Tragedy Made Us Stronger

The 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk forever changed San Francisco. Milk, the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Castro Street,” was the first openly gay person elected to a public office in the U.S. Milk was a man of community, and not just the queer community. Labor unions were the toughest bloc for Milk to sway during his campaign, but when he got Coors beer removed from every gay bar in the Castro, compelling the company to hire more gay drivers, members of the city’s old blue collar guard were swayed. Milk’s openness — and his assassination — inspired an entire community to stand up and be counted for who they are. Milk and Moscone maintain a presence through public places and facilities named after them, sculptures, stage productions, and films. To honor Harvey Milk Day today, Gus Van Sant’s biopic Milk(2008) screens along with an appearance by LGBT activist Cleve Jones, who worked as an intern in Milk’s office and later founded The Names Project and AIDS Memorial Quilt. As for the film, its success moved Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to create today’s holiday. In it, Sean Penn plays Milk, moving through a closeted life and Wall Street job to San Francisco’s counterculture and the camera shop on Castro he owned with Scott Smith (James Franco). We see Milk help defeat a statewide initiative — Proposition 6 — that would have turned all queer public school teachers out of their jobs. Milkreminds us that as far as we’ve come regarding equal rights, we still have a long way to go. (See: prop. 8, which prohibits same-sex marriage.) In fact, a Village Voice reviewer wrote that Milkcreates a feeling “so immediate that it’s impossible to separate the movie’s moment from this one.”
Tue., May 22, 8 p.m., 2012

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