Last week, SFGN declared Edith ‘Edie’ Windsor our person of the year, acknowledging her legal struggle to bring down DOMA. In saluting her, we applauded the valiant battle she fought to bring marriage equality to the LGBT community.
Here, in South Florida, there are also champions and heroes who deserve our acclaim and admiration. Each month, and every year, certain individuals jump off the page as being special, worthy of our salutes and shout outs. These are our ‘Best Of’ in the fields of entrepreneurial, social and political activism. They are local heroes whose lives are testimony to achievement, accomplishment and recognition.
For the year, 2013, SFGN has selected three persons for our annual Achievement in Excellence Awards, each having distinguished themselves by hard work, honest effort, lending credibility and commitment not only to their cause, but our entire community. Of course, there are more persons equally worthy. During the course of the year, we have illuminated the lives of so many who have made a difference. Today, we honor Stuart Milk, as we will so applaud two more persons in each of our next two issues.
Harvey Milk was martyred decades ago as a San Francisco city commissioner while fighting for universal human rights on behalf of the gay community. One of the reasons you still hear his name today is because one man — Stuart Milk, Harvey’s nephew, has kept uncle’s legacy alive. The architect of the Harvey Milk Foundation, and its director, Stuart Milk is a Wilton Manors resident, but his voice and advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community is being heard internationally, with no impact greater than the past year, 2013.
Stuart Milk has become a White House envoy and an unofficial ambassador for worldwide LGBT rights. He has gone from Latvia to Los Angeles, speaking out to insure that LGBT citizens, everywhere on this planet, have a voice. At the White House, he hosted the Harvey Milk Champions of Change conference, to be recreated in the Executive Office Building next year. He successfully led campaigns for the establishment of an official annual Harvey Milk holiday in California along with Milk’s induction into the California Hall of Fame and he accepted on behalf of his uncle the Medal of Freedom, from President Barack Obama.
Milk has met with world leaders in Europe, been seen and heard on CNN and MSNBC, and spoken in eastern European hotspots such as Latvia and Baltic Pride events. Milk was this year’s keynote speaker for the Victory Fund's International Conference, and the first non-European to ever open an EU International Human Rights Conference. Living out of a suitcase, he has hosted regional Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfasts in Orlando and San Diego.
The legacy that his uncle left us is alive in 2013 in no small part due to the energy, advocacy and enterprise of this internationally recognized spokesperson for human rights, who you can see shopping at Publix or joining me for a cup of miso soup at Siam Cuisine. Stuart also helped convince the U.S. Post Office to issue a stamp in Harvey Milk’s honor, which will be issued in a few months. Like his uncle, it will be a ‘Forever’ stamp.
As the co founder and President of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart has taken his uncle’s message of authenticity to the global stage, supporting human rights struggles on five continents. Speaking before national parliaments and legislative bodies, travelling tirelessly to universities to faith-based sanctuaries, Stuart has risen in his own right to become a champion of social change and LGBT equality.
Stuart Milk and the foundation volunteers have worked diligently to celebrate and keep alive his uncle’s spirit. Along with Anne Kronenberg, his efforts resonate and inspire gay people globally. The foundation does vital work with a small staff and a modest budget, promoting International Harvey Milk Day Activities on May 22 every year.
Beginning in 2009, the Foundation leadership began working to build collaborative partnerships in order to enable the LGBT youth organizations to access regional or federal funding in the US and in the EU in Europe. Their presence is local; their good global. Indeed, the voice of international LGBT equality has a distinguished and worldwide spokesperson in our neighbor, Stuart Milk.
Already honored this year by Canada with its highest honor, its Inspire Award, we too award him for making a difference, with this year’s SFGN’s ‘Achievement in Excellence’ Award.