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|Nephew of gay icon continues to spread message of equality, pride|
|by Ryan Lee|
|October 12, 2012 00:00|
As a field general during the earliest battles of the modern LGBT rights movement, Harvey Milk’s primary weapon was a red and white bullhorn. The Fanon Transistorized Megaphone became a part of Milk’s political combat uniform, used to rally an army of San Francisco queers, street kids and liberals against centuries-old oppression of homosexuals.
The iconic megaphone amplified Milk’s words so loudly that they still echo today, almost 35 years after Milk was killed for fighting on behalf of gay liberation.
Milk’s election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors made him one of the first openly gay elected officials in America, but a conservative fellow lawmaker assassinated him in 1978. Now Milk has a new type of megaphone to make sure his message and spirit remain as boisterous as they were when he was riling up a rebellion in the streets of San Francisco during the 1970s.
Stuart Milk, the gay pioneer’s nephew, founded the Harvey Milk Foundation to share Milk’s legacy on a global scale, spreading his strategies on community organizing and bridge-building between diverse groups. Stuart Milk, who is gay and bares a striking resemblance to his uncle, serves alongside fellow activist Ben Cohen as honorary grand marshal for the Atlanta Pride parade.
“Atlanta Pride is such a vital venue to showcase a community’s broad and inclusive leadership and at the same time, provide an important and often life-changing event that, at its core, says to each young person – you are not only valued, but your authenticity is celebrated here – you are not alone,” Stuart Milk said.
The Harvey Milk Foundation was founded in 2009, a year after the Academy Award-winning movie “Milk” generated renewed interest in his life and murder.
“[The film] changed my life in that I realize we all need to do more of embracing diverse communities,” Stuart Milk told the blog Out in Hollywood in 2009. “I’m very frustrated that our kids today still feel they have to be in the closet, they have to hide who they are.”
Later that year, Stuart Milk and Anne Kronenberger, who was Harvey Milk’s campaign manager and political adviser, founded the Harvey Milk Foundation, a volunteer organization “to empower local, regional, national and global organizations so that they may fully realize the power of Harvey Milk’s story, style, and collaborative relationship building.”
The group provides speakers and training to activists across the globe, and since 2009 has gotten official recognition of May 22, the gay lawmaker’s birthday, as Harvey Milk Day in California.
“It is difficult to put into words the great honor I feel in having been able to take Harvey’s story, and his universal message of equality, around the world,” Stuart Milk wrote last year.
Stuart Milk’s appearance at Atlanta Pride comes less than a month before a potentially historic milestone in the continuum that his uncle helped start, as U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) seeks to become the first openly LGBT politician elected to the U.S. Senate.
“I am frequently asked if I am deeply saddened that my uncle Harvey did not get to see all those elected officials who would come to stand on his shoulders, or all the places where the light of equality burns brighter than the darkness of antiquated prejudice,” Stuart Milk said earlier this year.
“And I have long replied that he did see those open and proud candidates running for office and winning, and he did see those cities and states and nations that would etch equality into both their laws and their societal values, for he could not have given his life without seeing and visualizing that dream.”
Top photo: Stuart Milk, nephew of slain gay political pioneer Harvey Milk, serves as Atlanta Pride’s Honorary Grand Marshal along with rugby star Ben Cohen. (Photo by Brook Pifer; courtesy Atlanta Pride)
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