SMU vote inspires Harvey Milk Day celebration on Cedar Springs

Harvey Milk DayDallas Mayor Mike Rawlings issued a proclamation to Hope 4 Peace and Justice, naming Thursday, May 22, 2014, as Harvey Milk Day.

Harvey Milk Day Dallas organizer Todd Whitley said H4PJ was inspired to create a celebration by LGBT students at Southern Methodist University who were recently denied representation in the Student Senate.

“We’re still having this fight today? Seriously?” Whitley said. “Harvey’s message is needed now more than ever.”

He said organizers thought of the SMU students and elderly LGBT folks who have fought homophobia their entire lives.

Sammi Partida was one of the SMU students who campaigned for LGBT representation in the Student Senate. He said Harvey Milk is a voice for those who have been suppressed.

“His approach was comprehensive,” he said, covering issues from child care to affordable housing to senior citizen.

He said Milk had a passion that’s hard to match.

“When coming in as city supervisor, he knew he was putting down his life for countless people,” Partida said. “He’s so inspiring.”

Whitley said coming out saved his life.

“I was dying, unable to be the authentic me,” he said, “and doing so completely changed my life.”

Whitley agreed and said Milk’s legacy spoke to him personally.

“Gone far too soon, Harvey Milk inspired a generation to ‘bust down those closet doors’ and ‘come out,’ a vital, life-saving action it would take me 38 years to finally do myself. … That’s what his legacy is to me,” Whitley said.

Milk’s call to come out is as relevant today as it was when he was killed in 1978.

Whitley challenged straight people to honor Harvey Milk Day by coming out for equality as well.

“If you’re straight — particularly a straight Christian — and believe that LGBTQ folks are equal to you, come out so people know where you stand and can use your example to eliminate their own bigotry,” he said.

Milk has a special connection to Dallas. In 1957, he briefly lived in Dallas, according to the San Francisco library, before returning to New York. He was transferred here in 1969 by Bache & Co. where he was a securities analyst and lived at 2525 Turtle Creek Blvd. before moving to San Francisco.

In honor of Milk, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a Harvey Milk stamp Thursday.

A community celebration of Harvey Milk Day takes place at the Legacy of Love Monument on Cedar Springs Road at Oak Lawn Avenue on May 22 at 8 p.m. The celebration features speakers which include SMU student Sammi Partida and Cathedral of Hope Interim Pastor Jim Mitulski, a musical performance by Chris Chism, an excerpt of the H4PJ production Dear Harvey and a spoken word performance by local activist Meg Hargis followed by a candlelight march down Cedar Springs Road and cake and ice cream at Sue Ellen’s.

—  David Taffet

Tonight, Dallas will host its 1st-ever birthday celebration for one-time resident Harvey Milk

It’s Harvey Milk Day (he would have been 82 today), and if you haven’t already read our cover story on Milk’s time in Dallas, you should. We’ve also posted a preview of this weekend’s Harvey Milk Day Conference in Austin. But first, right here in Dallas, GetEQUAL TX will host Big D’s first-ever Harvey Milk Day Celebration on Tuesday night.

The event begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Legacy of Love Monument, at Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road. People are encouraged to bring candles or other light sources, as Milk is remembered through song, poetry and speeches.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, said the Harvey Milk Day Celebration was born out of his desire to remember and celebrate the LGBT community’s history.

“Especially in places like Texas, our government is not going to do it for us, so we have to be responsible to preserve and tell our own story, and Harvey Milk was a huge part of that,” Cates told Instant Tea. “He’s our Martin Luther King. That’s really sad that most schoolchildren across the country have no idea who he is.”

Cates said he expects a small gathering Tuesday night but hopes the event will grow in future years.

“Harvey Milk Day hasn’t celebrated outside of California really anywhere until the last three or four years,” he said. “It’s an idea that’s starting to catch on. No one’s going to tell our story for us. We need to do that ourselves.”

—  John Wright

GetEQUAL TX to host 3rd annual Harvey Milk Day Conference in Austin

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer

AUSTIN — GetEQUAL Texas will host its third annual Harvey Milk Day Conference from May 24-27, an event dedicated to empowering citizens on how to “take bold action and demand full civil equality in their local communities.”

