Cheers, tears mark dedication of nation’s first Harvey Milk StreetAround the City Thursday, May 24th, 2012
Tuesday marked the 82nd anniversary of the birth of slain LGBT civil rights leader, Harvey Milk – and, in San Diego, the day the nation’s first Harvey Milk Street was dedicated. The dedication was officiated by Milk’s nephew and several other dignitaries.
Gathered on a street corner for the unveiling was a diverse crowd made up of LGBT community leaders; straight and LGBT neighbors in the “historically gay” Hillcrest neighborhood where the street is located; as well as people from all walks of life, including at least one international visitor who identified herself as simply, “Irina from Australia: the proud parent of a lesbian daughter.”
“I’m here visiting my daughter; and I feel like I stumbled into a grand moment in history,” Irina told San Diego LGBT Weekly. “I just saw the movie about Mr. Milk’s life, which moved me to tears. And look at me crying now.”
After losing three previous races for the same office, Milk became the first openly gay man elected to public office in the U.S. when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was assassinated by former supervisor, Dan White in November of 1978.
Stuart Milk was visibly moved by San Diegans’ commitment to the goal of making their city the first to successfully rename a street in his uncle’s honor, noting that his uncle first came to San Diego as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. In one of the lighter moments of the ceremony, Milk, himself a gay man, said his uncle also “… fell in love with the beautiful boys here.”
But there were solemn moments during the dedication.
“Harvey always said, ‘You’ve got to give ‘em hope,’” Stuart Milk told the crowd, adding that his famous uncle urged lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as well as their allies to fight hate with hope. “You are the hope Harvey was talking about,” he said. “More than any street, school or ship that might be named after him, it was you that he took a bullet for.”
Nicole Murray Ramirez, a nationally prominent LGBT activist and columnist for LGBT Weekly, likened Harvey Milk to Cesar Estrada Chavez, Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King, all but one (Chavez) of who were killed by assassins’ bullets.
A San Diego lesbian named Liz Bowman said she doesn’t spend a lot of time in the gay community. Yet, she felt compelled to come out and be a part of the early-evening dedication.
“I remember being a young kid in a small town in Iowa and reading in the New York Times that this man who was gay had been elected to office,” she told LGBT Weekly. “And I was amazed. I thought, ‘Wow; you can do that?’”
The man who represents San Diego’s Third District on the City Council, said he was proud to have the new street baring Milk’s name in his district.
“His contributions to the fight for equality and his advocacy for the under-represented continue to shape our community and our country,” said Councilman Todd Gloria, who is also gay. “Harvey Milk Street will long serve as a symbol of San Diego’s respect for all and our celebration of diversity.”
A trifecta of coincidental symbolism and nomenclature was noted by another speaker, Dr. Delores Jacobs, executive director of the San Diego LGBT Community Center. Jacobs’ organization is located across the street from the particular signpost chosen for the unveiling from among several others marking the relatively short street.
Jacobs said, from now on she will be proud to tell people how to get to the LGBT Center by instructing them to “take Normal Street to Harvey Milk Street to Centre Street.”
Other dignitaries present included Tony Young, another San Diego City councilman and council president; Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride; as well as brass from the San Diego Police Dept. and representatives from Sen. Barbara Boxer’s, State Sen. Christine Kehoe’s and Mayor Jerry Sanders’ offices. Gay city councilman and leading mayoral candidate, Carl DeMaio, who voted for the street’s name-change, was notably absent. However, present at the event were all three of DeMaio’s mayoral opponents, including District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who is openly lesbian; Congressman Bob Filner, who is a self-declared ally of the LGBT community; and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who has voted to support many pro-LGBT rights bills.
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