Harvey Milk was born on May 22, 1930 in Woodmere, New York. Harvey was truly an amazing man and an inspiration for all people. He was a Navy veteran, a civil rights activist, and the first openly gay person to ever hold a public office. This past Wednesday, Harvey would have celebrated his 83rd birthday. Unfortunately, on November 27, 1978, Harvey was assassinated by former San Francisco city supervisor Dan White. However, Harvey’s death was not in vain. As Harvey put it, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door,” and although the struggle for gay rights continues today, Harvey was a catalyst for the movement. Harvey helped to pass legislation to protect the gay community in San Francisco, fought with labor unions in an effort to get them to hire more gay employees, organized marches and rallies for gay rights, and publicly challenged anti-gay rights groups and leaders, such as Anita Bryant, among many other accomplishments.
Known as the unofficial mayor of San Fransisco’s gay district, the Castro, Harvey was truly before his time. He recognized inequality and fought to end it. He dared to dream of a better tomorrow, one filled with equality for all people and one where gays and lesbians could live openly and enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else. If Harvey were alive today, he would be proud of how far the LGBT community has come, it would probably bring tears to his eyes; but, he would most likely still be out there, hitting the pavement everyday, and continuing to fight until full equality is achieved.
Harvey taught us to stand up to inequality wherever it occurs. He taught us that our collective voices are important and that there is strength in numbers. He showed us that even one person can make a difference. He taught us that it was not good enough to back down in the face of opposition. He taught us to never stop fighting for what is right and what is just. Harvey inspired us to believe that we could live in a world where all people are treated equality regardless of sexual orientation. Harvey taught us not to be afraid. He showed us that being gay is not a bar to success and taught us how important it is to have hope. As his foundation puts it:
“Harvey showed us all what one person, standing up loudly and clearly, against a fierce societal fear and prejudice can accomplish. He created a rich and vivid message of hope and an enduring dream, teaching us how to create our own and leaving them for us to realize.”
Harvey may be gone, but his legacy and his dreams for a just tomorrow, where diversity is celebrated, and where all individuals can fully participate in all societal rights without exception lives on. As Harvey once put it:
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”
Harvey inspired a generation and generations to come, and paved the way for others like nobody had ever done before. Harvey Milk was a true American hero, and for that we thank him. Harvey, wherever you are, please know you are greatly appreciated and sorely missed. Thanks for everything you’ve done and thank you for inspiring us to keep fighting. We will make you proud, because as you put it, “hope is never silent.”