The Incredible True Stories from the Milk Mosaic
Harvey Milk's life touched and inspired thousands of people; here are just a few of them.
I owe Harvey Milk my life. When I was in high school back in the 70's in a small midwestern town I was contemplating suicide at the age of 16. Then I starting reading stories about some guy named, of all things Milk, out in San Francisco who was openly gay and just elected to a public office. I followed Harvey's career and was devistated at his death. However I realized if he could succeed so could I. Not only did I not kill myself, but I went on to get my Ph.D and am now a teacher hopefully inspiring others. I wouldn't be here today without the hope Harvey gave me. Thanks Harvey we sure need you now.
Thank you for making this movie. I was 18 and living in Sydney when we were having the same struggle as in San Francisco.
The life of Harvey and the sacrifice he made changed my life for the better. His murder inspired me to come out of the closet and fight for equality because it was never going to be handed to us without a struggle. Nobody just gives you equality, you have to work for it. Gay men and women were bashed and killed, their blood was spilled even here in liberal Sydney. We did not meet violence with violence, we just pushed and pushed for equality and never stopped. I remember a speech by Harvey when he told everyone to come out of the closet and be seen. He said to tell your bus driver, the people you bought your groceries from and anyone else you come into contact with and we did and became visible. I did what Harvey said.
Harvey made me strong and I then worked in a very tough business world completely out gay, even in stock broking with all ex Australian army guys. They respected me because they knew I was just as tough as they were and Harvey gave me that. Even during the time here in Sydney when we were getting bashed and sometimes killed on the street I had made a decision that if that was going to happen to me I would go down with a fight and hopefully take at least one or two of the gang haters with me.
For the younger gay people they may never understand how it was and I hope that they never do. I hope they now live in a very different world but please remember when you see older gay men and women that we risked our lives for the freedoms you now enjoy. Be happy, love life, love and bloom. Never let the haters stop you from living your life to the full.
On another note the City of Sydney now pays for all the gay flags that line Oxford Street. They are there all the time and are unremarkable except to someone like me who once thought the day would not come in my lifetime. Being gay in Sydney is now unremarkable, people don't even think about it and the stigma is gone. The Australian Federal Police now march in Mardi Gras and a Chinese-Australian lesbian is a Minister in the Federal government and a High Court judge is openly gay. All this is now unremarkable and nobody cares, the way it should be.
I watched the trailer for the film and I cried. It was like a long ago hurt that had been buried there finally let go and the poison was gone because I cried it out.
We now live in better days and having lived through all of this I have no dobut that we will continue to push for that day when we are fully equal. We never give up and Harvey never did.
Thank you once again
"Hi punkin', its Dad" said the notably distressed voice on the phone. It was 1978 and I was 10 years old. My dad lived in San Francisco, I lived primarily in Tucson. "I just wanted to tell you I love you very much. If you turn on the t.v. tonight, on the news you will see that there was a riot in San Francisco. I was part of the riot - because..." his voice was shaking. I could almost feel him tremble. "The man I told you about, whom I had such hope for - Harvey Milk - remember?" He was so angry and I knew it wasn't at me. "uh huh" I answer. "Well, someone shot and killed him today, so that's why there was a riot. I just wanted to tell you that I am fine and I love you. And when you grow up, if you are ever part of a riot, I hope you get to see the police cars burn." My dad said many things I will never forget - but it was the feeling in his words that night I will never forget.
My father, Jack Purdom "Nick" Latham, was - among many other amazing things - a writer, a human rights activist and the founder of Bay Area Gay Fathers. He would be very proud of the fight we continue to fight and I know he would have been a cornerstone of the current Gay Rights Movement.
Where would we be if Harvey milk had not been murdered? Where would we be had we not lost so many of our brilliant Gay Rights warriors to AIDS? We must carry on in their names and for the future. Never go back.
My name is Maurice Davis and I was 14 yrs old in 1978 when Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were assasinated.
I grew up all over, being an army brat, but during this time I was living in the south. I remember it was all over the news and I felt the feelings of disbelief and shock that the older more aware people around me were expressing over this tragedy. I was just beginning to come to the realization that I was "different" from the other boys in my neighborhood and in my family for that matter. Living in the south and being black in a time not too long after the civil rights struggles of the 50's and 60's and in the last throws of the sexual revolution in a very repressed and judgemental place was interesting to say the least!---But I always heard stories of this magical place...a gay utopia on the west coast called San Francisco, where being different was celebrated in all it's forms and boys liking other boys or girls liking girls in a sexual or loving way was not seen as a sin, a mental illness or something dirty! How my mind dreamed of what it would be like to be a grown man and to be able to live free, open, confident and without fear of ridicule or worse for exploring the desire that was awakening inside me! San Francisco seemed like a place where I wanted to move and live as soon as I graduated high school! I had heard of the gay liberation movement from TV and from the often insensitive and ignorant remarks of those older and predominately heterosexual people around me. Like I said, I was just discovering my sexuality at this time and didn't really even know what it was all about, but looking and listening at the news reports of what had happened to this man named Harvey Milk, who was like a Martin Luther King or Malcolm X to the gay movement was really a rivetingly awakening experience. I remember paying close attention as the candlelight vigils and funerals for both Milk and Moscone were shown in clips on the news, and later as the trial of Dan White, the man who killed them in a very methodical, cold and deliberate way was broadcast, and the outrage and riot that happened after he was basically slapped on the wrist and given an out by that ridiculous "twinkie defense"!---Wow, really? That wouldn't even fly today, but back then, given the open ignorance and hatred towards homosexuals of a lot of people back then, it did just that! The next year, 1979, at age 15, I came out to my mother and immediate family based on the desire to live free and without deception, which is exactly what Harvey Milk was about! By 1984, at age 20, the documentary "The Life And Times Of Harvey Milk" came out and I began to read up more on what that time in 1970's San Francisco was all about. By that time, I was a young adult man in the military and had been in several gay relationships by then, so I could see the sacrifice of Harvey Milk and others through adult eyes! Harvey and those early pioneers of the first wave of the gay liberation/rights struggle from 1969 to 1979 were some brave and fearless souls indeed! It took alot to come out back then and to have the balls to demand respect and human rights at a time when people still saw homosexuality as a mental illness or an abomination punishable by death!
