Building renamed in honor of Milk
by Matthew S. Bajko
A building on Treasure Island housing a federal program that trains at-risk youth now bares the name of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to win elective office in a major U.S. city who was assassinated 30 years ago.
The Treasure Island Job Corps Center renamed a campus building the Harvey Milk Memorial Administration Building last week in honor of Milk. It is the first federal building to be dedicated to an openly gay American.
At the November 25 dedication ceremony on the man-made island in the middle of the bay, a bronze bust of the gay rights pioneer similar to the one placed earlier this year inside City Hall was also unveiled.
"Our students are wearing buttons with one of Harvey Milk's famous quotes – 'Give 'em hope,'" said Brian Daher, San Francisco regional director for Job Corps. "It's very fitting because that's what we do at Job Corps – we provide hope through education and training to economically disadvantaged students who may not otherwise have that opportunity."
The job corps center serves 600 students from across the country ages 16 through 24, many of whom are underprivileged and minority youth. Several on hand for last week's unveiling said they had never heard of Milk but welcomed seeing his name added to their campus.
"It's cool. I think it is a really good thing for job corps," said Vice President of Student Government Sajata Poole, 18, from the Bronx in New York City. "His being a supervisor was a major accomplishment."
Milk's openly gay nephew, Stuart, works for the company that helps run the job corps center. He was on hand for the dedication with his mother, Audrey Milk, and called it a fitting tribute to his uncle.
"Youth really are the hope for tomorrow. Harvey saw that and recognized that early on," Stuart Milk told the 75 students on hand to witness the unveiling.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who helped secure the funding to open the job corps center, attended the ceremony and called Milk "a great patriot."
She said Milk's willingness to stand up for what he believed was right would serve as a "wonderful example" for the job corps' students.
"Harvey Milk was all about opportunity for everybody. Sure, he made it better for the LGBT community, but he made it better for everybody," said Pelosi, who marveled that the bust looked just like Milk. "He was comfortable in his own skin and wanted everyone else to be so as well."
Joining Pelosi was Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland). Recently named chair of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, Lee also co-chairs the newly formed LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress.
"Harvey's life embodied all of the good that the human spirit embodies. He was a person who wanted us to live up to our potential regardless of sexual orientation," said Lee. "Thanks to Harvey Milk we have moved forward so far for human justice."
Sculptor Jonah Hendrickson, whose firm Daub Firmin and Hendrickson Sculpture Group created the bust and donated it to the job corps center, said he hoped it would inspire the young trainees who attend the campus to achieve their dreams.
"I know Harvey wanted so deeply for young people to feel a sense of purpose and hope. I hope the trainees here are inspired by Harvey's actions and words and are encouraged," he said.