AIDS quilt creator sues Names Project over use of memorial
January 23 2004 12:00 AM ET
The San Francisco gay rights activist who created the AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Atlanta nonprofit foundation that owns the famed memorial are locked in a bitter dispute over how best to use the 50-ton, 40,000-panel quilt in the fight against AIDS, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in San Francisco superior court, Cleve Jones, 49, who has been the quilt's spokesman for more than 15 years, said he was fired by the Names Project Foundation because he pushed an ambitious plan to take the quilt on a nationwide, election-year tour ending in a display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in October. The foundation's directors said they didn't have the money for the tour and were uncomfortable tying the first display of the quilt in eight years to a national political campaign, he said. The foundation also backtracked on its promise to reopen an office for the quilt project in San Francisco, where the quilt was first sewn in 1987 and where it was kept until the foundation moved to Georgia in 2001, the lawsuit contends.
The organization's leadership refused to show Jones financial data to substantiate its claims that new projects are impossible because the foundation is near bankruptcy, the Chronicle reports. Jones said that when he pushed ahead with his idea of displaying the quilt--and helped line up more
than $1 million in corporate pledges to finance it--the foundation turned down the money and fired him from his $41,500-a-year job. Jones, who has AIDS, says the foundation also suggested it would cut
off his health insurance despite a 1990 promise to provide him insurance for the rest of his life. The suit asks the court to put the Names Project in receivership so the quilt can be returned to San Francisco and once again be deployed in the fight against AIDS.