Of course, fast forward 30 yrs until now and you see things have changed and much ground has been made, but at the same time things stay the same as old beliefs and fears are hard to kill in some people. With the recent voting in of Proposition 8 revoking same sex marriage in California, it's like deja vu seeing all the protesters take to the streets! There is a renewed militancy in the younger generation that automatically makes me think back to Harvey Milk, San Francisco in the 70's and that pioneering rebel grass-roots "yes we can" spirit!---The world is rife for change and newness again, as evident in the election of Barack Obama. I think this movie couldn't have come out at a better time and hope it breaks records all over the world!
I had grown up with this horrible emptiness in my heart. I was a depressed little girl, but I couldn't put my finger on why. That's when I met a young man at the video store I worked at. I asked him if he was gay, and he proclaimed, "Yes! I'm glad that's over with." I hung out with him, his sister's wife, and his sister more and more. I went out to Hollywood one night him and Debbie (sister's wife). We met a lesbian named Ally, who questioned me on my sexuality. I suddenly become red, and Debbie pulled me aside. I don't know what came over me, but I came to her right then and there. Tears flooded out, and she just hugged me telling me everything would be ok. That night changed my life forever. The depression lifted and I felt like a normal person. People like my friend, Debbie, and Harvey Milk shows us scared kids that it is ok to be gay. Seeing both those women living healthy, wonderful, and NORMAL lives built my confidence so much. I don't know what I would have done without Troy and Debbie, and by God what our community would have done without Mr. Milk. I will love them all so deeply, and never give up on our freedom! We shall overcome!
No one has inspired me as much as Harvey Milk. I came out when I was 19 back in 1987. Needless to say that 1987 was not a stellar year for gay rights, besides the fact that it was a small town in Middle Tennessee - it was difficult. We all feel like we are the only ones at some point in the process of coming out and developing a healthy sense of self in relation to our sexuality. Until one day when I discovered a documentary called "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk." Here was the Martin Luther King, Jr. for us. I had never been so inspired, so deeply moved and so proud to be a gay man. It as only within the last three years that I actually got to stand outside of what was Harvey's camera shop. I stood there with tears in my eyes and so much appreciation. I looked up at Harvey's picture (the one painted of him as if in a window looking down on Castro above what used to be the camera shop entrance) and said "thanks Harvey, for everything." It was my first and last visit to San Francisco, and I couldn't be more thrilled that Harvey's story is finally becoming a mainstream event that is going to be playing at theatres around the country. I hope this brings Harvey's legacy back into the light, and educates our young gay people about a person that changed history forever. May we never forget him.
I first became inspired by Harvey Milk when I moved to San Francisco in 1998 after having lived in Asia for four years. I was new to the city with my new husband, who was a new immigrant to the US. I rode by the Moscone Center every day on my way to work and often thought about Moscone and Harvey Milk and all that they did to make the city of San Francisco the most tolerant city in the US. Living in a city like San Francisco made it easy for me to stand up for what I thought was right and just. When my husband and his friends spoke in Chinese about our African American neighbors in a very derogitory way, I felt empowered by my fellow San Franciscans to speak out and tell them that their language was unacceptable in America. Unlike in China, where most people are of the same ethnicity, people in America are diverse and heterogenous, so I explained that such talk is insulting to the very fabric of our country, and of our diverse city. I was only met with strange looks. Maybe they didn't understand why it meant so much to me to speak out, but I just felt that I couldn't let the work of such role models as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harvey Milk go by the wayside. My marriage did not last, but faith in leaders like Harvey Milk definitely has. My proudest moment as an American took place this fall when Barack Obama was elected to be our next president. I know that Harvey Milk would have been proud.
I was 16 and had already been out almost 2 years when Harvey Milk was assassinated. I would read about Harvey Milk in the gay rags I would pick up at the adult book stores I would hang out at. I was outed by class mates at a private School I attended in Colorado Springs in early '77 months before my 15 birthday. I had my own mentors there in CO. who protected me and helped me to deal with homophobia. I had been gay for as long as I could remember. I had been in fights defending myself. I had already had many boyfriends/lovers before I was 18. Fast forward to Jan. 1983 I'm not even 21 yet I ended up in San Francisco after a very short year and a half career in gay porn in L.A. my van I had been living in broke down on Market. I could only afford to stay at the club bathes. I met a cute curly dark haired hair stylist who invited me home with him. Jerry was his name and he had lived in S.F. since 1977 he was 25 and a wild one. He introduced me to his friends in the Castro the bowling alley in the Haight. Then came Jan. 1984 we got a call from one of Jerry's friends to come to union Square for a protest! Jerry quickly made some signs saying "He got away with murder" and off we went! While on the bart Jerry told me his stories of the night Harvey was murdered and the White night riots when the verdict was announced. Tears flowed as he spoke in a shaky voice. This was the first protest I had ever been to and the frustration, despair, and anger was intense! I was from that moment inspired to become an activist for gay equal rights and also the rights of PWAs. It was the passion of Harvey Milk his life his courage that gave me the courage to carry on even if it cost me my life! Why, because of people like Matthew Sheperd who died needlessly 10 years ago this past weekend and of the future generations of GLBTQ who one day WILL know a world where "ALL are created and treated equally"!
