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.