30 Years Later, We Can Still Learn from Milk
BY Lane Hudson
November 27 2008 1:00 AM ET
"My name is
Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you!"
That is how gay
rights icon Harvey Milk would start his speeches. The
refrain became more and more familiar and inspired a
new generation of activists in San Francisco and
throughout America to fight for equality for gays and
lesbians. Harvey broke barriers, won hearts and minds,
changed our movement and was assassinated 30 years ago
today. With his death, we lost the most
transformational leader our movement has ever seen.
Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for the lessons that we can learn
from Harvey Milk. Yesterday, a film went to wide release
that chronicles his life. It is an instant classic
that provides us an accurate accounting of the life of
the man so many of us draw inspiration from.
As I sat in the
movie theater, I was taken with the parallels that exist
with what Harvey was up against and the dynamics of our
movement today. We often hear that very little
progress has been made in the past thirty years. I
wonder how different things would be today if Harvey had not
been taken from us.
We have lost
sight of what Harvey sought to accomplish. Our movement has
become professionalized, funding mechanisms to ensure our
organizations operate day to day; so many more gays
and lesbians live openly today then ever before. He
understood how every one of our accomplishments resonated
further than lives of the individuals who made them. At one
point, he said that he wasn't a candidate, but it was
the movement that was the candidate.
Harvey heard from
young people around the country who had read about him
and been inspired to avoid suicide and instead become an
activist. There is a wonderful YouTube video that uses
Harvey's own words to address this and the importance of
electing gay people to office. Watching it will be
time well spent:
February, understanding that I needed to know about Harvey
Milk, I traveled to San Francisco to take part in the
filming of the movie that was released yesterday.
Before the filming of some of the march and protest
scenes began, all of the extras were treating to a viewing
of the documentary The Life and Times of Harvey
Milk. It was my first exposure to Harvey and it
has changed me. I found a kindred soul and so should
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