I'm only 16 and reading the story of Harvey Milk inspired me to come out. This was only last August. I was in the closet, acting the same flamboyancy I do now. I read Harvey's story on Wiki, and it convinced me to come out. I opened up and I wasn't accepted for who I was, not even by my own parents. My parents threatened to disown me, my friends turned on me, and the neighborhood and school kids all beat me up. One of them even threatened me with a .45, but I thank God that I'm here today. My parents have finally learned to accept it, my friends came back, and, after an extreme lawsuit against one of my exes, the kids accepted me too.
I'm gay. This film inspired me to be who I am, fight for what I believe in, and love with all of my heart. Harvey Milk is a hero. His legacy will live on in the hearts of all who knew of him. I've never been prouder to be gay.
I just finished watching the trailer. Wow. It was a very powerful, very deep & moving trailer. I cried. Mr. Milk’s political success affected and motivated me as a young gay man. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the city of Hayward with Mr. Milk in my line of consciousness. I was a senior at Tennyson High School in Hayward. His strength made me realize that I could be president of my high school. I ran for high school president and won.
I remember that horrible day when Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Mosconi were shot to death. I was scared because I was president of my high school and out of the closet. This was 1978-1979. I thought then that if a prominent gay leader could be shot and killed in city hall, then a mere high school student can be as well.
I was outraged after the verdict, and curious about the riot in San Francisco’s Civic Center. On May 21, 1979 at 10PM, my fellow high school student and Chief Editor of our school paper and I took BART to San Francisco to witness the riot. She wanted to write an article for our high school newspaper. I had no idea what I was about to experience. I was horrified at what I was seeing: burning cars, cement / rock projectiles, building windows broken. It was not real. But, it became very real for me at one point.
When the crowd started to disband, my friend and I were caught up in the stampede of people running from the San Francisco Police Department officers. These officers were relentless. They hit and clubbed everyone in sight including myself. As my friend and I were walking away from and got caught up in the stampede, she was hit on her right shoulder from behind. As she was going down, I caught her in the corner of my eye. I turned to help her not realizing that the San Francisco police officer was right there. Immediately, I was clubbed on the left shoulder and then finally on the crown of my head. I went down and folded into a fetal position. My friend ran over to me because the officer kept kicking me to get up as he called me “faggot.” She shielded her body over mine to stop him from kicking me. My out-of-body experience protected my mind for a while. My friend convinced and showed the officer that she could lift me so that I can walk. I’m 5’3” and she is 5’5” but a beautifully large lesbian (my hero!). We did not have any weapons in our hands. We were high school students in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As my friend hoisted me up, we walked away from Civic Center and down Market Street. My blood was pouring down my face and onto my new leather jacket just given to me by my mother for my 18th birthday gift two days prior. I was dizzy but I was angry. I was angry that injustice continued to be the mainstay of the political system. It seemed to be a repeat of other crimes that dealt with people who don’t fit the mainstream, the average populous. Three days later, I returned to my school wearing my bloodstained leather jacket. I walked the halls and campus with my leather jacket as a testament to my brutal beating and declared to the public of the continued injustices that we in the LGBT community had to face.
I thank Mr. Milk for his bravery, his leadership. With Mr. Milk’s tenacity to become a San Francisco Supervisor, it opened many peoples’ eyes and souls (?) to the reality that we, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals & Transgenders, are everywhere. Thank you, Mr. Milk.
I now live in the suburbs of the Bay Area (Danville) where there are three other homes in my small 16-home enclave that have gay people living. My partner of 16 years and I have never faced discrimination from our neighbors. We are just part of the fabric of our small community – our small street.
Thank you, Mr. Milk for standing up for our rights.
The 1950s and 1960s in my working-class town next to Boston, MA, were very difficult for me and other gay children. I was the sissy who didn't like sports but did well in school. I also knew I was attracted to boys when I was still in elementary school.
My father was a tough cop. My mother was a first-generation American from an Eastern European background. I was not what they wanted as a son. My Catholic teachers, nuns and priests, also made it clear I was not what they wanted as a pupil. I grew up an emotional and psychological outcast in real terms. I was threatened with psychiatric hospitalization when I finally did reveal my homosexuality to my family.
I joined the Gay Liberation movement at the age of 18. I learned quickly that there was a gay subculture in the city, Boston. My university and others in Boston grudgingly under pressure allowed fledgling gay groups to meet by 1970. It was a dangerous time for us. We faced harassment and threats routinely.
Boston, New York and San Francisco were beacons for all the GLBT people in the country in those turbulent times of social upheaval, caused to a large degree by the military draft the war in Viet Nam. There was a nomadic flow of politically active gay men between those three cities. The Gay Lib movement slowly defined itself as specific and separate from the anti-war movement. The first small Gay Pride Marches were held. We marched despite threats, thrown bottles and hundreds of yelling bigots on the sidewalks around us.
Harvey Milk's ascendancy established San Francisco as our Mecca. I traveled to San Francisco in March, 1978. This was my personal gay pilgrimage.
Harvey's victory was a victory for all of us. San Francisco in 1978 was a free place, a happy place, where being gay was not a burden. Being gay was a passport to acceptance and sharing all the joys of life openly without fear.
Harvey's assassination later in 1978 pulled us more firmly together. It truly solidified the gay community in this country. His death, more significantly than Stonewall, set off a national movement. His assassination confirmed for the uncommitted that our survival was in our own hands politically and socially.
