Harvey Milk Day To Be Historic First
By J. Dean Woodbury
Every May 22 is now Harvey Milk Day in California, and there will be no better time or place for the first celebration of his birthday than in the Castro.
State Senator Mark Leno was the lead author of the bill, signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in October of last year, which encourages public schools and educational institutions to conduct suitable commemorative exercises on that day. It is the first of its kind, presumably in the world, to honor an openly gay person.
To kick off the weekend, the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy will be hosting a fundraiser at Dolores Park Café on Friday evening. The following morning, Equality California (EQCA) volunteers will gather at the LGBT Center. The GLBT Historical Society will also have an on-going history display in the window of Harvey’s old camera shop at 575 Castro, along with an information booth regarding their new location on 18th St., and “Cruisin’ the Castro Tours” will be leading insightful walking tours of the neighborhood.
Moreover, the acclaimed film “Milk,” starring Sean Penn, will be showing at the Castro Theater later in the evening. The Imperial Council will be hosting a “Diversity Brunch” at ARC of San Francisco while the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy will host games and booths at the “Cookies & Milk Street Fair.”
Many organizations and individuals have been involved in putting together activities to raise awareness and funds, including the spectacular Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, whose ever-popular “Tour de Castro” tricycle race is a featured event. This bawdy bacchanalia on mini-wheels is a fundraising costume extravaganza benefiting AIDS/Lifecycle riders. Cheer SF is slated to perform with much gaiety, with local establishments holding tea dances bearing names such as “Milk Shake” and “Hot Pants and Roller Skates.” Family picnics and plaque dedications will abound.
Audrey Joseph, general coordinator and volunteer producer of many of the day’s events, will be present at the laying of a plaque in front of Harvey’s old camera shop.
“This is historic, because it’s the first time any day has been put aside for a gay individual in this country. MLK, Cesar Chavez, they have commemorative days that honor their life’s work; and now, we have Harvey Milk Day. It’s a big day, an important day, and I am happy to be part of it.”
Harvey Bernard Milk, originally from New York, became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
Although he only served 11 months, he fought hard and ultimately won a gay rights ordinance in The City. Believing that gays should support gay businesses, he organized the annual Castro Street Fair in 1974 that is still held every autumn. From serving in the Korean War to supporting free public transport and calling for the liberation and protection of people everywhere, Harvey was truly one of the most beloved civil rights pioneers of our time. Assassinated along with then Mayor George Moscone at City Hall on November 27, 1978 by Dan White, the world lost a hero in the fight against oppression.
For more information contact Richard Magary at MUMC-SF@earthlink.net or go to www.MILKDay.org.