OUR history IS important. It is not taught in school. Most cities do not have resource centers that stories are told. And unless we keep our own history alive by sharing, and re-sharing, it becomes forgotten and lost.
On this day in 1978 we lost a great civil rights pioneer. This person was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where they were elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Although they were the most pro-LGBT politician in the United States at the time, politics and activism were not their early interests; they were neither open about their sexual orientation or civically active until they were 40.
Harvey Milk was murdered by a former board of supervisor. Milk served almost eleven months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for San Francisco. Despite his short career in politics, Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. In 2002, Milk was called “the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States.”
Milk graduated from Bay Shore High School in Bay Shore, New York, in 1947 and attended New York State College for Teachers in Albany. After graduation, Milk joined the United States Navy during the Korean War. He served aboard the submarine rescue ship USS Kittiwake as a diving officer. He later transferred to Naval Station, San Diego to serve as a diving instructor.
In 1984 Rob Epstein, Carter Wilson, and Judith Coburn wrote the “The Times of Harvey Milk”, my mentors as I came of age, insisted that I see it.
In 2008 Dustin Lance Black wrote “Milk” featuring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. It helped retell Milks story.
Today, a record number (perhaps because it is safer today to do so) of youth are identifying as LGBTQ+ than ever before. They need to know that being their authentic selves is most important. They MUST be free of religious oppression, hate, and disdain.
Today I honor a Harvey Milk and his work with a moment of silence and these words… “Through our memories, our truths, and our own experiences we call the work, the life, and the work of Harvey Milk. May we keep his example with our thinking, doing, and believing. Let his work continue with our hands, feet, and mouths as we live with others. Let there be peace within our communities, in our communities, and for our communities. And let it begin with me.”