Island Talkback: Alameda celebrates Harvey Milk
By Sean Cahill
On October 11, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger officially instituted May 22 as “Harvey Milk Day” in the State of California. Only one other individual, the legendary John Muir, holds this honor.
Harvey Milk was born in New York on May 22, 1930 to Minerva Karns and William Milk. He moved to San Francisco in 1972 and five years later, in 1977, was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the first time in the history of the United States that an openly gay man was elected to a prominent political office.
During his term on the Board of Supervisors, Milk sponsored and successfully passed a gay rights ordinance for the City of San Francisco. He was also instrumental in defeating California Proposition 6 – commonly known as the Briggs Initiative – which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California public schools.
Milk’s contributions to gay culture are far-reaching, and many of the traditions shared in the gay community today reflect his efforts. While his passion for justice saw great success, it also caused much controversy. And like many who stand at the boundary of difference, he knew the potential for harm to his person. As feared, on November 27, 1978, Harvey Milk was assassinated. In 2009, President Barack Obama honored Harvey Milk posthumously, with the Medal of Freedom.
Because of Harvey Milk’s contributions, as with the lives of the many before him who have made significant contributions to American heritage, we make time to commemorate and honor his life on May 22. In recognition of this day, Alameda City Councilman Frank Matarrese, the College of Alameda, the College of Alameda Gay Straight Alliance, Alameda Social Services Human Relations Board, Alameda Multicultural Center and the Community Alliance Resource for Education are co-sponsoring the first annual “Alameda Harvey Milk Day” from 10 a.m. to noon May 22 in the Student Union at the College of Alameda, 555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway.
Some of the program highlights include performance by the renowned Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus; invocation and benediction by the Rev. Laura Rose, senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of Alameda United Church of Christ; and an interview with the Rabbi Allen Bennett of Temple Israel on his reflections as Harvey Milk’s rabbi and the experience of being the country’s first openly gay rabbi.
The Hon. Beverly Johnson, Mayor, Alameda and Alameda Unified School District Superintendent Kirsten Vital will present proclamations made for this day. The keynote address will be from one of the youngest openly gay elected officials in the U.S., Campbell Mayor Evan Low.
For additional information, please contact me at 205-3134. Or visit us at www.alamedaharveymilkday.org or on Facebook, at AlamedaHarveyMilkDay.