Political Notebook: Dueling stamp events to mark Harvey Milk Day
by Matthew S. Bajko
The official unveiling of the Harvey Milk stamp will take place at the White House next week, but that hasn't stopped local officials in California from holding their own stamp release events.
San Francisco and Chico leaders will also be celebrating the debut of the Milk stamp, the first to be issued in honor of an American for their role in the fight for LGBT rights, with their own unveiling events Thursday, May 22.
As the Bay Area Reporter first disclosed in March, the U.S. Postal Service and the Harvey Milk Foundation opted to hold the official first day of issuance ceremony for the 49-cent forever Milk stamp in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the annual Harvey Milk Champions of Change event where President Barack Obama honors LGBT Americans who have made significant societal contributions.
The date also coincides with Milk's birthday, which is observed in California as an unofficial state holiday. The postal agency and Milk foundation have also announced they will host a ceremony in San Francisco on May 28 to commemorate the Milk stamp release, which will take place at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall with Mayor Ed Lee.
"We are kind of following the lead of the Milk family. They wanted to hold off until they could be in San Francisco for the event," said postal service spokesman Mark Saunders . "The White House event is very important to them. It would be physically impossible for them to be in two places on the same day."
The decision not to hold the Milk stamp's first day of issuance ceremony in San Francisco has infuriated local gay philatelist Branton Burke, who was unable to rally public support to force a change of venue for the event.
"Washington, D.C. is the main focus. San Francisco is an afterthought," said Burke this week.
He contacted the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District about holding a first day of sale event for the Milk stamp. The CBD agreed and has invited gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener and Wayne Friday , the B.A.R.'s former political editor who was a close friend of Milk's, to speak.
"We are doing it on our own because we wanted to honor Harvey on his birthday," said CBD Executive Director Andrea Aiello .
Organizers plan to hand out 200 of the Milk stamps, which will be marked canceled, to attendees. The event will take place at 5 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza near the photo exhibit honoring Milk by the entrance to the Castro Muni station.
Scott Gruendl, the gay mayor of Chico, is slated to attend a similar ceremony in his hometown sponsored by the Stonewall Alliance Center. According to the event's Facebook page, Chico Postmaster Ann Glynn will unveil the Harvey Milk stamp at 6:30 p.m. at the city's Trinity Methodist Church.
Milk became the first openly gay person elected to public office in the state when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. A year later he was assassinated along with then-Mayor George Moscone by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White.
Over the ensuing decades, Milk has become a gay icon and source of inspiration for LGBT people around the world.
The idea of a Milk stamp first arose in the late 1980s, when San Francisco artist Jim Leff, a gay man who knew Milk, painted a mock-up of what such a stamp could look like. In 2005, San Francisco's 11-member Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution calling on the U.S. postmaster general to issue one for the gay rights leader.
But it wasn't until 2009, when the B.A.R. began reporting about a Facebook campaign calling for the creation of a Milk stamp, that the idea began to gain momentum. The coverage spawned a nationwide campaign urging the postal service to issue the stamp.
One of the organizers, gay San Diego resident Nicole Murray-Ramirez, known as Empress Nicole the Great, The Queen Mother of the Americas within the Imperial Court System, has been invited to the White House stamp ceremony. International Court Council President Rob Surreal, from Kennewick, Washington, and Emperor Michael Gaffney of Phoenix will also attend.
Representing the Harvey Milk Foundation will be Stuart Milk, Harvey's gay nephew. Milk confidantes Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, and Daniel Nicoletta , whose photo of a wind tussled Milk inspired the stamp image, are also expected to attend.
Various groups to hold Milk Day events
Various groups around California are hosting events to mark this year's Harvey Milk Day observance on what would have been his 84th birthday. California first declared the date a day of special significance in 2010.
The California Legislative LGBT Caucus is hosting a ceremony on the state Capitol's East Steps from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, May 22. Cake and light refreshments will be served.
In San Francisco that evening from 6 to 9 p.m. the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club is holding a dance party at Castro gay club Beaux (2344 Market Street). Although free to attend, it is a fundraiser for the club and will feature special Harvey Milk-shakes for sale and a 50/50 raffle prize.
Set to attend are a number of LGBT leaders, including lesbian local Democratic Party official Carole Migden , a former state senator, assemblywoman and city supervisor; gay state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco); and gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos.
In Los Angeles the statewide LGBT advocacy organization Equality California is holding its fifth annual Harvey Milk Day Celebration Sunday, May 18. Being honored this year is Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) for what the invite said is "her strong commitment to LGBT equality in the face of political backlash."
Expected to attend are two Bay Area gay Assembly candidates, Campbell City Councilman Evan Low, who is seeking the Assembly District 28 seat, and Campos, who is running for the Assembly District 17 seat to succeed Ammiano, who is termed out this December.
Hosted at the Brentwood home of Tom Safran , the event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets cost $100 per person and can be purchased online at http://www.eqca.org/hmd-la.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on efforts to create a countywide LGBT commission in San Mateo County.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.