LGBTQA Group Books discussion

The Mayor of Castro Street > "Harvey Milk lives!" (Looking at Part IV - The Legend Begins)

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message 1: by Whitaker (last edited Jan 20, 2009 08:04AM) (new)

Whitaker (lechatquilit) Well, finished Part IV and the Epilogue of The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.

The trial of Dan White was a scandal, and a real travesty of justice. I was incensed at the way the jury was composed of people with religious and cultural views more disposed to Dan White. I was shocked and appalled at the behaviour of the SFPD, more criminal thugs than city protectors. And I cheered at the anger vented by the gay community during the White Night Riots.

message 2: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker (lechatquilit) Shilts ends his book with these wonderful lines:

So for years after Harvey's death, when dull moments fell over a gay demonstration and the old slogans felt thin, someone would shout, "Harvey Milk lives," and it would not be hollow rhetoric; Harvey Milk did live, as a metaphor for the homosexual experience in America.

message 3: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 6 comments I am so pleased that Harvey Milk's story is being told now. I lived in San Francisco from 1972-1979. I was there, and working for a TV station, when he was assassinated, so I was in the thick of it, and I can tell you that at the time, what I and most of my friends felt was despair. We had seen JFK assassinated, then his brother. It seemed the good guys just couldn't win.
I think many people have forgotten that after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. the violent phase of the civil rights/black power movement took off, because his people felt the same despair.
But times do change, and whenever I feel discouraged, especially after the Prop 8 vote, I remind myself how far we've come in my lifetime.

message 4: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker (lechatquilit) Yes, that's so true. The flip side of something like the White Night Riots is suicide, uhich is just violence directed inwards, no?

What was it like listening to Harvey in person? He sounds like an amazingly charismatic man.

message 5: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 6 comments To be honest, I don't remember hearing him in person, although I must have at some point or other. The thing about being present for these historic moments is that at the time they don't feel like historic moments. So much was going on then. It's hard, even for me who was there, to remember how demonized we were, and how threatened. We could be fired from our jobs, evicted from our apartments, just for being gay. The threat of physical violence was always present.

I did see the news footage at the time, including the pride parade, and I remember thinking that he was the perfect face for the mostly faceless minority he represented. He was just an ordinary guy, engaging, jovial, welcoming. Not at all the stereotype the "moral majority" portrayed. He was difficult to hate, because he clearly didn't hate anybody.

message 6: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 6 comments And another note about the White Night Riots. It's important to remember that those riots happened months later, after the verdict and sentence that gave Dan White just a slap on the wrist for murdering two people.

The response to the assassination was a candlelight march the evening of the same day. It was a peaceful march from the Castro up Market Street to City Hall. I was riding on the news van in the midst of the crowd and the candles stretched up and down the street as far as I could see. It was a non-violent response to violence. It was all about grief, not revenge, and it made me very proud of my community.

message 7: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker (lechatquilit) I watched the movie and that was an amazing scene. Heartbreaking and moving and empowering all at once. Shilts does a wonderful job capturing those emotions too!

message 8: by Nicole (new)

Nicole  I, too, was disturbed by the trial. However I was more upset by the DA than the jury. I totally expected the defense to stack the jury - it seems that that's what they do. However, I was bothered by the lack of work the DA put into the case. How do you try that case without ever saying the word assassination? Or without mentioning how Milk and White had issues? I just don't get it.

However, after reading the whole book, I felt very inspired. It makes me want to do something to help the cause in some way.

message 9: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker (lechatquilit) I have to admit I skimmed through the trial bit. I knew it would get me sick and upset, so I just got through it as quickly as I could. It IS inspiring isn't it?

message 10: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 6 comments Nicole wrote:
after reading the whole book, I felt very inspired. It makes me want to do something to help the cause in some way. "

The cause right now is gay marriage, and the most important thing people can do is speak up in the debate that's going on right now. I doubt that Harvey Milk could have imagined in his wildest dreams that within what should have been his natural lifetime gay people would have the right to marry. Back then we just wanted to keep our jobs, our apartments, our lives. There's a reason there were so many gay people in San Francisco then. Most of the rest of the country was DANGEROUS for us. Marriage equality would go a long way to proving what the religious right hopes people never find out--that we love no differently than they do.

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