March, ‘birthday party’ set in Dallas to honor pioneering activist
Contributed by Todd Whitley, Hope For Peace and Justice
People across the globe will celebrate the life and legacy of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk on Friday, May 22, what would have been the pioneering LGBT activist’s 85th birthday. In North Texas, a broad coalition of area organizations will join together to celebrate Harvey Milk Day with a candlelight march down Cedar Springs Road.
The event begins at the Legacy of Love Monument, at the intersection of Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road, at 8 p.m. Friday. Following the march, everyone will gather at TMC:The Mining Company, 3903 Cedar Springs Road, for a “cake, ice cream and libations after-party.”
The Rev. Carmarion Anderson, a minister at Living Faith Covenant Church and the south regional minister for the national group TransSaints of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, will deliver the keynote address.
Others speakers include Carter and Espy Brown, founders of Black Transmen, Inc.; Mike Grossman, founding board member of The Dallas Way; Hardy Haberman, long-time LGBT activist and current chair of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance in Washington, D.C.; Yadi Martinez, minister of young people and missions at Cathedral of Hope; Leslie McMurray, freelance writer and transgender activist; Deneen Robinson and her mother Sheila Johnson; Cody Sanders, Resource Center FUSE coordinator; Rafiq Salleh-Flowers, immigration activist and community volunteer; the Rev. Steven Sprinkle, theologian in residence at Cathedral of Hope and professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School; and Sister Holly von Acocker, mistress of house for The DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who will offer the invocation.
Local singer and “raptivist” Mokah Soulfly will entertain the crowd with her original song “We Are Everything,” which she says was inspired by the ideal that “at the end of the day, we are one love; we are all everything!”
A variety of local queer artists, including Candace Thompson, Calvin Roberts, Rafiq Salleh-Flowers, the Rev. Jeff Hood, and Todd Whitley, will also speak, reading from Harvey Milk’s various letters, speeches and other writings.
Also speaking will be Miles Dean, founder of the GSA at L.D. Bell High School and founding member of the Queer Youth Coalition of the Dallas Fort Worth Area, which aims to connect GSAs together and effect change on a greater scale than at the school level, and international baccalaureate diploma candidate.
“What better way to celebrate this important LGBT figure than by using his own words to educate and inspire Dallas to pick up the bullhorn where he left off,” said event organizers D.R. Hanson. “As they watch these performers clad in colored handkerchiefs and Harvey Milk Day t-shirts, we hope the audience will feel as if Harvey himself were at his own 85th birthday party.”
Following the march, everyone is invited to a birthday celebration, complete with cake and ice cream, on the patio at TMC: The Mining Company.
In conjunction with the celebration, Dallas Public Library’s Oak Lawn Branch, 4100 Cedar Springs Road, has created a Harvey Milk exhibit complete with a section of books from the library’s collection on Milk and others written by LGBT authors.
This will be the fourth annual event held here in Dallas, and organizers approached the 2015 celebration with the goal of offering expanded access and representation to marginalized voices while highlighting ongoing struggles for justice, peace and equality.
Event organizer Daniel Scott Cates said, “Many people know Harvey was an advocate for gay rights. But Harvey also championed the rights of women, ethnic minorities, senior citizens, renters, workers and the poor. The Dallas Harvey Milk Day Celebration is our commemoration of Harvey’s life story, message and legacy, inspiring not only LGBTQIA lives but all disenfranchised communities.
“Above all, this event is about hope,” Cates said.
Event organizer Todd Whitley added, “The emphasis of the celebration is to show a united LGBT community and indicate how Milk’s message of hope can empower us all and build coalition among and generate advocacy for others.”
The coalition of groups sponsoring the event includes ACLU of Texas, Cathedral of Hope Dallas/La Catedral de la Esperanza, Cathedral of Hope Mid-Cities,
Congregation Beth El Binah, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, Dallas Stonewall Democrats, DFW Human Rights Campaign, The DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Equality Texas, GALA Gay and Lesbian Alliance of North Texas, Hope for Peace and Justice, Lambda Legal Dallas, Log Cabin Republicans — Dallas, LULAC 4821 Dallas Rainbow Council, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, Real Live Connection and Resource Center.
The event is free and open to people of all ages. Signs, candles (or other preferred light source), friends, family, and voices are welcome.
For more information about the event, including sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, contact Todd Whitley at 214-351-1901 or todd@H4PJ.org.
What they have to say
Rafiq Salleh-Flowers: “I believe that doing the right thing is always the hardest thing, and Harvey Milk’s perseverance for the fight for equality has proven that. And we also know that at times we never get the support we need to end inequality. Above all, we are always making progress.”
Mike Grossman: “Harvey Milk’s legacy and his hope message is a constant reminder that it is up to us, everyone of us, the entire GLTB community, our families and our allies to keep up our quest, the impossible dream, if you will. Our daily mantra should be ‘if it’s to be, it’s up to me.’”
Cody Sanders: “Harvey spent his life making the LGBT community a visible minority that could fight oppression and win. His work gives us hope that current injustices faced by sexual minorities, like the lack of access to HIV education and prevention, can be changed with persistence and courage.”
Leslie Michelle: “The issues facing transgender people today are eerily similar to those facing the Gay/Lesbian community nearly 40 years ago. There are similar lies, myths and distortions targeting the transgender community. It’s when hope is lost, that lives are in the balance. We can’t let that happen.”
Carter Brown: “Historically and to date, hope has been a necessity for communities of color, same-gender-loving and transgender people as a means of emotional and social survival in anticipation of our human equality be acknowledged. Hope is what fuels our actions, which ultimately create change.”
Steve Sprinkle: “Harvey Milk’s message of hope and resistance was backed up by the fullest measure of devotion anyone can give for our community — his life. His strong message, speaking through us today, gives us courage and strategy for overcoming the opposition to justice we face in Texas.”
Hardy Haberman: “For me, Harvey’s message of hope reinforces our need to defend that hope against those who would steal it and drive us back into a darker past. As we get closer and closer to equality, the forces against us are reasserting their oppression.”
Yadi Martinez: “So I am here — Latino, Latina, of Mexican descent and part of the LGBTQ Community. I am an artist, a minister, a parent and believer that people — young and old, of all nationalities, genders and races — are changing the world. That was the hope that Harvey Milk spoke of when he said that the time was now for us to longer be judged by our crimes and the myths behind our race and culture. It is important to us as a community to continue to give others hope for ‘without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es, will give up.’ Let us, as Harvey Milk said, give them hope.”
Mokah Soulfly (Keisha Hunter): “Giving your life is the greatest sacrifice a person can make. How amazing a man who would have the gall to be himself in a climate of hate and injustice — how grand the hope and fire his life has inspired for generation after generation to stand proud and strong for equality for all.”
Miles Dean: “In continuing our message of hope for the future so passionately conveyed by Harvey Milk, we need to remember that in order to ensure our future, the young who are expected to carry on the memory of one of our most remembered martyrs must be supported and included more than they have been in the past.”