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Pioneering LGBT+ Activist Ken Jones Has Passed Away, Aged 70

Pioneering gay activist Ken Jones passed away this week, his death at the age of 70 attributed to bladder cancer.

The Vietnam War veteran settled in San Francisco in 1972 and joined the early gay rights activism lead by Harvey Milk and others in the Castro neighbourhood of San Francisco. He would later work for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and become the first African American chair of the San Francisco LGBT Pride organisation, according to ‘Out In Perth’. 

Jones was portrayed in the TV  mini-series ‘When We Risewith Jonathan Majors playing a younger version of Jones in the series, while Michael K. Williams played Jones in his latter years.

The series, based on a book by fellow activist Cleve Jones, highlighted the racism that Ken Jones experienced as one of the few people of colour having a high profile position in LGBT+ activism.

Following the announcement of his death this week, Cleve Jones said Ken was a hero who had survived many struggles. In a message shared on Facebook it was announced a memorial would be held at a later date.

“Ken Jones was a hero. He survived many struggles. He deeply loved his family and his community, and dedicated his entire life to the movement for peace and justice. He was very grateful to all of you who reached out to him with messages of encouragement and love during his illness. Today Ken lost his fight against cancer. A memorial will be arranged when it is safe once more for us to gather. Rest in Power, Ken. I love you.

Cleve Jones”

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who penned the script to the feature film ‘Milk’ and the TV series ‘When We Rise’ paid tribute to Ken Jones on Twitter describing him as a dedicated HIV/AIDS activist, who worked hard to desegregate the LGBT+ movement.

“I will never forget his smile, kindness, and inextinguishable passion for fairness.” Black wrote. 

After he was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980’s Jones said he spent a decade preparing to die, before he slowly came to the realisation that he was not going to be a victim of the disease. In September 2020 he was diagnosed with cancer and he passed away at the Veteran’s Hospital in San Francisco.

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