The mini-series “When We Rise,” a history of the LGBT movement and people who made it happen is a show that many people never thought would be aired. For the LGBT movement to get 4 days, 2 hours per night, on ABC primetime is a feat that would have seemed impossible 20 years- maybe even 10 years ago.


10 years ago, only the state of Massachusetts had gay marriage. 30 years ago, Ken and Cleve Jones were fighting against LGBT oppression and watching AIDS destroy their community. In 1981, AIDS was being pegged as a gay disease, the illness originally called GRID, the acronym for Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Many took the stance that GRID was a disease used to punish the LGBT community, due to the sinful nature and immorality of homosexuality. It wasn’t until heterosexual people, women, and children started contracting the disease that GRID was renamed AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Night One: Introduction to Cleve, Ken, and Roma

The series opening focuses on Cleve Jones moving from Arizona to San Francisco, so he could live in city that supports people like himself. Ken Jones is a gay African American man. In the navy, he lost his partner, who is also in the service and is still hiding who he is.

Roma Guy was struggling to accept herself as a lesbian, who is stuck between feelings for Diane and Jean.

Cleve, Ken, and Roma get a taste for the LGBT life, as they experience gay raids and police brutality during LGBT and Domestic Violence gatherings.

Night Two: Fight for LGBT Rights and AIDS Research

shows how each character comes into their own. Roma is heading a women’s group and has joined the San Francisco battles of fighting against police in riot gear.

Cleve is working alongside Harvey Milk. Ken has found his niche in highlighting how AIDS victims need help. His speech to his own African American people for help in fighting the disease falls on deaf ears. Ken is told that real black men are not gay.

LGBT accomplishments are highlighted, as California’s Briggs Initiative, which stated that LGBT teachers and people who support them could be fired, was defeated.

Harvey Milk becomes the first LGBT City Supervisor. Ken, Cleve, and Roma are united, as they fight for equal rights that should have always been theirs.

Modern day LGBT movement

“When We Rise” reminds us how much further we need to go. Donald Trump has taken away rights for transgender individuals to use the restroom of their choice. Many LGBT people fear that Congress will pass the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow businesses to refuse services to LGBT people without fear of punishments. LGBT hate crimes have increased since Trump has become president.

The LGBT fight must continue. Many gay people have taken on the spirits of Ken, Roma, and Cleve as they protest and keep demanding equality. Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Generation X are coming together in love and activism, as the world has never seen.

Beautiful things can happen. . . when we rise.