I guess in South Florida it was a beach day.

But on Saturday, activists all over the country, including on the west coast of Florida, celebrated the inaugural Harvey Milk Day to increase support for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals.The celebrations were run in tandem with the first Harvey Milk Day in California, a day of recognition for the slain gay rights activist and politician.

Cleve Jones, who was close friends with Milk in the 1970s, said the commemoration is long overdue.

“So many of Harvey’s friends and colleagues did not survive the ’80s and ’90s, so there was only a small group of us who worked very hard for a long time to keep his name alive. At times, it felt like a losing battle,” said Cleve Jones, who made the AIDS Quilt happen. “Now I feel really confident that Harvey’s name will be remembered.” Jones said.

Harvey Milk Day isn’t a formal state holiday, but it is a day of special significance to honor Milk’s contributions to the gay equality movement. Admittedly, his efforts and energies were in San Francisco, a far cry from South Florida. However, the message of Harvey Milk resounded nationally. Of course, it was captured on screen both in documentaries as well as in Hollywood by Sean Penn’s stunning depiction of Milk in the award-winning film.

His battles, of course, occurred in San Francisco just as Anita Bryant was squeezing our oranges here in South Florida. Both causes led to national debates.

Harvey Milk has become a gay American hero. His nephew, Stuart Milk, ontinues to champion his cause, and is often seen here in South Florida, as he has a home in Wilton Manors. Last year, when President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk, it was Stuart who went to the White House to accept it. That medal was then displayed here in Fort Lauderdale at the Stonewall Library.

We will not all win medals as Harvey Milk did posthumously. But we can all be about tolerance, equality and hope. Since this issue has a feature about pets, one thought that comes to mind is that we can all live our lives in such a way that we become the kinds of people our pets think we are. We can, as Abraham Lincoln once wrote, not only be proud of our community, but make our community proud of us.

A bullet from a madman took Harvey Milk from us prematurely, but we have learned again and again in American life that while a murderer’s gun may end a life, it cannot stop a legacy of remembrance.

Therefore, on this past Saturday, while you relaxed quietly on a beach, dined at a restaurant, or worked on catching up with your bills, remember that the freedoms we have won have come with a price. We have borne burdens and endured hardships to reach this day. Let’s not forget the memory of those who helped get us here.

Somehow, with a GLCC, a Dolphin Democratic Club, a host of candidates running for office, and a host of organizations hoisting their own petard, it is downright shameful, significantly embarrassing, and a bit humiliating that South Florida failed to recognize the Harvey Milk Day in any appreciable way. Even Sarasota did something. Next year, let’s do better.


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