June 9, 2021

Celebrating Harvey Milk
As we honor and celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we at Community Teamwork would like to recognize the life and work of Harvey Milk. In 1977, Milk was voted onto the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, making him the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, and one of the first in the entire United States. Milk’s election, coupled with his unapologetic stance as an openly gay candidate for public office, gave hope to LGBTQ+ people, not only across the country, but also across the world, during a time when the community was still experiencing widespread discrimination.

Milk moved to San Francisco from New York City in 1972 and eventually settled in the city’s Castro District. In 1973, he and his partner opened a camera store on Castro Street with their last $1,000. Milk eventually gained the title “Mayor of Castro Street” due to the work he engaged with there with the LGBTQ community. 

Although he was a newcomer, he showed incredibly strong leadership, working closely with the Teamsters to help with strikes against beer distributors in exchange for hiring more gay drivers. Milk and a number of other gay business owners also founded the Castro Village Association, with Harvey named as President.

In 1977, Milk easily won his bid for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. His commitment to serving a broad constituency made him effective and quite popular in this role. He was a tireless advocate for having strong, safe neighborhoods and often pressed the Mayor’s office to have more services for the Castro District. Milk also had a sweeping reform agenda, which included the protection of gay rights through an anti-discrimination bill, the conversion of military facilities to low-cost housing and reform of the tax code to attract industry to the city.
On November 27, 1978, Dan White, a disgruntled former city supervisor, assassinated both Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Milk was always keenly aware that there was a strong likelihood he could be assassinated. In fact, he penned numerous versions of his will “to be read in the event of my assassination”. Dan White had previously resigned from his position as supervisor due to the low salary of $9,000. A few days following the resignation, White approached then Mayor to rejoin the Board of Supervisors. It was eventually decided that White was not left-leaning enough for the way politics were going in San Francisco and was denied. It was because of this that he snuck into city hall and assassinated both Milk and Moscone. During his trial, rather than a murder verdict, White got 8 years for manslaughter in what was coined by city newspapers at the time as the “Twinkie defense”. That is, White’s lawyer argued that “his mental health deterioration was demonstrated and exacerbated by a junk food binge the night before the murders, since he was usually known to have been health food-conscious”.

Today, we at CTI remember the life and work of Harvey Milk. Milk spoke for the participation of LGBTQ+ people and other minorities in the political process and believed that government should represent the individuals, not just downtown interests. He believed that same government should provide and insure equality for all citizens along with needed services.

“None understood how his public role could affect private lives better than Milk… he knew that the root cause of the gay predicament was invisibility” –John Cloud.

“No matter what the world has taught us about ourselves, we can be beautiful and we can get our thing together… Harvey was a prophet… He lived by a vision… Something very special is going to happen in this city and it will have Harvey Milk’s name on it” - Harry Britt

#DEIatCTI #harveymilk #harveymilkday #equality #pride #lgbtqcommunity #lgbtqrights

Please watch:
Pat Rocco: Harvey Milk speech in Los Angeles (1978)  video length: 3min

Give Them Hope - Harvey Milk  video length: 2min

Moscone-Milk Killings 25th Anniversary: Milk and Moscone - Assassination at City Hall. (KRON-TV) video length: 48 min