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San Diego keeps Harvey Milk's legacy alive

Harvey Milk (1930–1978)
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Today marks the 87th birthday of LGBT activist and politician Harvey Milk.

The northern California gay rights icon dedicated his life to the community and made great strides in advancing the movement in the United States until he was assassinated in 1978. He was the first-ever out gay politician.

Milk was a very quiet individual and kept to himself, that is until he began to get involved in a rising gay rights movement in New York.

It wasn’t until after he moved to San Francisco and opened up his now landmark camera shop that he became more vocal about the community.

It would take four years of relentless campaigning in order for Milk, known as “The Mayor of Castro Street” to finally get elected to a seat on the San Francisco City-County Board.

 “Milk envisioned a place where all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are treated equally,” said the Human Rights Campaign, recognizing his birthday today. “HRC, as well as countless other LGBTQ organizations, pro-equality lawmakers and supporters, share that vision and strive every day to make full equality a reality for millions of LGBTQ people.”

“During these uncertain times, it is more vital than ever that we, as a community, continue to work tirelessly towards achieving what Milk sacrificed his life for -- equality and justice for all.”

Eleven months after Milk’s election, conservative Supervisor Dan White, entered City Hall through a basement window armed with a .38 caliber revolver and shot Mayor Moscone in the head before making his way to Milk in the same building and shooting him to death.  

Although Milk’s murder was a tragic reminder of how the community was persecuted and targeted by homophobia and hatred, today Milk’s memory and hard work are the foundation on which change is being made.

San Diego is at the forefront of that movement and Milk’s legacy.

Our own “Mayor of Hillcrest” Nicole Murray-Ramirez has kept Milk’s legacy alive here in America’s finest city with letter-writing campaigns, special events and fundraisers.

“We have so much to be proud of in San Diego,” Murray-Ramirez told SDGLN last year. “We got the park bench in his [Milk's] honor, the street – first in the nation, The Harvey Milk Breakfast is the biggest Milk hotel event in the country. I launched the stamp campaign here and also the ship campaign here.”

A stamp to commemorate the San Francisco activist was put in circulation in 2014, after a letter-writing campaign headed by Murray-Ramirez through the International Court System drew scores of letters from the community which resulted in the creation of The Harvey Milk Forever Stamp. 

In July 2016, the Navy announced that the first military ship would to be named after an LGBT member.

Named USNS Harvey Milk, the vessel will be manufactured in San Diego with hopes of being christened as early as 2018. Murray-Ramirez says he is planning three days of celebration, with a dance at the pier, brunches, dinners and a lot of celebration. 

More recently the ninth annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast was held at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront this past Friday, in which over 1000 guests who are in support of LGBT rights and advancements within the community came together to honor individuals who are driving acceptance and tolerance in society forward. 

People such as San Diego police officers Christine Garcia and Daniel Meyer were honored for their dedication in the San Diego LGBT community, with the Harvey Milk Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to Cleve Jones who started the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and authored the book When We Rise

Jones in an interview from earlier this year discussed what Milk may have though about today's LGBT activists.

“Harvey’s basic message was clear-cut: ‘Come out, be honest.’ Now I think he’d say, use every tactic available to you. Build coalitions. Understand it’s not just you. Be bold. Take risks.”

The San Diego LGBT community and its allies seem to be adhering to those words and celebrating Milk's spirit by making historic firsts for the country, the world.