Saturday is the first official Harvey Milk Day. Harvey Milk Day legislation passed the California legislature in August 2008.
May 22 would have been Milk’s 80th birthday. He was assassinated in his office in San Francisco City Hall on Nov. 27, 1978. He was 48.
I take special pride in Harvey Milk for a number of reasons.
First, he graduated from my school, University at Albany, class of 1951. Our most famous alumni was honored last year at the school at a luncheon, and Harvey’s gay nephew Stuart Milk spoke (see video above). Soon after the opening of our Alumni House in 1977, his fraternity made a donation in his name, and the library of the new building was named for him.
Next is Milk’s Dallas connection. John Wright recently unearthed evidence that Milk lived in Dallas in the 1960s at 21 Turtle Creek, just a few blocks from the Dallas Voice office.
And when Bill Nelson ran for Dallas city council in 1985, his campaign was based entirely upon the campaigns of Harvey Milk. Harvey’s campaign headquarters was his camera store on Castro Street. Bill’s was Crossroads Market on Cedar Springs. On Election Day, Milk’s campaign pulled people out of the bathhouses and drove them to the polls. We did the same thing at Club Dallas for Bill’s citywide race. Slogans. Issues. Bill’s campaign was a page out of Harvey’s.
But now the state of California has officially recognized Milk’s birthday as a holiday. (It’s Saturday. Sorry, no day off from work). In its story, USA Today includes a video interview of Cleve Jones talking about being an intern for Milk. The newspaper reports that 26 cities in 20 states have rallies and events planned to honor the leader.
While the LGBT community has no shortage of celebrations, this one is special. Pride parades and gay history month are events that we have created to recognize our own community. Harvey Milk Day is official recognition by the state of California of one of our leaders and acknowledges his contributions to everyone.