Harvey Milk

This Date in UCSF History: A Tribute to Harvey Milk

Monday, November 28, 2022

Originally published in Synapse on November 30, 1978. Written by Andrew Zysman.

Supervisor Harvey Milk was shot to death on Monday. Though he may not have been killed for being gay, the impact of this tragedy on the Gay Community is horrifying, nonetheless. A hero has been lost; a movement goes leaderless.

I remember seeing Harvey in the streets last year. It was the night of the election in St. Paul (or was it Eugene, or Wichita), a night when another Gay Rights initiative went down.

After the jolting impact of our loss to Anita Bryant’s forces in Miami, each of these additional losses pained us even more, as if there would be no end.

The people began to gather at Castro and Market, our refuge from the world’s insensitivity, and then we flowed over into the streets, and we yelled for our freedom, our rights, and our lives. And we marched down Market Street, thousands of us, singing and chanting and crying together, dissipating our anger at the world through our loving one another. Harvey Milk marched with us.

Not in the front, as a figurehead, but in the crowds with the people. Harvey always said he came from the streets and would stay in the streets.

I was one in the crowd who brought my pain to him, and he to me, walking arm in arm for part of the length. We proclaimed our belief in human rights for all; and yes, that included us, two people who were Gay.

Then, just three weeks ago, after six months of hard labor, rallying, organizing, walking districts and talking to thousands of people, we saw our first victories with the defeat of Proposition 6 here in California and Initiative 13 in Seattle.

Harvey was instrumental in our accomplishment, debating Briggs throughout the State, daring President Carter to take a stand on Gay Rights, and offering himself as an example of one Gay human being.

Harvey was joyous that night, but already he was preparing us for more work, lest we deceive ourselves that the battle was over. He announced the newest strategy, a march on Washington, D.C., set for July 4, 1979, reminiscent of the Poor Peoples March.

You see, in many ways, Harvey Milk was our Martin Luther King. Sunday evening, a TV program showed how a court removed a child from his mother because she was a lesbian. Monday morning, Harvey Milk was shot.

Harvey Milk fought for the rights of Gay men and women. We shall not let his dream die.