As a business owner, educator, and just recently, the first openly Black Gay man elected to the Illinois State House of Representatives, I stand on the shoulders of Harvey Milk, the first non-incumbent openly gay man in the United States to win an election for public office. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and became a courageous pioneer of hope for the 1970’s Gay Rights movement and the ever advancing LGBTQ/Human Rights movement of today.
Harvey Milk’s tenacious resolve to protect and promote the human and civil rights of the San Francisco gay community propelled him through three unsuccessful runs for political office during a time of tremendous hostility and intolerance towards same gender loving men and women everywhere. His historical victory on his fourth attempt at running for public office came to serve as a symbol of tremendous hope and possibilities for gays, lesbians, and other disenfranchised minority communities all across the nation, many of whom had already lost hope in their voices ever being heard.
A true visionary, Harvey Milk once said, “If you want to change the world, start in your own neighborhood.” This statement exemplifies his strongly held belief that individuals can bring about positive change everywhere by taking steps to bring about positive change right where they are. This basic principle serves as a guiding light for me as I begin my political career and continue to promote educational reform, economic empowerment, and a state government that is responsive to the needs of each and every member of my community no matter their race, sexual orientation or financial status.
Today, 40 years following his abrupt and tragic death, the legacy of Harvey Milk’s brief political career and community activism lives on through the many social advancements and political victories of LGBTQ communities all around the world. His legacy of courageous resolve continues to serve as an inspiration for me to be a resolute voice and advocate for the needs, concerns and hopes of all my constituents while freely living my own life out — loudly, proudly, and full of hope.