40th Anniversary Of Harvey Milk’s Assassination
The LGBTQ Community Celebrates The Honorary Politician
Yesterday many celebrated the life of and mourned the death of the first openly gay elected official in California, Harvey Milk was assassinated 40 years ago this week. Being in my mid-20s and Midwestern born, I only became familiar with Milk upon viewing the film about his life, Milk, when I got to college in 2010. After my first semester in college, I was invited by this super-hunky older guy to stay in San Francisco with him for the summer. He lived in the heart of The Castro, San Fran’s gay neighborhood where Milk once owned a camera shop showcased in his feature biopic. It was fun to visit Harvey’s for colorful comedy shows and beer, and to marvel in Harvey Milk Plaza, but I never truly realized how much he would help my generations of gays today.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Milk’s legacy remains solid. Dozens of people marched to Harvey Milk Plaza yesterday in remembrance of Milk and slain San Francisco Mayor, George Moscone, who were both murdered by jealous bigot, Dan White. Many family and friends spoke of Milk and Moscone, including creator of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, Cleve Jones. Jones told:
“If you were vulnerable, under attack, he was there for you. He was never a single-issue candidate. He understood the commonality of our struggle. Gay, straight. Young, old. Black, brown and white. Immigrant and native born.”
What was Milk's legacy? And was it just about LGBT Issues? Yes, he was gay and he gave us someone to look up to, but he was someone anyone could look up to, anyone who believed in community.
Milk's political career centered on making government responsive to individuals, gay liberation, and the importance of neighborhoods to the city. At the onset of each campaign, an issue was added to Milk's public political philosophy. His 1973 campaign focused on the first point, that as a small business owner in San Francisco—a city dominated by large corporations that had been courted by municipal government—his interests were being overlooked because he was not represented by a large financial institution. Although he did not hide the fact that he was gay, it did not become an issue until his race for the California State Assembly in 1976. It was brought to the fore in the supervisor race against Rick Stokes, as it was an extension of his ideas of individual freedom.
Milk strongly believed that neighborhoods promoted unity and a small-town experience, and that the Castro should provide services to all its residents. He opposed the closing of an elementary school; even though most gay people in the Castro did not have children, Milk saw his neighborhood having the potential to welcome everyone. He told his aides to concentrate on fixing potholes and boasted that 50 new stop signs had been installed in District 5. Responding to city residents' largest complaint about living in San Francisco—dog feces—Milk made it a priority to enact the ordinance requiring dog owners to take care of their pets' droppings. Randy Shilts noted, "some would claim Harvey was a socialist or various other sorts of ideologues, but, in reality, Harvey's political philosophy was never more complicated than the issue of dogshit; government should solve people's basic problems." – wikipedia.com
Milk ushered gay rights in San Francisco when people still believed the LGBTQ community to be nothing but perverted pedophiles. I’m sure we can all bet Milk would be dazzled by how far America – and the globe – has progressed with LGBTQ and Human Rights. Imagine if he would’ve been able to meet Stonewall uprising’s Marsha P. Johnson, or even 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. It was almost ten years ago when Obama gave Milk’s nephew, Stuart, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in his uncle’s honor for his legacy of gay rights.