Harvey Milk Remembered On Michigan Avenue
On what would have been gay activist Harvey Milk’s 80th birthday had he not been assassinated in 1978, 75 GLBT activists and allies rallied outside Grant Park May 22, sang "Happy Birthday" and then marched down Michigan Avenue, much to the surprise of tourists and springtime shoppers.
Chicago was one of several cities across the U.S. to celebrate the day. Harvey Milk Day, which was created to honor and celebrate the life of Milk, served as a colorful and celebratory wrap-up to a week-long series of events held in Chicago, including a May 20 sit-in at Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) office and a rally on the International Day Against Homophobia.
Three groups - Gay Liberation Network, LGBT Change and Join the Impact-Chicago - organized the Harvey Milk Day event.
At Saturday’s rally and march, activists hoped to inspire GLBTs and their allies to get involved in the fight for equality, including the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Lindsay Dietzler, one of 13 individuals arrested May 20 during the sit-in at Durbin’s office, was present at Saturday’s rally.
"Everyone here today has the power to evoke change and have an impact on the world," Dietzler told the crowd.
During the downtown rally in support of ENDA, Dietzler and 12 other individuals took part in the sit-in in hopes of pressuring Durbin to sign a pledge of commitment to passing the legislation. While Durbin has expressed support of ENDA, the activists feel he has not taken enough action. Federal authorities eventually removed the activists from Durbin’s office and arrested them. Hoewver, all 13 were released within two hours, according to GLN co-founder Andy Thayer.
Others present hoped for increased involvement in such actions. Activist Deborah Goodman said that she knew very little about Milk until she saw the feature film.
"I’m here today because it’s part of our gay and lesbian history," Goodman said.
She hopes that others like her are inspired enough to get involved in creating change until every state in the U.S. provides GLBT people full equality.
At the rally, several GLBT activists stressed the need for action on key issues such as immigration and DADT. Many also explained that GLBT people must show solidarity with other communities.
Juan Baca, who recently "came out" as an undocumented gay man, asked the crowd to unite with other communities, such as immigrants.
"I believe we are more similar than we are different," Baca said.
Activist and author Sherry Wolf explained that one of Milk’s greatest achievements was his ability to mobilize people and create solidarity. Milk was able to get unions, immigrants and others to join in the fight for GLBT equality by showing solidarity with these communities.
"If you want to celebrate Harvey, don’t celebrate the man; celebrate his legacy - building solidarity," Wolf said.