If Harvey Milk had not lived loudly and proudly, the gay male community would have been more decimated and perhaps politically obliterated by the AIDS epidemic which followed Harvey's death. The community insitutions which owed their success in part to Harvey and others who followed him were key in the fight against government indifference to AIDS in the 1980s.
If the GLBT sociopolitical community were a religion, Harvey Milk would be its St. Peter. His place in history was the rock upon which our self respect and self empowerment was initially founded on an international level.
MILK is one of those amazing films that only comes along every few years which has inspired me to get more involved. See what else you can do at www.jointheimpact.com.
I lived in San Jose (about 45 miles from San Francisco) when I heard about the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk. I hadn't come out yet and the thought that I was gay was buried beneath the layers of shame from my Catholic upbringing. Harvey's death and the candlelight memorial brought it all to the forefront. I later read that Harvey said, "If a bullet should enter my brain let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country". It destroyed my closet. I drove to San Francisco, went to my first gay bar and came out not long afterward. Thirty years later I still live just a few miles from San Francisco and had the privilege of being an extra in the movie about Harvey. I relived the candlelight march. Thirty years after Harvey's death we now can legally marry in California (at least for now) and Harvey had a lot to do with that. My closet door was one of the closet doors that were destroyed because of Harvey. I look forward to seeing the movie.
By the way, the release of this movie should be moved up to before the election to help us in California defeat Proposition 8 which would eliminate same-sex marriages.
Afterall, Harvey was a politician.
Thank you Harvey!
I'm a fifteen year old lesbian. When I went to see this movie with ~40 of my peers, some in GSA and some not, I had the realization that even though they aren't all gay, I am not alone in wanting so badly for there to be acceptance. It really showed me that they would accept me too. I'm not out, but... I'm getting there. I promise that to myself. Thank you, Milk.
Leaving the press screeing last night in New York of "Milk," all who saw the film could reflect on with pride but also with sadness just how far we've come since Harvey Milk and George Moscone were assassinated in San Francisco. No one will ever know what really inspired that act of brutality and violence; but we all understand that such possibilities reside in all our hearts, leaping out to do great damage to the individual and to the many.
All Americans can have an enlightened pride in how far we've marched, over our still-brief history to embrace diversity and inclusiveness. But racism, classism and social bigotry still stalk us and leave us running in place, sometimes alarmingly so and always to our detriment.
This film could potentially provide a platform for launching the next phase of a struggle for the equal rights of ALL under the law. Our Constitution is a great and noble document, but it can only live up to its own promises if we support it with our innately intimate understanding of the difference between what is right and that which is based on irrational fear and hate-mongering.
Pauline Kael, The New Yorker film critic for many years, delivered a commencement address at Kalamazoo College in 1969, and she said that motion pictures are always a sociological insight into the times in which we're living -- a real reflection of who and what we are. This film brought to us by Focus looks carefully at events from the past and asks us to use what we've learned to move on to the next great task in our search for social justice.
This is a wonderfully uplifting film, espousing what is so difficult to grasp at the moment: HOPE!
I first met Harvey on New Years Day, 1972 at a Party at the SIR (Society for Individual Rights) Center. I didn't really know who he was, other than that I had heard of him, (from the "gay establishment") and that he was "bad news". Not one to prejudge others on hearsay, we spent about 3 hours talking and sharing our mutual perspectives on gay politics...(I was an upcoming gay student activist of 18 at the time)...and found his charm, wit, and insight not only inspiring, but confirmed that one cannot judge "a book by its cover." The so-called gay establishment at the time frowned upon Harvey was being "nothing more than a gay hippie", who didn't really "represent the mainstream gay community". Having had long hair and a moustache, wasn't enough for me to base having a conversation, and developing a (for him) life-long friendship. We shared many more conversations over the years, and I'm proud to say "I was there." Sadly, I was there on his last day, and the film brought back much remorse. I often think about what the world would be like today had he not been taken. He would have been a major foe of Reagan's...and I feel certain the AIDS crises of the 80's would have been handled much differently. I look at the power of Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer today, and can only wonder where he would be, based upon his "his start"... I know Prop 8 would never have been defeated, and the gay community would not be the second-class citizens we are today....The most emotional
moment of the film for me was the candle-light march and vigil. I was about mid-crowd, and as far as I could see in front, and behind me, was a flickering, glistening veil of light. It was the most emotionally stirring experience I've ever had, and demonstrated the sense of loss and love by this wonderful community, of which I am proud to say I am a member. -Spence Nutting
When I was in seventh grade in a Catholic school in San Francisco. I had a teacher who always ranted about how gay people had something wrong with their souls. She would also talk about how sad the story of Dan White was in the same rant. I always wondered who she was refering to when it came to that. At the same time I developed a crush on a girl in my class, she was pretty not in the doesn't-get-her-hands-dirty but pretty in her tomboyishness. I told her I liked her a week before she left for Stockton, she flipped out. Her brother then tried to beat me up. I was already a bit of a social reject when that happened, the bullying from the other kids just got worse. But our teacher would still go on that rant, I finally got fed up and decided to see what Dan White had to do with gay people. I went to my library, because my parents had records of every site I checked out on the net, and I got hell for looking at oasismag.com, so I thought it would be better to ask my trusty librarian. Cathy is my favorite librarian, she picked out all the best LGBT books for me and told me I wasn't the only gay kid in town the first time I realized I was gay. When I told her about how when ever my teacher ranted about gay people, she laughed, she thought my seventh grade teacher was absurd. She then told me about Harvey Milk, and it made me feel a bit angry, how Dan White got off fairly easy and the aftermath. Which was cool because she lived it. Eventually I became more vocal against the rants of my seventh grade teacher, because what did I have to loose. I mean so what they were threatening that they wouldn't reccomend me to a private high school, but I have been volunteering at my parish since I could be an altar server, and the school I wanted to go to thought a priest could be a better judge of character then a crazy old bat of a teacher. Eventually my teacher stopped her rants, and that was the first time in my life I felt like I make a difference. That was enough to get me through middle school and into the high school of my dreams. Harvey Milk inspired me to get pass all the adversity I faced in middle school, and helped me reach some of the happiest years of my life that has inspired me to be the adult I am today.
