The RT. Beatitude Zachary Jones

At 29 and unhappily married, The RT. Beatitude Zachary Jones sat, hunched over, glued to the LA Times headline in 1982. The words, disquieting, shifted something inside of him on the front porch of his South Central home. My community needs me, he told himself, reading about AIDS. He struggled with his sexuality, but soon after found the courage to divorce his wife of seven years. Although the media misrepresented AIDS as someone else’s disease, gay white men living in West Hollywood, that image quickly changed when he met his boyfriend.

“We felt like AIDS was not something we should be concerned about,” The RT. Beatitude stated. “We had unprotected sex. He became very ill. By this time, I’m getting more associated with the gay community. People are getting infected and dying at an increased level.”

He continued, “We didn’t think it was a Black issue. We thought it was Black guys who dated white guys. We divided it into another social group until my partner became sick. AIDS impacted my entire life. It left me alone, confused, and uncertain.”

The RT. Beatitude taught Bible studies as a teenager in the early 1970s. In 1978, he gained his first title as a licensed pulpit minister at Mount Moriah Baptist Church. He joined a Pentecostal church and sometime after, joined West Adams Foursquare Church. While there, he graduated from Palos Verdes Bible Seminary. Later, he joined Metropolitan Community Church and discovered Unity Fellowship after his partner’s death.

“When I found out I was positive, I told myself you have to deal with the issue of mortality. The fear was unlivable. It will kill you by itself. I started researching. I read poems by Susan Sontag, who died of cancer. I went wild on confronting death. That was the best medicine.”

Until the Minority AIDS Project (MAP) opened its doors in the 1980s, communities of color had limited access to preventive education and health care services. Walking inside, you saw a large room with small offices. Donated, mismatched desks and flat, overwalked carpeting decorated each office.

“One of my roles at MAP was facilitating a group. We had conversations about our experiences discovering the disease. It created a broader world to exist in. We became each other’s surrogate family members.”

Titles reveal leadership level at Unity Fellowship Church Movement. The church has only had two individuals at its highest level of leadership, and The RT. Beatitude Jones is the second. The first, Archbishop Carl Bean, borrowed his title from Catholicism. The title Archbishop was retired after the founder of the church died. After a spiritual ritual, The RT. Beatitude Jones found himself reading the beatitudes or blessings listed in the Sermon on the Mount and found his title.

“I wasn’t drafted in any wars, but I was in a war. When I speak to veterans, they talk about comradery, bonding, and being in the trenches. Those phrases parallel how we felt in our battle.”

In Preventive Education at MAP, The RT. Beatitude Jones incorporated his spiritual gifts and performed those gifts across the country throughout the 1990s. And he served proudly in the trenches against AIDS for over thirty years.

Today, The RT. Beatitude Jones remains confident about the future of AIDS due to advancements in medicine, care, and research.

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