Saturday, November 29, 2008

Give Them Hope—Harvey Milk

On days that my mom was feeling blue, she would pop in her trusty videotape that had these 3 films on it: The Way We Were, The Times of Harvey Milk and Sixteen Candles. She would have a long, good cry, and then laugh her self silly with “Long Duk Dong”…and let the blues pass her by. If you haven’t seen
The Times of Harvey Milk, the Academy Award winning documentary by Rob Epstein, go rent it today—make sure you have a box of Kleenex nearby.

Then go see the new film, Milk, based on the life of Harvey Milk, who was assassinated thirty years ago on November 27, 1978. In a nutshell, Harvey Milk (the first Gay San Francisco Supervisor and first openly gay man elected to public office in California) and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were murdered by fellow Board of Supervisor, Dan White—out of jealousy and homophobia. Dan White was given a very lenient sentence due to his “twinkie defense” (eating too much junk food) and riots ensued in San Francisco from the injustice...

We walked to the Castro Theater Saturday afternoon to see the film Milk at the historic Castro Theater (my mom’s favorite theater)
—and the last historic theater in San Francisco. The line snaked down Castro Street. The crowd was a bit overwhelming, but was all worth it the moment the golden pipe organ rose from the stage floor with the organist playing "San Francisco." We tried to spot friends and acquaintances who were extras in the film, but only recognized Peaches Christ in the protest scenes. Before the elections, the Castro Theater quietly hosted a star studded premier. Sean Penn brilliantly plays the lead role of Harvey Milk and is supported by a stellar cast. Emile Hirsch playing Cleve Jones (who later created the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt) is a standout. Director Gus Van Sant did a fantastic job creating Milk and filmed many scenes on location in San Francisco. Mr. Peacock enjoyed watching the live shooting on Castro Street earlier in the year.

The Castro Theater marquee was painted and repaired to bring it back to its glory of 1978 and storefronts on Castro Street were transformed to their 70's identities for the location filming of Milk. Bravo and thanks to Mr. Van Sant and the entire cast for fearlessly and brilliantly making a film about an American hero most Americans know nothing about.

Harvey Milk isn’t the only American hero who has been murdered. Each year Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender (LGBT) folks are killed just because of who they are. Some of their tragic stories, such as Matthew Shepard (who was brutally killed and hung from a fence post in Wyoming in 1998), make it into the mainstream media, while many others are never heard of, like Lawrence King (the 15 year old Oxnard, California boy who was shot and killed by a fellow student in front of tweny-four other students in his English class in February of this year)—all victims of hate crimes. There are 13 states that do not report LGBT hate crimes and 5 other states that report no hate crimes of any kind. The Gay American Heroes Foundation wants to create a traveling national memorial to honor and remember LGBT victims of hate crimes and to inspire compassion and greater appreciation and acceptance of diversity. To quote the Gay American Heroes Foundation, “All people who live honestly about their sexual orientation or gender identity are heroic, as it takes great strength and courage to face the daily struggles for personal freedom in the face of enormous opposition; to ultimately give their life for said freedom makes them—heroes." To find out more about this foundation or to make a contribution, click here.

This is the speech Harvey Milk recorded, in case he was assassinated. The video footage is the massive march that took place on the evening of his untimely death.

There are so many great movies out this holiday season, but make sure Milk
is at the top of your list. As the San Francisco Chronicle said, “…with Milk, a great San Francisco story becomes a great American story.” Harvey Milk urged all gay and lesbians to come out of the closet, and make people understand that gays and lesbians are everywhere and just like everyone else. I hope the film, Milk, educates people not only about the American hero we lost thirty years ago, but also teaches people to appreciate and respect the diversity of other human beings—which was paramount to Harvey Milk. Go see Milk!