We learned From Harvey That hope comes from education
so we can never forget. We learned From Harvey that closets are for clothes. We learned from Harvey how to be a hero. Some say that we have forgotten about Harvey since most of us don't go to the yearly Memorial Candlelight vigil. Its not true that we don't know who he is... WE LIVE IT
1987 - I was planning a trip to Arkansas to visit my family so knowing how stressful it would be I was in the process of making a cassette tape of music from the radio thinking that if I just heard the word Houston once in a while on the trip it would just make the whole thing bearable. While making the tape I heard 2 men talking about how the Houston Police and how they had to stop harassing gay men in the local bars. I was glued to their every word largely because at the time I was employed by the Houston Police Department and had been working for the city for the past few years. I eventually found out that the radio broadcast was coming from Pacifica station KPFT 90.1 FM Houston.
I started hanging around KFPT and one day was told by the Program Director that I should host my own radio show. I told him I feared doing that since I was not out at work and didn't really know how the Houston Police Department would react. I finally gathered the courage to do a show so in
the early morning hours of September 1987 "After Hours" was born. The program is now in its 21st year still heard early Sunday mornings on KPFT.
I was able to get audio recordings made by Harvey Milk from the Pacifica archives and Harvey's spoken words quickly became a regular part of my radio broadcast.
I think my favorite quote from Harvey was made the night the Briggs Initiative was defeated when Harvey said "We must destroy the myths once and for all, shatter them. We must continue to speak out, and most importantly, most importantly, every Gay person MUST come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family, you must tell your relatives, you must tell your friends, if indeed they are your friends, you must tell your neighbors, you must tell the people you work with, you must tell the people in the store you shop in, and once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all, and once you do you will feel so much better"" I must have played that quote thousands of time along with many others with Harvey telling us why we had to register to vote, why we must elect gay people to public office and I suppose his most famous of all "you gotta give them Hope" Even though I never met him Harvey's words changed my life and gave me the power to do what was incredible work some 21 years ago. I remember people calling the radio station saying "I can't come out" to which I would reply "If I can work for the Houston Police Department and produce a weekly gay & lesbian radio program and be out of the closet so can you.
Harvey made it all seem so simple and his words gave me the courage to believe in myself and change the direction my life was to take.
In 1995 my partner of almost 15 years died. Roger was the love of my life and his death was devastating to me. I called my best friend in New York and told him I was quitting the Police Department and moving to New York to live with him. He said ok. While packing things to leave Texas I came across a letter from Roger suggesting that I visit San Francisco. Roger knew I had talked about San Francisco for years on my weekly radio broadcast not only because Harvey Milk had been here but because Cleve Jones had created the names Project Quilt here and Gilbert Baker had sewn the 1st Rainbow Flag here. There was so much of our history to be found in this city.
I called my friend in New York and said I was going to visit San Francisco. Without hesitation he said "oh you will move out there". I told him no way because I didn't like California. Until then I had only been to Los Angeles and it was way too much like Houston.
My friend Clay was already living in San Francisco so I called him and told him of my plans to visit the City by the Bay.
January 1997 I made my 1st trip to San Francisco.
Clay lived in SOMA but I will never forget the 1st night he took me to the Castro. When we
walked out of the Muni station at Market and Castro street Clay paused and said look. On a pillar was a Bronze plaque honoring the Memory of Harvey Milk explaining who he was and why the Castro Street Muni station was named after him. As I stood there reading that plaque tears began to flow from my eyes because I realized I was standing in the same place where Harvey Milk may have once stood.
I later stood in front of what was the site of Harvey's Camera store and again was unable to hold back the tears of emotion that overcame me knowing that Harvey has once been there as well. Clay took me to Duboce park where Harvey held his news conference to address the dog shit problem in San Francisco and introduce an ordnance Harvey had written to address that issue. Returning to Houston I sold almost everything and moved west to San Francisco. I have lived in San Francisco for the past 11 years.
This past spring and summer I watched as the new film "Milk" was being shot in and around the Castro. I knew of Director Gus Van Sant works but just could not take a chance of someone not doing justice to the Harvey Milk I knew so well from listening to Harvey's own words. I had no intention of seeing any movie about Harvey.
But after watching the "Milk" trailer on the web and in theaters I once again began to weep because Gus has done Harvey justice. Sean Penn's portrayal of Harvey is 100% on target and I know this film will inspire a new generation of young Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender kids who will without doubt be touched and moved to action with Harvey's story to change their lives forever.
I can't wait to see this picture.
I encourage you between now and the release of "Milk" to get a copy of "The Times of Harvey Milk" the 1984 Academy Award winning documentary to share with someone in your life, especially younger people in our community. Let them hear Harvey 1st hand. Let them get excited about "Milk" and give them the power to give others Hope. Harvey said "I know that you cannot live on hope alone but without it life is not worth living. And you and you and you…. You gotta give them hope"
Thanks for reading.