The conference’s agenda includes a pre-conference celebration at the Millenium Youth Entertainment Complex and an open air rock/folk concert at Rusty’s bar. The conference itself — at Austin Community College’s Eastview Campus —  will feature workshop sessions including topics such as homelessness and bi-phobia within the gay community, why queers should consider moving their funds from big banks into local credit unions, and a large group non-violence civil disobedience training.

The weekend will also include a staged reading of Dear Harvey — a play which commemorates the assassinated civil rights leader through interviews with his colleagues, archival materials, and words his own speeches and diaries — and conclude with a Sunday evening protest march to the state Capitol.

GetEQUAL’s Texas state coordinator Michael Diviesti began working with the organization three years ago when he witnessed group members chaining themselves to the White House fence to protest “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As a former military service member who suffered under the gay military ban, Diviesti decided to join the group’s first Harvey Milk Day march on the Texas Capitol.

“That’s when I learned that even I, as humble and small as I am as one person, can really join this movement to push for full equality in all matters governed by civil law,” Diviesti said.

Diviesti helped coordinate the conference the following year and says that because attendees come in from all across Texas and the U.S., GetEQUAL has prepared to accommodate more than 600 people, more than double the number of 2011 attendees.

Though the conference provides meals and training materials for all participants, their suggested $25 attendance fee remains optional.

“[Activists who participate in non-violent civil disobedience] tend to be more often than not lower middle class or lower. There are a lot of homeless youth who are itching to do something to maintain rights for themselves but they don’t have those tools,” Diviesti said. “We see a lot of these events that are hundreds and sometimes a thousand dollars. … I’m not knocking those events. But for our community, we need events like this to where everyone is welcome regardless of economic ability.”

GetEQUAL North Texas coordinator and conference presenter Daniel Cates added that the conference also gives attendees in both large and small towns a chance to form a larger activist network. For example, when GetEQUAL staged an Oct. 15 protest by requesting same-sex marriage licenses at the Dallas County clerk’s office, activists in nine other Texas cities held similar actions on the same day.

“Any time something [LGBT-related] happens here in the state or even nationally [they] can pick up the phone and reach other activists in Brownsville, in Austin, San Antonio, McAllen, College Station, and we in the state can decide to take coordinated action,” Cates said. “That’s something really missing in Texas before.”

Anyone interested in attending can still register at getequaltx.org.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Harvey Milk Day rally in Austin

KVUE reports that hundreds gathered in Austin on Sunday for Texas’ second annual Harvey Milk Day event. After a rally at City Hall, they marched down Congress Avenue to City Hall.

—  John Wright

Over 300 march in Austin to honor Harvey Milk

MilkDay.Austin

More than 300 people marched and rallied in Austin on Saturday to commemorate the first Harvey Milk Day, according to Dallas activist Chastity Kirven, who attended the event and sent over the above photo. Kirven was also among the presenters at a pre-march conference organized by Equality Across America. I’ve swiped a few more pics of the march from Facebook and posted them after the jump. The Austin event was one of dozens across the country honoring Milk, a one-time Dallas resident who would’ve turned 80 Saturday. At Equality California’s Milk Day event in San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assured attendees that “don’t ask don’t tell” will be “a memory come Christmas.” Watch video of Pelosi’s speech below.

—  John Wright

In California news, Harvey Milk Day is official

Got Milk? Californians will every May 22nd from now on.
Got Milk? Californians will every May 22 from now on.

Just read the following headline -Schwarzenegger creates day honoring Harvey Milk.

“He has become much more of a symbol of the gay community than he was a year ago because of those things,” Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said. “That made the difference from last year: he’s really come to symbolize the gay community in California”

In his veto message a year ago, the Republican governor said Milk should be honored locally by those who were most impacted by his contributions. He did not write a signing message this year saying why he flip-flopped.

Hopefully, Columbus Day revelers weren’t upset by this news happening on their day.

—  Rich Lopez