"Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight!" - Harvey Milk
1979 flyer; hat tip to Maggie's Meta Watershed blogspot
Flyer created and distributed by Lesbians Against Police Violence and The Stonewall Coalition [mixed-gender lesbian/gay organization allied with LAPV] in summer 1979 in the aftermath of the White Night Riots; likely drawn by Emily Siegel. – Maggie Jochild
Gay rights icon Harvey Milk (1930-1978) has been the subject of numerous books and movies, including the Academy Award–winning 1984 documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk. His life is also the basis of a 2008 major motion picture, Milk, starring Academy Award winner Sean Penn and directed by Academy Award nominee Gus Van Sant.
Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in America. In 1977, he was voted to the city supervisors' board of San Francisco. The following year, both he and the city's mayor, George Moscone, were shot to death by another city supervisor, Dan White, who served a sum total of five years, one month and eight days for assassinating two people with whom he disagreed politically.
Milk premiered on Thursday in Beverly Hills at The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, where a candlelight vigil ensued in remembrance of Harvey Milk and in grief over reported results that California passed Proposition 8, the same sex marriage ban. The film opens nationwide on Nov. 26th.
Milk is timely and highly relevant, given the ongoing assault on LGBT dignity with reported passage of laws designed to legitimize second-class status. The elections of 2004 and 2008 saw passage of discriminatory laws in over a dozen states. This increases Milk's stature as an icon for equality for all.
As an important aside, because all election results that stem from undetectably mutable software are questionable, reported passage of Proposition 8 is likewise in question. The LGBT community has hooked up with election integrity advocates who are now investigating California's vote on Prop 8. California residents are urged to assist in Velvet Revolution's efforts by contacting them; see this mail to link at bottom of the VR post.
Burrowing through mountains of information on Milk led to this collection of videos, photos, personal accounts and background on the riots that resulted when this icon was martyred for championing populist causes, including equal treatment for lesbians and gays.
Born May 22, 1930 in Woodmere, New York, on Long Island, Milk studied math at the NY State College for Teachers (now University at Albany). After graduating college in 1951, he joined the Navy, eventually becoming a diving instructor at the San Diego Naval Station. By the time of his 1955 discharge, Milk achieved the rank of lieutenant, junior grade.
He taught high school for a while, then worked as an actuarial statistician at an insurance firm, and later researched for a Wall Street firm. Frightened by government expansion, he worked for conservative Republican Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. But by 1970, he became disillusioned with the US invasion of Cambodia, and later, with gay bashing by San Francisco police. According to biographer Randy Shilts, Milk finally adopted populist political sentiments by the time he started running for public office.
SF's Socio-Politico-Economic Climate in the 1970s
Milk took a long circuitous route to San Francisco, before settling there in the early 1970s. In 1972, he opened a shop, Castro Camera, with his partner Scott Smith. Although he acknowledged his homosexuality at age 14, he stayed in the closet for years. He moved to Castro during its transition from a blue-collar Irish Catholic neighborhood to a service based economy. That transition wrought economic disaster as factories moved out of San Francisco. Wiki reports:
"San Francisco had been 'a city of villages': a decentralized city with ethnic enclaves that each surrounded its own main street. As the downtown area developed, neighborhoods suffered, including Castro Street.... [S]hops shut down, and houses were abandoned and shuttered. In 1963, real estate prices plummeted when most of the working-class families tried to sell their houses quickly after a gay bar opened in the neighborhood....