THE LEGACY OF HARVEY MILK (PART ONE) – DAVID E WATTERS #HarveyMilkDay


PART ONE: BIRTH IS THE BEGINNING

 

Birth is beginning,
Hope is its name-
A child gives meaning to the world
.

Shalom (Seymour) Freedman (born June 17, 1942)

HARVEY

The year was 1930, the first year of the great depression; Hoover was President, and the United States population was at 123 million and unemployment at 8.9%. 

Once a land of opportunity and optimism, America was awaking from its dream; rubbing sleep from its eyes, to witness a land of quiet desperation. Concepts of capitalism and democracy came into question and, for many, hope seemed lost.

The movie theaters were now more necessity than pleasant pastime, a place to find escape and fantasy, providing a perfect blend of glamour and gaiety; with handsome iconic stars, flawless leading ladies, comedians and character actors, who brought temporary relief from the reality of the world outside their doors.

Ironically, the nation was also alive with music that contrasted to the economic downturn. They were getting happy whilst putting on the Ritz on the sunny side of the street.

When, on 22 May 1930, Harvey Bernard Milk was born to William and Minerva Karns Milk in Woodmere, New York, there could be no speculation that he would leave such a profound imprint on the social consciousness of the world.

There were a number of complex and significant factors which influenced the development of Harvey Milk as a man of social conscience and political importance. In order to contextualise his achievements it is important to understand Harvey’s early influences, his personal relationships, early career and the changing political climate of America, during his brief but incredible life.

His Grandfather, Morris Milk, had emigrated from Lithuania to the United States in 1896 and, two years later, in 1898, founded Milk’s department store. Significantly, he was one of the founders of the Woodmere Congregation, Sons of Israel; the first synagogue in the area.

Harvey Milk, the nice Jewish boy who, as a child, was teased about his physical appearance, graduated from Bay Shore High School in Bay Shore, New York, in 1947. Here, he had played high school football and, although he acknowledged his homosexuality to himself at 14, was perceived very much as a man’s man.

Harvey’s sharp wit and talkative nature made him the class clown who would be remembered, by one of his peers in his high school yearbook as, “Glimpy Milk—and they say WOMEN are never at a loss for words”

1947 TO 1951: HOMOSEXUALS AND OTHER SEX PERVERTS

From High School, Harvey progressed on to study at New York State College for Teachers in Albany. Whilst there, he majored in mathematics, wrote for the college newspaper and, in many respects, he spent his four years at college blending in. This is not to say that Harvey didn’t explore his sexuality but this was a time when open homosexuality was taboo; carrying with it a burden of severe social sanctions and legal ramifications.

After all, this was the era of Joseph McCarthy who, with many other prominent politicians, tactically played upon society’s ignorance and anxiety about sexuality in order to gain public backing for his anti-Communist crusade.

What McCarthy, Senator Kenneth Wherry and others postulated was that there was a connection between masculinity and patriotism and that homosexuals who didn’t meet their definition of masculinity, were subversives who posed a serious threat to the nation.

In 1950 the Senate committee produced a report, Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government, which contained the following words:

“As has been previously discussed in this report, the pervert is easy prey to the blackmailer… It is an accepted fact among intelligence agencies that espionage organizations the world over consider sex perverts who are in possession of or have access to confidential material to be prime targets where pressure can be exerted”.

The Lavender Scare, as it became known, ran parallel to the Red Scare and resulted in a claim by John Puerifory, the Undersecretary of state, that there was a “homosexual underground” in the State Department. This, and the claim by McCarthy that 205 communists were also in the State Department, justified the sacking of 91 homosexual employees who were seen as easy targets for blackmail and, as such, a threat to national security.

Like others of his generation, Harvey enlisted in the United States Navy. He served upon the submarine rescue ship, USS Kittiwake (ASR-13) during the Korean War and later transferred to Naval Base San Diego where he served, at the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade), as a diving instructor until 1955.

The newly established George W. Hewlett High School on Long Island was Harvey’s next career stop, where, perhaps, he learned how to hold an audience in the palm of his hand with the charm, wit and wisdom we have ourselves witnessed.

1956: JOE CAMPBELL

In 1956 Harvey met Joe Campbell, seven years his junior, at Jacob Riis Park in Queens.

Randy Shilts in, The Mayor of Castro Street, paints perfectly the story of how Harvey and Joe first met:

The hot July sun darted on Joe Campbell’s mischievous dark eyes entrancing Harvey Milk, who lay near Campbell and his friends at the gay section of Riis Park Beach in Queens. With his thick dark hair combed back, except for the waterfall curl on his forehead, the nineteen-year-old Campbell looked a lot like James Dean, only more handsome, and Harvey couldn’t take his eyes off him. Joe had at last found someone to take care of and protect him. Harvey Milk, twenty-six, found someone who needed him. ‘It was a selection basically,’ Joe Campbell said later. ‘Harvey selected me and I was in the market to be selected.’ That was how Joe and Harvey started what would be the longest relationship in either of their lives.

