Label’s Head of Social Media, Leah Langley, speaks about Harvey Milk Day and what his legacy has done for the LGBTQ+ movement.
Harvey Bernard Milk was born on May 22nd, 1930 and he was a prominent gay activist during the 20th century before his assassination on November 27th, 1978. Milk unsuccessfully ran for office three times before he became the first openly gay person to be elected into California’s Public Office as a City Supervisor. He served almost 11 months in office during which, he sponsored a bill that banned discrimination in public accommodation, housing, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. Milk’s political career was centred around making the government responsive to the gay liberation of individuals. He created a climate that allowed for dialogues on issues to become possible. His most famous talking points are known to this day as the “Hope Speech”. During the last year of Milk’s life, he emphasised that gay people should be more visible to the community to help end violence and discrimination they receive. In 2002, he was described as “the most famous and significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States.”
In the wake of his death tributes were outpoured all over the world, and his legacy is still remembered to this day.
In 1978, ‘The San Francisco Gay Democratic Club’ changed its name to the ‘Harvey Milk Memorial Gay Democratic Club’. Currently, it is named: the ‘Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club’ and is the largest Democratic organisation in San Francisco. In 2009, Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on his behalf for his contribution to the gay rights movement. In 2012, Milk was indicted into the Legacy Walk; a commemorative outdoor display celebrating LGBT history and people. In June 2019, he was one of the fifty American “Pioneers, Trailblazers and Heroes” inducted on the ‘National LGBTQ Wall of Honour’ within the Stonewall National Monument. On July 23rd 2019, Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport was unveiled as ‘Harvey Milk Terminal 1’ and became the first airport terminal to be named after a leader of the LGBTQ community. He was also included in the “Time 100 Heroes and Icons of the 20th Century”.
Randy Shilts wrote a biography on Milk’s life entitled ‘The Mayor of Castro Street’, in which he describes Milk’s life as “a metaphor for the homosexual experience in America.” He goes on to conclude the book by saying that Milk’s success, murder and the inevitable injustice of his killers’ verdict, represented the experience of all gays. A documentary film based on the biography, “The Times of Harvey Milk”, won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 1984.
Harvey Milk day is organised by the Harvey Milk Foundation and it is celebrated annually on May 22nd. The day aims to remember and teach about Milk’s life and his work to stop discrimination towards gays and lesbians. Public schools and other educational institutions within California take part in projects, events, and activities in memory of Milk. Equal Rights and other important topics are promoted throughout the day, whilst the Harvey Milk Foundation organise a programme of worldwide events to commemorate the day. Harvey Milk will forever be historical in paving a new way for LGBTQ+ movements. He should be celebrated and remembered.
Featured image designed by Frankie Stevens.