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SF’s GLBT History Museum Recognizes Harvey Milk Day

by Roger Brigham
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday May 18, 2012

Harvey Milk always had a flair for the dramatic that would have made him a natural for show business. When San Franciscans celebrate the state holiday in his honor next week, they'll get a chance to see some of his most dramatic moments on film -- for free. That's a deal that would be dear to Harvey himself.

The GLBT History Museum will offer free admission on Tuesday, May 22, to celebrate Harvey Milk Day, and will mark the occasion throughout the day with first-ever screenings of video footage of Milk from before his election to the Board of Supervisors.

Museum spokesman Gerard Koskovich told EDGE they had not even been aware of what was on the open-reel video footage until it was recently converted digitally for the exhibit.

Milk is shown as entrepreneur/activist in a 1976 interview at the Castro Street Fair, two years after he and the Castro Valley Association founded the event to showcase the emerging LGBT neighborhood in Castro Valley.

"It was indeed pretty early in the transition," Koskovich said, "and he’s talking about the importance of the neighborhood and the fair. People will notice two things right away: it’s not very crowded, and the crowd is still typically very hippyish-style."

"This material has never been broadcast. It was donated about 15 years ago, open-reel black and white videotape. It’s just been converted recently and that’s when we discovered what’s on it."

In the other video shown, Milk is speaking at City Center at a 1978 rally against the "Briggs Initiative" to ban openly gay and lesbian teachers.

"He’s sounding many of the themes people will be familiar with, why we should be allowed to serve as teachers," Koskovich said. "It’s a rousing stump speech that I would say would resonate in a number of ways with people today and the debate following the passage of the FAIR Education Act."

The FAIR Education Act, passed last year by the state legislature, mandates the inclusion of positive instruction about persons with disabilities and LGBT individuals along with numerous persons of color.

"Passage of FAIR has led to a number of anti-gay groups circulating petitions to try to put initiative on the ballot to overturn that law," Koskovich said, "so the actual issue of education and the place of LGBT people is likely to be back on the political agenda."

The museum offers a permanent exhibition on Milk, which is always a principal draw.

"One of the most common questions our front desk staffers get is, ’Do you have anything about Harvey Milk?’ and, ’Where is Harvey Milk’s camera store?’" Koskovich said. "Certainly all of the visitors seem to be aware of Harvey."

Unable to make it on Tuesday? The museum will offer five special events in June for Pride Month. On June 7, author Gayle Rubin discusses a volume of her essays from 7-9 p.m. On June 10, performance collective John Q of Atlanta will present a site-specific evening of performance, film, and conversation based on materials in the archive.

On June 13, filmmaker Jack Curtis Dubowsky will lead a discussion on his documentary "Submerged Queer Spaces." On June 14, the museum hosts a discussion on "Religion and Homosexuality in 20th-Century America: Two Views." And on June 18, queer San Francisco novelists Jim Provenzano ("Every Time I Think of You"), Lewis DeSimone ("The Heart’s History"), and Michael Alenyikov ("Ivan and Misha: Stories") discuss their recent works.

The GLBT History Museum is located at 4127 18th St. in San Francisco. For more info, call 415-621-1107 or visit For more info on Harvey Milk Day, visit

Roger Brigham, a freelance writer and communications consultant, is the San Francisco Editor of EDGE. He lives in Oakland with his husband, Eduardo.


  • Wayne M., 2012-05-21 16:42:41

    I am pleased to see this celebration, but we must never forget that the best tribute to Harvey Milk will be for every LGBT person to continue to work for our liberation and equality.

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