Thirty years ago today, while sitting with my algebra class at Carlmont High School in the San Francisco suburbs, my algebra teacher turned on the classroom televsion and we all watched as a shell-shocked Dianne Feinstein recited these words: "As president of the board of supervisors, it's my duty to make this announcement. Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed." Moscone and Milk had been assassinated by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, a former SF firefighter and police officer, a notably conservative politician who'd publicly clashed with Milk several times over zoning rights and Milk's fight for a gay rights ordinance in San Francisco.
We were all stunned.
It was an understandable reaction; after all, folks in the San Francisco Bay Area were still reeling from the news just nine days before that Bay Area Congressman Leo Ryan had been gunned down in Guyana while investigating the apparent suicide of more than 900 members of Jim Jones' People's Temple, most of them former Bay Area residents themselves.
When I was sixteen, I wasn't yet aware of what an extraordinary loss Milk's death was. I hadn't yet figured out my own sexual identity, and it would be several years more before I educated myself on the history of gay rights activism.
But on this day of giving thanks for so many things, I wanted to also take a moment to give thanks for the courageous work that Harvey Milk did, laying the foundation for bigger and bolder gay rights activism on a national level. He certainly wasn't a saint, but he was a true American hero. And he is still missed.
Anyway, I just wanted to say...Thank you, Harvey.