Happy Harvey Milk Day

Today’s California’s first observed Harvey Milk Day. Actions and celebrations are stockpiled here by EQCA and here on the Harvey Milk Day web page. Here’s the Milk Foundation’s site, which includes a great page on Harvey In Schools.  Our school district will be adapting HRC’s Welcoming Schools curriculum next year, as policy district-wide (first such district in the nation, thankyouverymuch!), and I reckon we’ll be working with this material plenty.  I look forward to reporting on it.

Our family  didn’t go door-to-door today, which some did (see the EQCA page), or attend a celebration out and about. We did talk about Harvey Milk, though, and liken him as someone who is, to mama’s and baba’s people, what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X are to their Auntie Rachel’s people. (Both Martin and Malcolm are celebrated in our school district; this past Monday was a school holiday for Brother Malcolm).  The word martyr is an important one, but one we haven’t broached yet. We have Kari Krackow’s kid’s book The Harvey Milk Story,  but stopped short of reading it this year.  The assassination is on the third to the last page; no graphic images but the following:

On a gray November morning, Dan White crawled through a basement window at the back of City Hall with a loaded gun.

Dan White entered the mayor’s office and, after a brief argument took place, shot Mayor George Moscone.  Reloading his gun, he hurried down the hall to Harvey Milk’s office. Five shots rang out.

Both Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk were killed.

The girl child is just too darn close a reader for us to skip a page, or even pretend to miss one and then substitute “death” for “assasination.” It’s a very sticky question, how and where to draw the lines around painful truths of adult life. I do know that once the topics of assassination and murder, the willful, malice-filled ending of someone else’s life  have been broached, Krackow’s book will be on-limits, rather than off.  Soon enough.  All this comes a-rushin’ in soon enough.

Our 3- and 5-year-old kids are well aware of death. The spirits of loved ones now dead are big parts of their everyday lives. And a dog was part of their family, then gone. They also know about the misunderstanding of people like mama and baba, even.  But assassination is another thing.  We’re going to go there, but not just yet.  It’s hard to pull the veil aside sooner than it has to be; harder still, I’m sure, to have a stranger do so before we’ve prepared them for the sight of things on the other side. As Brother Martin would often sing out in his speeches (about justice’s coming), “How long? Not long.”  I like what Brother Harvey said, too, though: “The important thing is not that we can live on hope alone, but that life is not worth living without it.”

2 thoughts on “Happy Harvey Milk Day”

  1. I remember, probably a few years ago now, I was struggling very much with who I was, resisting or denying or whatever it is when you search for any way to “cure” yourself. I was a regular reader of blog back then too, and I remember one day you went to some march or gathering, it might have been a Prop 8 thing, and you took pictures of the protestors there. One image that really stuck in my mind was that picture of a teenage girl with a big plaquard with Milk’s face on, and it said something along the lines of “We dont walk in his shadow, but grow in his shade.” Anyway, that really suck with me and fuels me. I remember how utterly blown away with the film I was, and I managed to buy a very large cinema issue banner they used to advetise the film at my local arts center, its about 4 foot high. It has Sean Penn’s picture on it obviously, but I display with pride, its the thought that counts. Anyway since then I’ve been open with myself and my friends, and accepting of myself. I am who I am, if I tried to be something else, well whats the point in that then? I think its all thanks to you, and to people like Milk.

    • Wow wowie wow. It practically makes springs pop out of my brain and smoke emerge from my ears to see myself likened in any way, impact-wise, to a giant like that. Even incidentally. Still, I will thank you, profusely, whilst my eyeballs roll around in their sockets making a crazy-spiral.

      And the thanks also go back from me to you — me, and everyone like me — for your staying at the hard work, and seeing it through to the point where you recognize yourself, and accept (mebbe even on a good day, love?) yourself. I, along with everyone like me, am buoyed by everyone else who walks this path. We each of us make the other a measure less alone, and the magnetic force of us increases, and invites others to stick it out, keep trying/ looking harder in the mirror/ breathing/ persevering.

      I stand on the shoulders of people before me, those whom I knew and saw being themselves, which to me was at the time unimaginably brave, or, especially during the gender/sexuality wilderness wandering, those whom I read but never met. I didn’t read them so very early on (thus the sleep-walking through my teen years, impersonating… ? who? I didn’t really know, but someone I thought I ought to be). But I got to them by the time I got to my twenties: people like Leslie Feinberg and her Stone Butch Blues, and Audre Lorde and her auto/biomythography Zami, and her book of essays Sister, Outsider.

      We’re all so indebted to one another. I’m lucky to know I’ve been able to pass something along. Hey, and here she is:

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