Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Harvey Milk”

Go Giants – SF Pride

Now I know that those of you who have supported the Giants through thick and thin regard people like me with disdain and I actually respect that. Here I am, a relatively new transplant, fresh off the boat, and the first time I attempt to absorb myself in the true essence of American culture, the Giants win the World (excuse me – US) Championship, and there I am strutting around the city with my Giants T-shirts and scarf.

What a Moment!

Truth is, my wife (also very community conscious) and I were enthralled by the Giants during the season as we saw that what was pushing this team on (apart from considerable talent) was an amazing team spirit, an all-for-one-and-one-for-all attitude, and a handy propensity to ignore the stats and the commentators who read too much into the aforementioned stats.

Having already celebrated winning the championship six months ago, why bring it up now? I believe that a team should reflect its town and its supporters. San Francisco is a unique city, excuse me – City – and so are our Giants.

I am proud that the SF Giants have decided to be the first professional sports team to endorse the “It Gets Better” campaign, which began as a response to a spate of bullying young homosexuals culminating in a tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers back in September.

The Giants made their decision after receiving a petition signed by over 6,000 Giants fans and will produce a video to support the campaign. The sports world remains a macho and often homophobic and racist environment. One of my favorite soccer players, Thierry Henry (a black man), endured monkey sounds being made by a small segment of opposing fans when my team played in European games. Recently, even one of the all-time best NBA players was caught making an anti-gay comment.

I am proud that the Giants have made a stand. You win in sports by never compromising on your commitment to win, by never giving  an inch. This is the only way to deal with racism and homophobia and who better to lead us than those who understand what it takes to win.

Today is Harvey Milk Day, a commemoration of the life of Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California and who was assassinated for being gay. It is a fitting day to come together as one City, one baseball team, one community.

Harvey Milk sitting on the SF Board of Supervisors

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Movies That Matter: MILK

I love everything connected to San Francisco. I never thought that I would fall in love with a city but I have. The reasons why are a matter for another post. MILK is about Harvey Milk and gay rights, but it is also about San Francisco.

When I went to see MILK, I was visiting with family in Southern California. Part of the ritual is that my in-laws kindly take our children out to the latest Pixar movie, allowing my wife and I a rare date – usually a meal and movie.

Being still new to the US, I knew nothing about Harvey Milk or the history of the Gay Rights struggle in San Francisco. But the combination of Sean Penn + San Francisco = our night out.

For a basic synopsis, please see the review from Kathleen C. Fennessy on the movie’s Amazon.com page. Here is the first paragraph.

In 1972, Milk (Sean Penn) and his boyfriend, Scott (James Franco), move from New York to San Francisco. Milk opens a camera shop on the Castro. Though considered a safe haven for victims of discrimination, Milk sees enough injustices decide to enter politics. With each race he runs, Harvey’s relationship with Scott unravels further. As he begins to accrue victories, Milk takes on Proposition 6, which denies equal rights to homosexuals.

What draws me to the character of Milk is the fact that he was not a polished politician, groomed from birth as seems to be the case in so many present day leaders. He can be both intense and funny. He makes mistakes, listens, and takes on the ideas of others.

Moreover, he had the ability to inspire people to get involved in grass-roots activism. We observe Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch), the ex-street hustler who created the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial. It is a different kind of leadership when you can empower others to take charge of their own lives and effect change.


It was particularly poignant that MILK was released during the struggle for Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage amendment. As Ms. Fennessy concludes: “Milk is inspirational in the best way: one person can and did make a difference, but the struggle is far from over.

My wife and I watched MILK in Ventura. The couple sitting next to me had been there, faces in the crowd. Usually I can’t stand when someone talks during a movie, but there was something magical hearing their reminiscing.

There is a section in the movie where they show a map of California and the gradual election results of Prop 6. When the results were shown for Ventura County, a huge cheer went up around the movie theater.

Very cool.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

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