Going to the White House for the Harvey Milk stamp ceremonyBottom Highlights, Conversations with the Mayor of Hillcrest Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Commentary: Conversations with the Mayor of Hillcrest
When I was a boy I collected stamps. I especially loved those of historic figures, royalty and presidents. Years ago, I got involved with the efforts to get a stamp and state holiday for Cesar Chavez and that is when I discovered that there has never been a U.S. postage stamp issued honoring a gay American.
So, about seven years ago, right here in San Diego I launched a national letter writing campaign to get a stamp in honor of civil rights icon Harvey Milk.
The organizers and national sponsors of this campaign was the International Imperial Court System, which has chapters in more than 68 cities and everyone got behind this letter writing campaign.
We especially made sure that young people and elected officials wrote letters. Susan McGowan, an official spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service stated that they received “thousands of letters of support for the Milk stamp … it was overwhelming the amount of public support for this stamp, it was really amazing.”
Letters came from the Imperial Court Chapters in Iowa, Kentucky, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Alaska, Ohio etc. The first letters came from San Diego and the City’s Human Relations Commission (I was then its chair) and local elected officials and Court members.
The two major co-sponsors of the stamp campaign were the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and the Harvey Milk Foundation.
I got the following GLBT leaders to become honorary chairs of this campaign: Stuart Milk, Cleve Jones, Rev. Troy Perry, Rea Carey, Dustin Lance Black, Sen. Mark Leno, Lorri Jean, Speaker John Perez, Chuck Wolfe, Mike Ruiz, Robin Tyler and David Mixner … and I thank them all for their support. (Rev. Perry got many M.C.C. churches to write letters.)
As many of you know, I am a national board member of the Harvey Milk Foundation and Stuart Milk’s encouragement, support and friendship made all the difference to me personally and kept me motivated.
I well remember when Stuart called me over a year ago to tell me that the U.S. Postal Service had called the Milk family to let them know it was going to happen. We both got very emotional and were overjoyed and I was touched when Stuart Milk thanked me and the Imperial Courts for our leadership on this campaign.
But this indeed was a national effort and the broad support from both GLBT and straight Americans and organizations that supported our campaign I will always be so grateful for.
I got to know Harvey Milk in the 1970s when we were all involved and organizing the campaigns against the homophobia of Anita Bryant and Sen. John Briggs. He was a very down-to-earth person with a great sense of humor.
In his honor I established a GLBT student scholarship(1979); got a memorial park bench in his honor dedicated in Balboa Park; established the first Harvey Milk Civil Rights Award and Mayor George Moscone Leadership Honor, also in 1979, at the annual Nicky Awards of San Diego presentation. And of course, I founded the annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast which draws more than 1,000 San Diegans every year, as well as led the campaign to get the first Harvey Milk Street dedicated in America, right here in Hillcrest.
The Imperial Courts and the GLBT Historic Task Force along with the Milk Foundation, the NGLTF and others have joined me in our national efforts to get the U.S. Navy to name a vessel after Harvey (Harvey Milk was stationed in San Diego in 1955) and a U.S postage stamp in honor of Bayard Rustin.
So on Harvey’s birthday, May 22, I will be at the White House for the historic first-day-of-issue ceremony for the Harvey Milk stamp.
Joining me in Washington, D.C. will be Emperor Rob Surreal (I.C.C. president) and Emperor Michael Gaffney (the Milk stamp campaign national coordinator) as well as the Milk family and dignitaries.
I want to especially acknowledge Russell Roybal, Alan Spyere, A. J. Turner, Atty. Miriam Richter, Julie Stern, Scott Siebert, the Washington Blade and so many, many others.
It was a long seven year journey, but because of so many people and groups – thank you from the bottom of my heart – we did it!
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