I live in Los Angeles and have been inspired by Harvey Milk and his life. When I read that they were recreating the famous "I want to recruit you" speech in front of City Hall, I know that I had to say thank you to Harvey by being apart of that moment. I got in my car at 2 am the morning of the shoot and drove all night to San Francisco. I had a panicked moment around 6 am that I had made a mistake, but as the sunset welcomed me across the Golden Gate Bridge, I realized this was a day I would never forget. I stood amongst the 'extras,' the citizens of SF, and even some of the 'original crowd members' and felt such pride. It was blistering hot, it was a long LONG day, but as I walked through the Castro after the shoot, I knew that I was apart of something special. I will never forget that experience, but mostly I realize now that it was Harvey that gave me the courage to drive through the night and stand up for what I believe in. Thank you Harvey.
I was eight years old when Harvey Milk was murdered. But, as a teen searching out gay role models, I discovered this man who led our community to win equal rights and -- most importantly -- to live our lives with love and hope. He continues to be a role model. The bravery and tenaciousness of Harvey Milk has inspired me to live a life of public service and to, in a small way, carry on the tenets of his fight. I often think that AIDS might not have become such a decimating plague amongst our community if Harvey Milk had lived to instill in us the common sense and hard truths that he advocated. I hope that gays of my generation and generations to come remember Harvey Milk as the man who paved the way for us to live openly and happily today. And I hope that he continues to inspire gays to never, ever back down from the fight to win the rights every human deserves.
I was a kid in Jr. High in a small California town when Harvey Milk came to national attention. As a gay kid, I was scared, intimidated and ashamed. Harvey's story indeed gave me hope. I was a freshman in High School when Harvey was assassinated. It seemed as though a light had gone out in my world. It took a few years, but eventually the meaning of Harvey's life - not his death - got a grip on me. Like Harvey, I realized the importance of standing up and being counted, of refusing to let others make me feel ashamed or less than equal. I owe Harvey a debt of gratitude I can never repay. As I marry my partner of 17 years next month in S.F. City Hall, Harvey will very much be with us. I hope the way I live my life would make him proud.
November 27, 1978 the day Harvey Milk and George Moscone were murdered. What was I doing what was I thinking. Well I had just moved up to Seattle that past summer as an out kid with boyfriend in tow. It was boyfriend or lover there were no partners, civil unions or marriage anywhere in sight. We had just celebrated Thanksgiving without parents for the first time on Capital Hill, and the boyfriend cooked up a mean turkey. Initative 13 had just been defeated earlier that month in Seattle. This would have repelled employment and housing rights as well disolved the office of women's rights in the city (thanks Harvey) and The horrors of Jonestown was still on the news Orange shag carpeting, a futon and Japenese fish kite artfully displayed was the decor of the moment. You Make Me Feel, If You Could See Me Know, and YMCA might be playing in the bars but I could not get in for I was just 20. The Cars first album yes album was out and I was telling everyone about them. And a girl friend at work was hot over David Lee Roth of Van Halen, hmm not my style. I wish I would have known more about Harvey and his passions at the time. It would have empowered and saved me and many others a lot of heartache and dissapointement that we face even up to this present day. Harvey Milk, I was saddened by his and the mayors death but I was gay, young, and handsome in a big city on the west coast what more could I say.
As a young man, I was inspired by Harvey Milk's political work to advocate for and organize GLBT people in San Francisco. But living in rural Nebraska, I was unable to emulate his actions, because the GLBT communities there were closeted and unable to risk exposure without losing their livelyhoods. Now, after living in a large midwestern city for many years and in a southern Illinois university community for several more, I am able to support, financially and vocally, GLBT causes, including the GLBT resource center on a university campus. I demonstrated against the passing of Proposition 8 in California only a few weeks after attending the wedding of two friends in Los Angeles. Having looked forward to finally seeing a major film about Harvey Milk, I discover that the movie theaters within an hour's drive of my home will not be showing the film. I have written to one of the theater chains to ask why. Really, why should I have to drive two hours, to St. Louis, to see a movie that all people, including rural GLBT folk, should be able to see during its first run? Wayne Larsen (53 years old)
My story is that I marched in the candle light march 30 years ago when Harvey Milk was murdered with friends from the Castro area....and 30 years later I was honored enough to be an Actor playing a press person in the movie Milk!
To walk with the other people that night holding candles for the filming of the march I must say that I could hardly believe that 30 years had passed by....and that Gay rights have come a long way in some ways and not as far as Harvey would have hoped in other ways! Harvey was an inspiration for all of us young gays back in 1977-78 he will never be forgotten. The entire crew working on this film was professional and I was thrilled to be a part of it! Richard Geiger
I first met Harvey in 1973 during his first campaign for San Francisco city supervisor. I later worked on his unsuccessful 1975 campaign for State Assemblyman, the successful effort he later spear-headed to get city supervisors elected by district (and that made his own election possible) and his successful 1977 campaign that put him in office. Harvey was definitely unique and I'm certain he would have become a significant political player - beyond San Francisco - had he lived. From what I've read about the movie, it appears to focus on the last year of his life. That's too bad, for he was a political activist during the 5 years preceding his election, and that time was meaningful. He worked hard cultivating other San Francisco communities and leaders and was a key player in a movement that brought new faces into city government in 1978, along with his own. I worked a few doors down the street from City Hall and we frequently ran into each other on the street (he was walker and a public transit devotee). His mood always seemed to be positive. He was shot a week following my own 40th birthday, I was standing less than 500 yards from where it occurred, and it's something I'll never forget. Afterwords I was a close observer of the political machinations that surrounded his taped political "will" and the subsequent appointment of his successor in office. I think he would have enjoyed some of those activities. Supporters of Harvey recently celebrated their success in having his sculptured bust permanently placed in San Francisco City Hall. Those responsible are to be commended for their fundraising and dedication to what I believe to be an extremely worthwhile effort. San Francisco was the first truly gay-friendly large city, Harvey Milk was the first public gay politician in the state and it's fitting the two be linked in memory for he was an individual who opened the door that so many have passed through.