The pair seemed an unlikely match; Harvey, the conservative looking businessman, and Joe, the “Sugar Plum Fairy”, a part of Andy Warhol’s circle, who was immortalised in the Lou Reed song, Walk on the Wild Side.

Joe came and hit the streets, looking for soul food and a place to eat…and, for over a period of almost six years, he found this with Harvey. The couple lived together in New York, briefly in Dallas, Texas and again in New York where Milk found employment as an actuarial statistician at an insurance firm.

On paper, Harvey and Joe seemed at opposite ends of the spectrum but we all know about books and covers and whatever brought and kept them together endured beyond their time as lovers; there was a fond friendship that survived.

1962: CRAIG RODWELL

Harvey had an eye for the younger man and in 1962 became involved with Craig L. Rodwell; ten years his junior.

Rodwell (1940 – 1993) is probably best known as the founder of the first bookstore devoted to gay authors, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore. Also an activist, Rodwell participated in numerous gay rights protests including the landmark Stonewall Riots in 1969.

It was this activism that discouraged the still closeted Harvey, who disapproved of Rodwell’s involvement with the gay activist organization, the Mattachine Society.

1963: JACK GALEN MCKINLEY

Jack Galen McKinley (1947- 1980) was 16 when he moved into Harvey’s Upper West Side apartment.

McKinley had begun stage managing some experimental projects for Tom O’Horgan, best known as director of both Hair and Jesus Christ, Superstar on Broadway, and Harvey, drawn to this world, moved to Greenwich Village, becoming an unofficial patron of the arts; financially supporting his friend’s artistic endeavours with his income on Wall Street.

The relationship with McKinley was unsettling and perplexing for Harvey; Jack’s manic-depressive behaviour, reportedly worsened through drug and alcohol use, escalated to a string of suicide attempts.

Desperate, Harvey took Jack to visit with Joe Campbell, who himself was recovering from a suicide attempt.

Valentine’s Day 1980, Jack Galen McKinley, aged just thirty-three, committed suicide in New York City. In a symbol of their mutual bond, his ashes were split and scattered in the Hudson River as well as from the Golden Gate Bridge near where he had helped to scatter Harvey’s ashes a year before.

Prompted by McKinley and the theatrical community that he had become involved with, Harvey swapped his conservative appearance for long hair and denims and his outwardly “square” lifestyle for a more honest, politically conscious approach.

In response to Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia, Harvey publicly burned his BankAmericard; Bank America were one of the war’s principal financial backers.

The nice Jewish boy, who had always followed the rules, was fired from his job, but the years of what seem random influences had equipped him with economic savvy, theatrical flair and a quick and ready wit; a Politician was born and Harvey never looked back.

TOMORROW – PART TWO: I’M HERE TO RECRUIT YOU

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NEVER BLEND IN – DAVID E WATTERS

About the book

NEVER BLEND IN, by National Diversity Award Winner David E Watters, is an accessible and powerful toolkit for living unlimited; candid stories and wise words which encourage, inspire, uplift and give hope to those who need it most, those who may feel disenfranchised or who may lack self-belief. 

This ground-breaking, vital book of exclusive celebrity and deeply personal non-celebrity testimonies is aimed primarily at a young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning audience, but it is also of great value to educators, parents, family and mental health professionals seeking insight into the LGBTQ experience.

Role models from education, entertainment, law enforcement, medical and emergency services, politics, religion and sports have participated in this much needed discourse to illuminate the reader’s journey of self-discovery and to illustrate that living a life unlimited by labels will lead to personal, professional and spiritual fulfilment.

