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Annual vigil commemorates Milk, Moscone assassinations

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Around 100 people attended a candlelit vigil in Harvey Milk Plaza Monday night to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the assassinations of supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone.

Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, and Moscone were shot to death at City Hall on November 27, 1978 by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White.

The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club organized the vigil, and Co-President Carolina Morales talked about Milk's legacy of social justice and inclusion, and of how he worked to unite the labor and LGBT movements.

"We are here to recruit you," Morales said, quoting Milk. "Let's take action to fulfill the legacy of Harvey Milk."

Kimberly Alvarenga, the Milk club's other co-president, also spoke.

"This day is so symbolic," she said, as she recalled hearing about the assassinations as a young child. "Harvey's message of love, hope, and tireless organizing resounds in our community today. We stand on the shoulders of champions. We cannot forget our history."

Both women noted the significance of the fact that the Milk club has two queer women of color serving as its co-presidents this year.

Gay former supervisor David Campos referred to the legacy of the Milk club as being the conscious of politics in San Francisco.

"After the 'Milk' movie came out people wanted to name the airport after Harvey Milk," Campos said, referring to his ill-fated plan to rename San Francisco International Airport. "Some people in power made sure that the airport wasn't named after Harvey - because Harvey Milk pushed the envelope. Many people got into power by pushing policies which go against Harvey's policies."

(SFO is expected to name Terminal 1, now being remodeled, after Milk.)

Campos pointed out that Milk fought against gentrification during the 1970s. "Thirty-nine years after his death we are still fighting that battle," he said. "It's not enough to elect queer people - we have to elect people who fight for justice. We in San Francisco have to push the envelope."

Longtime activist Alex U. Inn was the next to speak. "As a person of color it's hard to breathe with the leader we have," Inn said, referring to President Donald Trump. "The racism that is so in your face every day is unnerving. We must be held to the highest standards and not take any BS from that administration - we must have each other's backs."

Mia Satya, a trans woman who is running for school board, called for queer history to be taught in schools. "We have a right to learn about ourselves," she said, also expressing her hope that San Francisco would soon see an LGBT-identified mayor.

In fact, earlier this month the State Board of Education voted to approve 10 LGBTQ-inclusive history and social studies textbooks for K-8 classrooms. Local districts are expected to soon purchase the books.

After the speeches there was a largely silent march from Harvey Milk Plaza to 575 Castro Street, the site of Milk's old Castro Camera store. It's currently a store occupied by the Human Rights Campaign. Former supervisor Carol Ruth Silver, who served with Milk on the board, spoke at the store.

"I'm honored to be here," Silver said. "Harvey Milk was my friend and colleague. I'm here for him and for George. We are here because love triumphs. There are people who don't remember. We who do remember must ensure that San Francisco is the beacon for the entire nation."

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