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    First Steps

    firststepsAn old Chinese proverb says that “every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The first steps in the public monument that will be the Rainbow Honor Walk started back in 1994, during the depths of the AIDS pandemic here in San Francisco. I remember walking down Castro, my home since 1986, and wondering how could we make sure that history remembered the contributions of our LGBT brothers and sisters. An idea came to me: a walk of fame. Of course, with a generation of our brethren dying from AIDS all around, priorities were – rightly so – about preserving “life” not “memory.”

    Over the years, the idea ebbed and flowed. Then supervisor (and my friend) Bevan Dufty told me, “David, it’s a good idea; keep at it. One day the time will be right.” That time came in 2011, when Castro businessman and community activist Isak Lindenauer had a similar idea. He called it “The Rainbow Honor Walk.” Bevan did what he did best; he introduced us. The result – an all volunteer organization that is making a gift to San Francisco of The Rainbow Honor Walk.

    Last month, the first of the 20 plaques was unveiled: Castro’s own Sylvester, one of the early deaths from AIDS and a true Castro fixture. His music lives on, and now, so will his image and his history. Fittingly, the unveiling took place in Harvey Milk’s former camera shop, now the Human Rights Campaign Action Center & Store. There were many people there (including one of Sylvester’s former back-up singers) who have long walked the walk and talked the talk of LGBT rights, equality and expression. It was an emotional and inspiring day.



    But, none of this comes free. We need your help – and your donations! Now through March 1, a fundraising exhibition of artworks by Beth Van Hoesen, the late Castro district resident and nationally recognized artist, is on display at the prestigious George Krevsky Gallery (77 Geary (at Grant) near Union Square. Featuring more than 20 original works donated by the E. Mark Adams and Beth Van Hoesen Adams Trust, the exhibit will raise funds for the construction of the Rainbow Honor Walk. The works are also available for online viewing at And, of course, you can donate online at

    The first phase of the Rainbow Honor Walk will be installed along Castro Street beginning this spring as part of the overall Castro streetscape improvements. Eventually, the walk will extend from the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy on 19th Street at Diamond, down to Castro — the LGBT community’s “Main Street”— and will continue up Market Street with additional extensions on 18th Street. On Market Street, San Francisco’s main thoroughfare, the Walk will continue to the LGBT Center at Octavia Boulevard.


    Designer Carlos Casuso with David Perry and the first Rainbow Honor Walk plaque. PHOTO BY RINK

    Over the coming weeks, I hope you’ll join us in learning more about the first 20 of the walk’s honorees. We owe them our thanks for having walked the walk when that walk was dangerous and often cruel. We walk in their footsteps.

    David Perry is the co-founder and chair of the nonprofit/all volunteer Rainbow Honor Walk. He is also the creator and host of Comcast Hometown Network’s “10 Percent,” the longest running LGBT TV show in California.