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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, May 22

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
White House to Host First-Day-Of-Issue Dedication of Harvey Milk Stamp: Washington, DC. The White House Office of Public Engagement, the United States Postal Service and the Harvey Milk Foundation will host a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp at the White House. The event will feature remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman, and other guests including the Co-Founders of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk and Anne Kronenberg.

You can watch the festivities live beginning at 3:00 p.m. E.D.T. at www.whitehouse.gov/live. You can also follow it on Twitter using the hashtag #HarveyMilkStamp.

Buffalo

Pride Events This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Birmingham, UK; Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Eskilstuna, Sweden; Kerry, Ireland; Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; Melbourne, FL; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Washington, DC (Black Pride); Winnipeg, MB.

Other Events This Weekend: Harvey Milk Day Events, various locations across the U.S.; International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; AIDS Walk, Honolulu, HI; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; BUPA London 10,000, London, UK (Monday); KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Great Plains Rodeo, Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
Harvey Milk, an avid amateur photographer, got the idea of opening his own camera shop after a developer ruined a roll of his film. He opened Castro Camera in 1972 on Castro Street in an area known then as Eureka Valley, a rough and tumble Irish neighborhood that had seen better days and was what we would politely call today “in transition.” Because of cheap rents, Eureka Valley was experiencing a new influx of gay people fleeing higher rents elsewhere. The Eureka Valley Merchants Association took a dim view of the gay-owned businesses opening up on their street and tried to keep Milk from getting a business license. Milk banded together with other gay businesses in the area and formed the Castro Village Association and organized the Castro Street Fair in 1974, which was a monster success. Thus Eureka Valley vanished and “the Castro” was born. Milk became known as the “mayor of Castro Street,” and Castro Camera served as an unofficial community center and official campaign headquarters when Milk launched his political career.

Randy Rohl and Grady Quinn.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
35 YEARS AGO: First Gay Couple To Attend High School Prom: 1979. Randy Rohl, a 17-year-old senior at a Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, embarked on the most quintessential high school rite of passage: attending the senior prom. His date wasn’t so quintessential: his friend, 20-year-old Grady Quinn. The couple wore matching powder blue tuxes, rose boutonnieres and matching silver pierced earrings.

Rohl wore his sexuality rather lightly, especially considering the times and the locale. He later told a friend that it wasn’t meant to be a political act. He just wanted to go to the prom. The school’s principal, Fred Stephens, granted permission for the couple to attend the dance, saying “My belief is that people need their rights protected. Homosexuals have rights.” Rohl told reporters, “The principal was very concerned for my well-being.”

And aside from a few pre-prom threats (which brought out a police presence in case anything came from those threats), and some raised eyebrows and a heavy media presence with glaring bright lights, it all went off without a hitch. . The couple danced five times. “The first one was a slow dance,” Rohl told reporters, “and people were a little surprised to see two guys dancing together.” The Washington Post reported that they got was a lot of extra room on the dance floor. But when the faster disco tunes were played, they attracted less attention.

“I think it’s rather sad that my date and I have to get more publicity or more acknowledgement from the press than any other couple,” he said. “I don’t think we’re any more worthy of special attention. Yes, maybe it’s a milestone in gay rights, but it’s being made into more of a freak show.” He also said that despite the threats, several students came over and congratulated the couple. “A lot of people were really glad we stuck to your guns and went.”

According to the National Gay Task Force, this was the first time an acknowledged gay couple attended a high school prom together in the U.S., even though the two were just friends. (Grady Quinn was the partner of a local gay rights activist.) This would be Randy Rohl’s only act as an activist. After high school, he moved to Minneapolis to attend college, and retreated back into private life. He died on December 31, 1993 from AIDS.

[Additional source: “‘It’s a Good Feeling,’ Says Gay Who Took Boyfriend to His Prom.” The Advocate, no. 271 (July 12, 1979): 7.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Harvey Milk: 1930-1978. Known as the Mayor of Castro Street, Harvey Milk finally succeeded in becoming California’s first (and the nation’s fourth) openly gay non-incumbent candidate to win a political office for two reasons: he refused to hide who he was; and he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. So to those who knew Harvey well weren’t surprised when his 1977 as San Francisco City Supervisor that he was good terms with conservative supervisor Dan White. White, a former cop, was supported by the city’s police union whose leaders were angry over city policies which they considered to be soft on crime and homosexuals. The local media ate it up as the two made joint appearances on local talk shows where they both talked warmly of each other. Harvey began to privately telling friends that he thought White was “educatable,” and that the two might actually be able to work together.

But all that changed when Milk wound up voting against White’s proposal to bar a psychiatric treatment center from opening in White’s district. White retaliated by voting against Milk’s gay rights bill (it passed anyway), and for the next several months, White would not speak to Milk or his aides. Other supervisors noticed that White stopped spending as much time at his office in City Hall, and he was sullen during the weekly board meetings. White abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. When he had a change of heart a few days later, Mayor George Moscone refused to commit to re-appointing him to the board. On November 27, 1978, White snuck into City Hall and confronted Moscone in his office, and shot him twice in the abdomen, then twice more in the head. He then walked down the hall to Milk’s office. After arguing with Milk, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back and twice in the head.

Milk’s short political career changed the face of LGBT politics. During the 1978 campaign against the Briggs Amendment which would have required the firing of gay teachers and any school employee who supported gay rights, Milk insisted on aggressively confronting the anti-gay campaign by raising the visibility of the gay community. The campaign against the Briggs Amendment was also a campaign against the closet. He told a crowd during San Francisco’s Gay Pride that year:

“On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets… We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.”

Mark Bingham: 1970-2001. A true hero, Mark Bingham was among the passengers who stormed the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93 after it had been hijacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001. His personal bravery was well known before that fateful day. His boyfriend of six years, Paul Holm, recalled that Bingham had thwarted two attempted muggings, one at gunpoint. His friends recalled that he proudly showed off the scars he received during a running of the bulls in Pamplona. During the hijacking, Bingham, who was sitting in first class, made a brief call to his mother. She later called him back after learning of the other 9/11 attacks and said the flight was being used on a suicide mission. Bingham has been honored with several others for bringing the aircraft down and preventing a much greater loss of life.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Comments

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DN
May 22nd, 2014 | LINK

Pretty sure Mark Bingham died more than three years ago.

Jim Burroway
May 22nd, 2014 | LINK

I’ve fixed the typo. Thanks.

Ben in Oakland
May 22nd, 2014 | LINK

I will be buying 200 of these stamps today. One set to frame and keep– forever– and the rest to politicize my bill paying.

Soren456
May 22nd, 2014 | LINK

I wonder if there has ever been a collection or exhibition of Milk’s photography?

I don’t know what the quality of it was, but it would be interesting to see what he did.

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