1979 - I was 19 and just beginning college. I was perpetually depressed with everything about my life at the time. In hindsight, I believe it was because I was "in the closet." I realized that my life was an accumulation of lies, and I was tired of suppressing my homosexuality. The problem I faced was my perception of the gay lifestyle at the time. I really believed that to be gay meant you had to grow a moustache, put on a big wig, wear sequins, and walk around in 6 inch pumps. I did have a moustache, but, this was something that scared me because I didn't particularly want to dress like a woman. As an impressionable teenager, I had seen "Freebie and the Bean" and saw how the transgender in that movie had been violently attacked by the hero of the movie. I had a radical friend, Joy, from the sixth grade who participated in the "White Night" riots in 1979 and came back to where we both lived with our respective parents in suburan San Jose. She told me all about the whole story of Harvey Milk and George Moscone being murdered by Dan White. I was a little shocked when she told me, and I asked her why she was telling me all this. She said that she had always believed that I was gay and that she thought I might be interested. I was appalled at the time that she assumed such things about me and I threw her out of my house. Until then, I thought I had done a pretty good job of pretending that I was straight. I guess I had been wearing the Emperor's clothes my whole life.
The following Saturday night, I drove up to San Francisco by myself in my White VW Bug remembering the name of the gay bar Joy had told me about in her story, "The Stud." Since I was only 19, I had an expired fake ID from a fraternity brother at San Jose State. I wanted to look 21 and I had never been to a bar before so I didn't know what people wore to go out. So, I wore my 3 piece brown polyester suit with a wide diagonally striped tie; rust, brown, yellow, and beige. When I got to San Francisco, it was 8:00PM. I passed a Safeway where there was a phone booth. I looked up The Stud in the phone book and called to ask what time it opened. The man sounded extremely nice and masculine. I couldn't picture him with a bee-hive and jungle red nails. I found out how to get there and that they opened at 9PM. I had never been to a bar before. I sat in my car in the Safeway parking lot for that hour and decided to completely change my identity to that of my fake ID, but to save my fraternity brother from shame; I would use a nickname, "Donald." I was at The Stud when they opened the doors dressed in 501s and sneakers. No one else was there except for the disc jockey. It was so empty that the DJ was the bartender as well.
After he put on Ian Drury and the Blockhead's "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick", he got out of the booth, came to the bar and asked me what I wanted. I said, "I'll have a beer." He asked, "Budweiser?" and I nodded my head "yes." Then he asked me for my ID. I got really nervous at this point, but I pulled the ID out. He looked at it and looked at me, and then with a smirk, he said, "Thanks, Bill." I then nervously corrected him, "Oh, I go by Don." He smirked again and walked back to the DJ booth.
In about an hour, people started filling the bar, relatively normal looking, even cool looking people were there. As I stood by the dance floor with my 3 piece suit on, and obese man with horn rimmed glasses and a calculator on his belt came up to me and asked me if this was my first time there, and to avoid sounding "uncool", I naively said, "No!!..It's my second." Thank God he walked away.
Around midnight, there was a guy standing next to me who had curly blonde hair and a dark tan. He reminded me of my best friend in high school. I wasn't well versed at "come-on" lines, so I turned to him and said, "Did you know that Saturday Night Live is on right now?" He said, "Oh, really. Would you like to come to my house to watch it?" When we went down the street to his Folsom Street pad, he immediately turned the television on. We did watch the show and he passed me a joint to help me calm down. I had been so nervous that when I entered his apartment, I bee-lined it for the only single chair in the room. When Saturday Night Live was over we started to get to know each other. His name was Richard. I was determined to keep the identity I had made up for myself at Safeway. He asked me why I was wearing a suit and I said that I had just come from work. He asked me what I did and to sound prestigious, I said, "I'm a banker." (At that time, banks weren't opened on Saturdays and their hours were only from 10-3 on weekdays.) He gave me a strange look. We got on the subject of birthdays and he asked me when mine was, so I told him the date on my ID (I really believed that if he had found out who I really was, he would either tell the owner of the bar or worst, call my dad!) When I asked him his birth date, he told me May 18th. Well, May 18 is my true birthday, so when he said that, I lunged out of my chair and said, "You're Kidding!!!" He said, "no, why?" I resumed composure and said, "Oh, I just have a friend who has that birthday." It was getting late and our interlude had lasted 2 excruciatingly long hours until my first gay experience. I regret that Harvey Milk was shot to death, but it was his death that opened me up to living a life based on truth. This has moved me forward with values of not only telling the truth, but of also keeping my word in an effort to create a world that works for everyone on the planet.
I first visited San Francisco when I was living in Austin Texas in 1978. I was there for the Pride Parade. Talk about life in a candy store! Those years before 1982 were bright and ecstatic. As devastating as Milk's death was, it was also the one single event that gave us all hope and determination to live our lives out and proud. And although I now live in Austin (again!) those heady times in San Francisco were the happiest days of my ... youth.
While I have not endured near as much as those portrayed in this movie and would not pretend to even come close, my road has not been easy either. I'm just so thankful for those who have come before me and have taken the stand to fight for what is right and for mine and others rights.
Though life is becoming easier for the gay community there is still a lot to fight for. So I just want to say thank you to Harvey Milk and all of those who have taken a stand and fought for us all.
I realize that I have made mistakes in my life. Some worse than others. My name is Vernon Foeller, and I am a 42 year old gay man who changed history, if only in a little way, who's to say. I have been to prison, I have done time, I changed the California title 15, section 2000, family code. My partner and I paved the way for all gay and lesbian people who have a registered domestic partner or who are now married to their spouse who is in custody in the Department of Corrections here in California to have a conjugal family visit. We were the first. Today my name is everywhere on the internet.To see for yourself, just google my name "Vernon Foeller", or visit the aclunc.org web site.
