Here is Cleve Jones’ powerful tribute to his mentor Harvey Milk who was born 85 years ago today
Harvey Milk was just 48 years old and had been a gay rights activist for less than a decade when he was murdered inside San Francisco City Hall.
But what a legacy he left behind.
Born 85 years ago today, Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
He fought hard against discrimination – including Proposition 6, a ballot initiative that would have made firing gay teachers—and any public school employees who supported gay rights—mandatory. It lost by a million votes.
As a supervisor, Milk was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city but just 11 months into his term, he and Mayor George Moscone were murdered at City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White.
Today is Harvey Milk Day – a day to celebrate Milk’s story, message and legacy to give hope and inspire disenfranchised communities.
Clebe Jones worked alongside Milk during the 70s and penned a tribute to his mentor for Out.com. Here are some excerpts:
Meeting Harvey Milk was the single most important event of my life. He was a good friend and wonderful mentor. We were always talking about politics but I also went to him for solace and encouragement whenever I was discouraged or confused. He was very kind to me and I am still haunted by the sight of his lifeless body on the floor in City Hall that terrible day in November 1978.
I think of Harvey often, especially when there is news of progress for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He would deserve to be proud of our achievements because so much of what we have accomplished is directly connected to what he taught us almost 40 years ago.
He taught us that we had an obligation to ourselves and to our community to come out of our closets and live our lives honestly and openly. He understood that hatred and fear would be defeated only when LGBT people revealed the truth of our lives and our love to our friends, families, co-workers and neighbors. Harvey knew that not everyone could be an activist, but that we could all contribute to the movement simply by living openly.
Within a few weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States will announce their decision on the marriage equality cases. It seems likely that we will win and that marriage equality will become the law of the land. Harvey would be proud of us, I’m sure. But he would also remind us that our struggle is not yet over, not as long as workers are harassed and fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity, not as long as gay and trans kids are being bullied into suicide. Our struggle is far from over but the way forward is clear and Harvey showed it to us.