School and the Algoma District School Board would not allow him to start school clubs to encourage a more positive environment for non-heterosexual students.

Although his school and the board offered a financial settlement, they refused to apologize or make changes to the district or the school.

Dias used the settlement to create Jer’s Vision, Canada’s first LGBTQ scholarship.

Coolen says having Dias on board is a tip of the hat to challenges queer youth face in schools.

“We need to think about the education of our young people these days,” Coolen says. Dias “overcame a huge battle. He found a way to turn it into an opportunity for success. He’s an amazing young man.”