SAN DIEGO -- Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) and former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts wowed the sold-out audience gathered Friday morning at San Diego's fifth annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast held at the Bayside Hilton.
More than 1,200 people stood and applauded each honoree, which included Harvey Milk Youth Essay Award winner Iman Usman, who read her inspiration speech about the challenges of living in three minority worlds as a Pakistani, a Muslim and a lesbian. She embraced the message of Harvey Milk in her speech:
“If we build coalitions, we can have not just a gay community, but a human community. The point isn’t assimilation until it’s OK, but assimilation until it doesn’t matter who is what. The point is assimilation to the extent that we can meet up at a breakfast table and love and respect who, what or where someone is from.”
Black accepted the Equality Award at the breakfast after an introduction by Stuart Milk, nephew of the slain politician.
Also a producer and director, Black uses his fame to advocate for LGBT equality. He is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which is leading the legal fight against California’s Proposition 8. Black used Prop 8 trial transcripts to craft the play, “8,” which is playing on stages around the world.
Black predicted that marriage equality will soon return to California, as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by the end of June.
Gov. Roberts, who was given the Lifetime Leadership Award, showed she still knows how to inspire a crowd as she spoke about her career pioneering equality issues. She told an amusing story about how in 1984, when she was elected as Oregon’s Secretary of State, she chose the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus to sing at her swearing-in ceremony. Roberts said aides tried to talk her out of mentioning “gay” when referring to the chorus, but she refused. Supporters were sure that her stance in favor of gay rights would cost her dearly at the ballot box, but she was re-elected to the office. In 1990, she became the first woman governor of Oregon.
Roberts also served on the board of the Human Rights Campaign, and said she proudly would add the Harvey Milk award to her shelf along with the one from the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
The annual breakfast is organized by The San Diego LGBT Community Center and the San Diego Human Relations Commission.
The Navy Medical Center San Diego Color Guard presented the flags for the first time since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus sang the national anthem.
The Rev. Dan Koeshall of the Metropolitan Community Church, the Rev. Jane Via of the Mary Magdalene Community Church and Rabbi Laurie Coskey of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice lead the invocation.
Mayor Bob Filner and first lady Bronwyn Ingram also made a few remarks.
About Harvey Milk
When he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, Harvey Milk (1930-1978) became one of the first openly gay men to be elected to public office in the United States. On election night, Harvey Milk reminded his supporters: "This is not my victory – it's yours. If a gay man can win, it proves that there is hope for all minorities who are willing to fight." He was assassinated (along with Mayor George Moscone) on November 27, 1978, only eleven months after taking office. Although he did not live to see his dreams fulfilled, the example of his life and his leadership have made him an important national symbol for the struggle for human rights and freedom of expression.
Gay San Diego's Soundcloud audio of Dustin Lance Black's speech