For those who don’t know, May 22nd of each year is the day celebrated in loving memory of Harvey Milk, the gay rights activist who was murdered in 1978. Organised by the Harvey Milk Foundation, the day is meant to honour the accomplishments of Mr. Milk, a New York-born California politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in that state when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Increase in prominence of the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights movement can be seen through the prism of Milk’s life and his work. During his too brief time in office he worked to pass a gay rights ordinance and defeat the Briggs Initiative (also known as Proposition 6) which was the effort to ban gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools.
Tragically, in 1978 Milk was assassinated by a former colleague with whom he often clashed on political issues. That Board of Supervisors colleague, Dan White, took the life of a community’s beacon but, as time has shown, he didn’t take away the dream for full equality — the fight for which continues to this day. Because Mr. Milk spoke of the need for communities to share with the world their own stories of accomplishment and strength, this mission of day will carry on within and outside of the gay community.
As noted by the Foundation, “Harvey showed us all what one person, standing up loudly and clearly, against a fierce societal fear and prejudice can accomplish. He created a rich and vivid message of hope and an enduring dream, teaching us how to create our own and leaving them for us to realize.”