Friday, November 28, 2008

Harvey Milk Remembrance to Feature "My Thanksgiving Prayer"

Today, in San Francisco, there will be a memorial to Harvey Milk, and the SF Gay Men's Chorus is going to sing one of my songs, "My Thanksgiving Prayer." Nothing could make me feel more proud and humbled all at the same time.

For those who don't really know who Harvey Milk is, go to Jim Burroway's superb recounting of the moments leading to his assassination posted at Box Turtle Bulletin. And if you are anywhere near where the movie MILK is being shown, go see it as soon as you can. It's the best film I've seen all year.

As he recounts,

Thirty years ago today, on November 27, 1978, tens of thousands of stunned mourners gathered in the Castro for an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall. The sea of candles stretched ten city blocks long. At the steps of city hall, Joan Baez led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang a hymn by Felix Mendelssohn.

What Jim didn't mention is that this was the first public appearance by the first gay chorus in the world. For me, the fact that they're going to sing one of my songs on this historic occasion means I get to play just a little part in gay history.

Back then, Harvey was fighting against a proposition that would have started a witch hunt in the public school system to get rid of anyone who is or might be gay. Backed by the loathsome words of Anita Bryant, who compared us to dogs and insisted that we would be the downfall of civilization, it's amazing to be at this moment in history where, once again, the conservative religious forces used the same demeaning tactics to strip away our civil right to be married.

So, things don't change. Only the faces change. The heated hate-filled language continues, except this time it was powered by a 20 million dollar campaign by the Mormons, aided and abetted by even more millions donated by groups led by James Dobson, the Catholic Church and other misguided souls. And, once again, the campaign was filled with lies and hateful rhetoric.

30 years ago, Harvey Milk was killed because he refused to stand down when he insisted that gay people are human beings who deserve to be treated as equals. He refused to stay in the closet and he demanded that all gay people "come out, come out wherever you are."

In his memory and his name, I hope every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person will come out to their family, workmates and friends this weekend. Make that call. Stand your ground. Let them know that "the gays" are not some mob "out there in San Francisco making trouble."

Unless and until every GLBT person comes out fully and openly, our chances of being accepted as human beings will fall just a little short.

Come out! Come out now. Come out today.


Birdie said...

Steve, I discovered your blog when you were linked some time ago by Father Tony. Once again you've been linked by Joe.My.God and I find this wonderful message that leads me to comment.

As I study ways to lead my church into becoming open and affirming, I'm learning what circumstances pave the way. Did you know that it takes the acquaintance of an average of three gay persons for a straight person to act on their behalf? That means speaking in their defense, acting for their equality, and voting.

Your closing statement could not be more true. To bring straight people out of their complacency, this issue needs faces. They need to know how their lack of knowledge and action is hurting people they know, work with, and do business with. They need to know that their gay neighbor is just someone who has the same grocer, the same taxes and the same needs as anyone else.

Keep spreading the word! Thank you for your voice, in writing and in song.

Steve Schalchlin said...

Birdie, thanks so much for your comments. I didn't know about the "three friends" rule. But I don't think we have three gays for every straight person. :)

Tony Adams said...

Best wishes for an an absolutely wonderful time at the San Francisco concert. Take pics and video.

Steve Schalchlin said...

Thanks, Father Tony. And thank you for making it possible for our friend to be there.