Letters to the editor

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday April 3, 2024
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Letters to the editor

The USNS Harvey Milk in SF

Here are a few more impressions to add to Matthew S. Bajko's wonderful article covering the U.S. Naval Ship Harvey Milk's inaugural visit to San Francisco this past Thursday ["Milk naval ship makes maiden voyage to San Francisco," online, March 29].

First, I hope I always remember my sighting of another of our city treasures, Donna Sachet, in a stunningly sleek "Lady in Red" outfit striding across Pier 30 on a rainy gray day to a very gray, very business-like naval ship. To me it is a needed representation of diversity, equity, inclusion, adding to the breadth and talent of any organization, including the U.S. armed forces. What an arc of time from the inception of San Francisco Fleet Week during Mayor Dianne Feinstein's tenure and the local revolt against home porting the U.S. Missouri here, and more importantly the "Serving in Silence" era of anti-gay discrimination in the armed forces, to now that enormous ship named for a less than honorably discharged gay man welcoming a perfectly coiffed Sachet to proudly walk up the gangplank. Thanks to U.S. Navy leadership and the largely Democratic leaders who made that change eventually happen. Thanks to Sachet for capturing the moment so well.

Second, I remember so clearly seeing the signs on the not-yet-in-use Muni underground stations' destination signs in the early 1980s saying: "Host a sailor in your home for Fleet Week." Did anyone else see the humorous irony, or was it a double entendre of a really wise PR effort to suggest that then?

Finally, I want to highlight the role of Lewis Loeven, the executive director of San Francisco Fleet Week, in singularly conceiving of the invitation to, and festival for, the Harvey Milk ship in the city. About the only thing he couldn't control was the weather. This event is a further step in the healing between the formerly exclusionary, hostile U.S. armed forces and the diversity of America, including both the LGBTQ+ and people of color communities. Let's do everything we can to keep this wider inclusive vision and reality ever expanding. Thanks, Fleet Week and the Bay Area Reporter, for your parts in continuing that history through the present time.

Charlie Spiegel

San Francisco

Hello from the 'real' Nor Cal

Hello, Bay Area LGBTQ+ folks, from Redding, the "real" Northern California. When you drive north on I-5 past Sacramento heading into Oregon, you come right through Redding. We queer folks up here want you to stop and say hi. If you ever thought of moving, we'd welcome you, despite some of the current right-wingers, who are losing their clout on a daily basis.

We have three friendly gay bars; two mountains to climb, Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen; countless lakes to swim and boat; and sunshine almost year round. Great food, affordable housing, and plenty of jobs await. Someone needs to build a retirement home for us older queer folk. This would be the ideal place.

We love San Francisco and come down frequently for all kinds of fun. Nope, not from the chamber of commerce or any other group, we just want to see some city folks now and then. So, come on up!

Frank D. Treadway

Redding, California

'Unpacking' theater review

Having been present at the opening night of "Unpacking in P'Town," by Jewelle Gomez, I was appalled to read the recent review by Jim Gladstone ["'Unpacking in P'Town' premieres at New Conservatory Theatre Center," March 14].

There's so much beauty to take from the play and instead, the writer rooted his review in invalidating the timeline; revealing nothing about the play but rather that he couldn't imagine or accept what isn't in his personal experience.

He states nothing is said about what the characters have done since they left the stage, which is untrue as the characters clearly reference their lives past the stage.

He questions the credibility of a Black character's response to the phrase "master bedroom." Of course Black people were aware of the implications of the word "master." The 1950s were the emergence of the civil rights movement, the word "master" became even more of a flashpoint.

The reviewer questions how likely it would be for Lydia to articulately talk about her mixed identity and be supported by her friends in her process. Lydia is afraid of being accused of emphasizing her Native heritage to avoid being Black. To argue that she wouldn't be able to articulate the emotional complexity of her own identity because of the time period is insulting and reflects the writer's white-gaze.

People of color have held onto and know who they are. Discourse has always happened in private spaces like the setting in which this play takes place, whether or not people are silenced externally. The narrative thrust of the play uses this private space; a quiet unpacking of chosen family dynamics; about life's living, loving and what it means to be known. As a result, the characters are decidedly made better because of each other.

And his comment about the ghost? Gomez's book, "The Gilda Stories" (1991), features a Black lesbian time traveling vampire, a character the literary world had never seen and that expanded the boundaries of speculative fiction and set the path toward afro-futurism. When Gomez includes an otherworldly character in her work, you should be listening and paying attention, not dismissing.

Lydia's quoting of romance novels, which he disparages, illuminates the hearts of the characters and the play when she states, "nothing erodes a mountain of pain except friendship." When the world is raging on, who doesn't want to be at peace for a moment, with the people we love and trust, celebrating with joy that we made it?

Natalia Vigil

San Francisco

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