NEVER BLEND IN includes original and insightful interviews with actors Alan Cumming OBE (Cabaret, Spy Kids, The Good Wife), Stephen Fry (Peter’s Friends, Wilde)Anthony Rapp (Rent), Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse, The Princess DiariesThe Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, The Devil’s Advocate, Scream 3, Sorority Boys, Saved! and Hostel: Part 2), Colton Ford (The Lair), Marcus Patrick (My Wife & KidsCSI: MiamiPassions and Dancing With The Stars), Scotch Ellis Loring (Frasier, Malcolm in the Middle, 24, Alias, Touched by An Angel) and Adele Anderson (Fascinating Aida); key equality advocates, educators and influencers of policy Sue Sanders (Schools Out), Charles Robbins (CEO, The Trevor Project), Stephen Williams MP, Jack MacKenroth (Project RunwayQueens of Drag: NYC), Rabbi Denise EgerLt. Dan Choi and veteran human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell; filmmaker Parvez Sharma (A Jihad for Love); musicians Darren Hayes (Savage Garden) and Levi Kreis (Tony Award winner for “Best Featured Actor in a Musical” for his role as Jerry Lee Lewis in the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet) ; sporting greats, NBA star, John Amaechi (author of Man in the Middle) and Olympic swimmer Bruce Hayes; transgender trailblazers Calpernia Addams, the Rev David E. Weekley (author of In from the Wilderness) and Jamison Green (author of Becoming a Visible Man); Mental Health professionals, Gladeana McMahonAntoine Spiteri and Dr. John Shafer; writers Tom Robb Smith (Child 44, The Secret Speech), Leslea Newman (A Letter to Harvey Milk), Linda Goldman (Coming Out, Coming In), Michael Musto (The Village Voice);  Del Shores (Sordid Lives); representatives from organizations including The Trevor ProjectThe Harvey Milk Foundation, PFLAGFireFLAGThe Gay Police Association and Schools Out and colleagues of Harvey Milk; Anne KronenbergDaniel Nicoletta and Tom Ammiano.

These engaging stories of living authentically, with dignity and unlimited by labels will help readers to understand how self-belief determines the path that they choose and that life need not be a self-fulfilling prophecy when they improve self-concept, drive out fear and embrace new challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, eliminate self-imposed limitations and cease dependence on others to provide validity.

The various voices in this book candidly and sincerely share their wisdom and belief that we can be an important part of society without blending in; that we can live with 100% authenticity, unlimited by labels; that we shouldn’t be expected to compromise our identity to find acceptance and everyone, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, has a right to fully live.

There is practical advice and guidance from the LGBT community on how life need not be a self-fulfilling prophecy and that by recognizing that our “truth” has been shaped through our relationships, our environment and our experiences, we can begin to change our perceptions, heighten our self-esteem and move toward our personal and professional goals with clear vision and purpose….

 

About the Author

National Diversity Award Winner, David E. Watters, is a teacher, motivational speaker and writer; a passionate equality advocate, committed to enhancing the lives of young people and adults who may feel marginalised or limited by labels.

As a teacher, he is committed to developing the whole person through creatively challenging students to embrace their unique value, and that of others, to encourage them to fulfill their full potential. He is nominated for an Excellence in Diversity Award 2015, for his contribution to enhancing the diversity agenda within education.

Since graduating from The Institute of Education, University of London, David has gone on to train as a mediator, and is a qualified facilitator for The Pacific Institute. 

As Director of NBI Associates, David devises and delivers engaging, enjoyable and interactive Diversity and Cultural Enhancement workshops utilizing Cognitive Behavioural and Performing Arts strategies for individual, corporate and academic clients.

Watters is also the founder and coordinator of the inclusive, inspirational and international Give ‘em Hope Campaign; an online initiative which utilises all available social networks to encourage and uplift those who doubt their validity, feel isolated or limited by labels, through the sharing of written and video testimonies. The campaign was honoured at the National Diversity Awards 2014 when it won the Community Organisation Award (Multi-Strand).

Watters was a key player in the Equal Love Campaign UK; taking the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 and successfully achieving Marriage Equality for same-sex couples in the United Kingdom.

His passion and expertise has brought many opportunities to write and speak on social change and his book, NEVER BLEND IN, brings together this wealth of experience and the voices of those whom he has met along the way.

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About neverblendin

David Watters, a graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh, Trinity College of Music, London and the Institute of Education, University of London, has worked internationally within education and Educational Management for more than 20 years. He has taught extensively within many socially and culturally diverse settings; most recently as a Head of Performing Arts within Further Education. He is a personal and professional development associate with The Pacific Institute (www.pacificinstitute.co.uk), personal coach, freelance writer and founding member of NBI Associates. He is a writer on social equality issues, is a key player in the Equal Love Campaign UK and author of the forthcoming book, NEVER BLEND IN which features key voices from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and which aims to inspire and encourage those who may lack self-esteem or who question their validity. David is currently promoting a youtube campaign"Give 'em Hope"and is asking individuals, couples and groups to make and share videos telling about the benefits of living with personal authenticity. He has shared a platform with Stuart Milk and Peter Tatchell and is a supporter of 17-24-30, The Trevor Project, Schools Out, The Terrence Higgins Trust, The Albert Kennedy Trust and numerous others. His background in arts and education, combined with a solid understanding of Cognitive Behavioural Strategies, and his passion for Equality Advocacy drive every aspect of his work as a personal development facilitator, motivational speaker and writer. View all posts by neverblendin

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