May 22 marks Harvey Milk Day and also highlights other politicians making a change in their communities. Major cities as well as the White House are honoring this day as an important time to recognize people who are standing up for equality.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay official to be elected to office by winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of supervisors in 1977. Although, he didn’t begin his journey as an LGBT activist, his move to San Francisco during a time when gays and lesbians were migrating to the Castro District inspired him. He began speaking on behalf of the LGBT community, rallying them together in unity, and his enthusiasm eventually carried him to his seat in politics. He became known as the unofficial mayor of Castro.
Milk only served in his position for 11 months before Dan White, another city supervisor, assassinated him and Mayor George Moscone on November 27, 1978.
During his short term, Milk helped several ordinances pass that were in favor of LGBT rights.
His words and actions during his life ensured his place as one of the most prominent LGBT icons in the history of the equality movement.
In 2008, a film titled “Milk” about his life, starring Sean Penn, was well received, winning two Academy Awards.
In 2009, Milk was honored with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Harvey Milk Day was organized by Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk and his foundation.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made the day official in 2009, mandating it be recognized by public schools in California.
Today, the White House will honor 10 openly gay politicians with the White House Harvey Milk Champions awards. President Obama will personally award the honorees in a live ceremony shown today at 12pm PST. Services have been ongoing over the weekend, and San Francisco’s famous Castro theatre will be playing “Milk” later today.
Quotes from Harvey Milk:
My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.
Hope will never be silent.
If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.
It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.
More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, THAT my friends, that is true perversion.
Coming out is the most political thing you can do.
I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.
Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.