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    History, Films, Party & More for Harvey Milk Day 2022

    By Joanie Juster–

    Harvey Milk Day: Sunday, May 22

    Harvey Milk’s birthday falls on a weekend this year, and Castro Street will be filled with events to celebrate what would have been his 92nd birthday.

    The Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, the Castro Community Benefit District, and the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza have planned a day of events honoring his legacy. With the LGBTQ+ community under increasingly frequent and vicious homophobic and transphobic attacks from state and local legislatures around the country, Harvey’s birthday is a perfect time to celebrate his work and learn more about his activism.

    The program on May 22 begins at noon at Harvey Milk Plaza with tributes from some of Harvey’s friends and colleagues, and queer community and elected officials. The community block party then kicks into high gear with beats provided by BAAAHS.

    Meanwhile, the Castro Theatre will be showing not one, but two important films that day!

    Harvey’s messages of hope, advocacy, equality, and activism are on full display in the groundbreaking, Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. Directed by Robert Epstein and produced by Richard Schmiechen, the restored 35mm film was one of the first feature documentaries to address gay life. Its power has not diminished since its premiere—at the Castro Theatre—in 1984. An inspiring, heart-wrenching, eye-opening film, it features a remarkable trove of original documentary materials and archival footage that not only bring Harvey Milk’s life and work to life, but also provide a window into a very particular time and place in our history: the Castro in the 1970s. Bring tissues; I cry every time I watch this film.

    The second film showing at the Castro Theatre on May 22 is the premiere of The Ruth Brinker Story, a short documentary on the life of Project Open Hand founder and legendary AIDS activist Ruth Brinker.

    As the AIDS epidemic raged through San Francisco in the early 1980s, Brinker, a retired food-service worker, began cooking meals in her kitchen to deliver to friends and neighbors who were too ill to take care of themselves. Her goal: not only to provide food, but also to end the isolation that HIV/AIDS patients experienced. “Providing meals with love” became her mission and her byword. The work grew beyond Brinker’s kitchen, becoming Project Open Hand, the largest provider of nutrition to the HIV/AIDS community. Ruth Brinker’s legacy carries on today as Project Open Hand has once again joined the frontlines in facing the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The May 22nd screenings of both films are free, ending with a Red Carpet Premiere Event at 6 pm that will including a panel discussion featuring filmmaker Apo W. Bazidi.

    To register for your free tickets and to learn more about the VIP After Party: https://tinyurl.com/573xw63c

    Karine Jean-Pierre Steps Up to the Podium

    We’ve said it many times: Representation matters. And nothing says “representation” like stepping up to one of most visible and influential podiums in the world.

    On May 13, Karine Jean-Pierre became the new White House Press Secretary, making her the first Black woman, and the first openly LGBTQ+ person, to hold that office. A long-time advisor to President Biden, she has an impressive resume of experience in communication and political roles in both the Biden and Obama administrations handling political campaigns, advocacy and policy work, and teaching. She has big shoes to fill in following Jen Psaki as Press Secretary, but after serving under Psaki as Principal Deputy Press Secretary and Deputy Assistant to the President, Jean-Pierre is clearly up to the task, and understands the importance of her new role.

    In an article in The New York Times, she was quoted as saying: “I understand how important it is for so many people out there, so many different communities. That I stand on their shoulders, and I have been throughout my career.”

    The Power of Names

    When the AIDS Memorial Quilt was first created in 1987, a moving ritual was created to accompany the first display of the Quilt in Washington, D.C.: throughout the display, the names from the Quilt were read aloud, providing an audio component that augmented the visual power of the Quilt.

    The reading of names has been an integral part of Quilt displays ever since. I have had the privilege of coordinating the reading of names at displays in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., since 1989, and will be doing it once again for the 35th anniversary display of the Quilt in Golden Gate Park on June 11 and 12.

    We are inviting the public to help us read the over 10,000 names that will be read that weekend. Each reader will be provided a list of about 30 names from the Quilt to read, to which you are invited to add the names of any friends or loved ones you have lost to AIDS. Reading names only takes a minute or two, but it can be a powerful and cathartic experience. To sign up to read names: https://tinyurl.com/QP35Readers

    Swing Your Partner at Stompede

    COVID forced many of our favorite events to either go on hiatus or go virtual. But the good news is that one of San Francisco’s most joyful events is coming back this month.

    Polish your boots and practice your steps, because Sundance Stompede returns on Memorial Day weekend. San Francisco’s annual country-western dance weekend for the LGBTQ+ community and its friends has become the largest event of its kind anywhere in the world. Presented by the Sundance Association, an all-volunteer nonprofit that promotes country western dancing, Stompede features four nights of dance parties, three days of inspiring dance workshops teaching two-step, swing, line dances, and more, for all levels, plus dance performance exhibitions, and social events.

    Stompede is only one of the Sundance Association’s events. Founded 25 years ago, the Association presents dance classes and dance events throughout the year. Ingu Yun, founder of the Sundance Association, told me that during COVID, when they couldn’t hold indoor dancing in their usual location in San Francisco, they found ways to bring people together safely by taking their dance classes outdoors to public locations where people could practice social distancing while dancing: Union Square, Golden Gate Park, Stern Grove, and even the Cruise Terminal Plaza at Pier 27.

    I’ve been volunteering at Stompede for many years. It is one of my favorite events: a festive celebration of dancing, but also of camaraderie, inclusion, and community. Come on down and join in the fun; tickets for one or all events here: https://www.stompede.com/events.html

    Save the Date: People’s March Returns for Pride Sunday

    When the COVID lockdown in 2020 forced the cancellation of the usual massive Pride events, activists Alex U. Inn and Juanita MORE! saw an opportunity to bring Pride back to its activist roots. They invited the community to take part in a “People’s March & Rally,” a reminder that the original Pride march was a protest.

    Centering the focus of the event on people of color, and the queer and trans communities, their aim was to bring together people of all races, backgrounds, and sexual and gender identities in solidarity for racial justice, to call for an end to police violence, and to demand health care and unemployment relief for community members impacted by the virus. The community turned out enthusiastically to support the event in 2020, and again in 2021. The People’s March & Rally will return this year on Sunday, June 26, starting from Polk and Washington Streets. We will be bringing you more details as they are released.

    Elections Have Consequences

    If anyone still doubted that elections have consequences, here are two words: Supreme Court.

    There are others who can and will write more eloquently on this subject, but right now all I can say is vote! Vote as if your life and your rights depended on it, because it’s crystal clear now that they do. Get involved in campaigns. Donate to organizations that help voters get to the polls. Speak out. Hit the streets in protest. Make your voice heard, because this is not a drill: Every one of us has to do our part.

    Meanwhile, in Ukraine …

    While San Francisco revels in the return of spring weather and beloved events, don’t forget that folks in Ukraine still need our support. Donate here to help LGBTQ+ Ukrainians, thanks to Rainbow World Fund: https://tinyurl.com/RWFUkr

    Joanie Juster is a long-time community volunteer, activist, and ally.

    Published on May 19, 2022