It's important to be out, open, proud, and ready to change the world. Harvey Milk fought for what he believed in, and lived life to the fullest; as such, he's inspirational.
I remember Harvey. I met him a couple of times in Los Angeles when he was visiting my friend, Don Amador (who is portrayed by Cleve Jones in the movie). Harvey was a very kind man and also very funny. I remember the speech he gave in San Francisco and again in Los Angeles, "I am Harvery Milk and I'm here to recruit you ..." He mailed me a copy of it and I still have it in my files. I remember too well when he was killed and the aftermath that followed Dan White's trial. The movie will be like reliving the past, and the important place in history that Harvey Milk claimed. I often wonder how he would have responded to the AIDS Pandemic and all of the other things that have affected the Gay and Lesbian Community since his departure.
I remember being at a bar for happy hour here on the East Coast and the news starting filtering about Harvey Milk being shot. There was no mention that Mr. Milk was murdered. I went home that evening and turned on the news and remember sitting on the sofa numb. I tried calling my friend Dan, who recently moved to SF., there was no answer. I sat there just feeling the sadness that the tv was shaowing from everyone's face. My friend Angie stopped by, and was shocked that I was so upset about Mr. Milk being murdered. I remember through tears explaining to Angie how important Harvey was to the gay movement. We both just sat there what seemed like an eternity and the phone rang making us both scream and jump. It was my friend Dan calling from CA., crying hysterically about what was going in the streets and everyone was going for a march to city hall. I remember watching the newscast that showed thousands of candles and crying men and woman walking the streets of San Francisco. Being thousands of miles away, I felt the pain and I remember crying several times that evening. I still remember seeing pictures from the days after and during the funeral, that it felt like my heart stopped and I cried for our loss. I try and tell the younger gay men that I run into that Stonewall, the murder of Harvey Milk and AIDS are the three tragidies that really impacted our community. There will be more, but these are very foundation to us trying to get our equal rights in the gay community. A sad way to explain our history for equal rights.
I moved to San Francisco in the Castro district in January of 1978 at the age of 25, having recently returned from India where I had lived as a Hindu Monk. My lover of five months, a public defender, introduced me to the intoxicating and exuberant celebration of gay liberation that reached near frenzied proportions at the election of Harvey Milk, the goofy, courageous proprietor of Castro Camera. The ”No On 6“ campaign galvanized our community and awakened my desire to participate actively in the defeat of this blatant attack on our human dignity and civil rights that so reminds me of Prop. 8 today.
I had been out and proud for the previous five years, helping reorganize a Gay Students Union at California State College (now University) at Fullerton in Orange County. At one point we had more people attending our meetings than any other club on campus, and we sponsored famous gay speakers such as Christopher Isherwood, whom I had known for years from the Vedanta Society where we both studied under Swami Prabhavananda, and Troy Perry. We also showed gay films such as the comedy ”The Gay Deceivers,“ and our aggressive advertising attracted even non-gay students to our weekly gatherings. We had a booth at club day selling suckers, and we organized a gay volleyball team we named ”The Hustlers.“ We participated in a Halloween dance held in the Grand Ballroom of the Queen Mary sponsored by the GSU at UCLA, and the event was attended by Christopher Isherwood and his sexy lover, Don Bachardy, as well as a surprise appearance of the Cycle Sluts.
I wore my ”NO on 6“ button proudly to work each day, and I was deeply touched when one of my straight co-workers, a young woman from the Phillipines, handed me a few dollars to support our cause. When the proposition was defeated and Harvey Milk elected, it felt like full civil rights were nearly in our grasp. I attended a rally in the Castro where Harvey Milk and the mayor both spoke to our community to celebrate our communal victory. That was the last time I saw them alive.
One day shortly after this my supervisor at work called me into his office and told me solemnly that Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk had been assassinated. I had never felt anyone's death so personally before. When I got home from work, I called my friend Becky and told her I felt there must be a march to express our grief and shock. She informed me that a candlelight march was planned that very night, and we arranged to meet. Together we walked to Castro and Market street where already thousdands of people were standing in what seemed like stunned silence or milling about as if lost. Someone had set up a loudspeaker that was playing a recording of Harvey Milk predicting his own assassination and urging us to carry on.
We marched with candles down all four lanes of Market Street toward City Hall. The remarkable thing was that there was almost complete silence despite the large number of marchers. When we reached City Hall, we were greeted by the warm, life-affirming voice of Joan Baez, who had been the folk-music voice of conscience during the terrible years of the Viet Nam War. She sang ”Amazing Grace,“ and I, along with many others, wept openly. She lead us all in a soothing rendtion of “Kumbaya,” and my heart felt healed just a little.
I remember learning of the verdict of the Dan White trial. I felt very sad that justice had not been done, but I did not share the anger of those who rioted at City Hall, breaking windows and overturning and burning police cars.
I felt lost and discouraged after this. My relationship was not going well, and the endless gay party in the Castro was careening out of all bounds with public sex, drunkness, and ever more drugs dominating our lives. In January 1980 I left San Francisco to go back into the monastery. I'd had enough of the soulless hedonism that seemed to be the religion of our tribe, and I longed for a sense of deeper connection again.
These days I'm involved with a reactivated ACT UP group here in Los Angeles. We're calling ourselves ACT UP NOW. I am excited at the new energy and activism I'm seeing among our people, young and older, and I feel more optimistic than ever that I will live to see our people enjoy full equal rights in this country.