Thursday, April 14, 2011

After Liz Taylor Died, Request to Lower
SF Rainbow Flag Rejected by MUMC

Months ago, I reached out to Andrea Aiello who is the executive director of the Castro Benefit District organization, which I am so happy to report falls under the open government regulations of the state Brown Act. I wanted to start a dialog with her over my effort to create a collaborative process involving more than the control queens of the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro, in how more members of the community can make use of the iconic rainbow flag and pole at Harvey Milk Plaza.

Tonight I attended a CBD meeting at the community space above the BofA, and found a warm and receptive crowd of eleven board members and others, who are supportive of my efforts regarding the enormous flag at the plaza and is on municipal property.

Someone mentioned that a request went to Steve Adams, the grand pooh bah of MUMC, to lower the rainbow flag in honor of Liz Taylor. It took Steve all of 15-minutes to summarily reject the request to fly our community's shining colors out of respect for an icon who opened her mouth for gays, people with AIDS and raised millions of dollars that have directly benefited many in our community.

No one tonight expressed any pleasure with the current situation, whereby a crucial piece of queer public space and an iconic monument are out of the reach of everyone, except MUMC's president.

All CBD members were given my contact info, so I can share with them the email trail I've collected showing MUMC's claim to a written agreement with the city giving them this control is bogus. The president of CBD's board, Dominic Campodonico, strongly endorsed a transparent process for lowering the flag and said the present way of doing things is not fair.

When asked what I wanted done, my reply was that my proposal from February to fellow activists, the Department of Public Works, MUMC, CBD and other interested parties to just all get in the same room and begin a discussion re-examining who control this small, but epic slice of queer public space. A number of folks said they'd make calls about my push to remove MUMC as the sole ruler of the rainbow flag and pole.

On the matter of not flying our rainbow colors at half-staff for Liz Taylor, a patron saint for millions of us dead and living LGBT people, for just a single-day is reprehensible. It would have taken all of 30-minutes for MUMC to lower the flag, maybe work with activists to arrange for a bugler to blow taps, have a short ceremony with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence blessing Liz's spirit and let the word spread about this honor for her.

I guess we should be proud of managing to have MUMC lower the flag in February for murdered gay Ugandan David Kato after I shamed them into doing so, because Liz Taylor didn't receive the same treatment.

As if the Liz Taylor rejection weren't enough, I recently heard about how lesbians approached MUMC to have the flag lowered for Del Martin, lesbian leader and founding grandmother of the modern movement with her wife Phyllis Lyon, when Del passed away.

Yes, MUMC denied the request on behalf of Del Martin, at first, but after lesbians and others heavily pressured the merchants group, our community's flag at Milk Plaza flew at half-staff. If our sisters have to organize a small campaign against MUMC's unwillingness to show public respect at the plaza for Del Martin, something is rancid at MUMC.

Friends and neighbors, I ask you to speak out favorably for collaborative control and a transparent process governing the rainbow flag and pole in the heart of the Castro. We should all be upset that one group, not subject to the Brown Act, and without any written agreement with City Hall, makes all of us jump through hoops just requesting access to the flag.

(The photo of three Liz posters, taped way up on the window at the unofficial memorial window of BofA at 18th and Castro, was taken tonight. Credit: MPetrelis.)


Richard H. said...

Very sad day when LGBT persons or organizations will not, or can not, pay even such a small tribute to a great humanitarian. Whoever made the decision to NOT lower this flag in respect for our fallen supporter, should be removed from authority.

Anonymous said...

The current leader of MUMC fancies himself the neighborhood boss, if you want anything you need to kneel down and kiss his ring. I'd love to see some regime change. Many merchants do not feel as though the organization represents them anymore.

I do think that MUMC paid for the flag and pole and agreed to manage the flag, but I do not think they own it or should control it in the manner of a dictatorship.

Michael said...

i'm so glad someone made the request for saint liz. it's put the issue of who controls the castro's public spaces back on the neighborhood's radar. not sure why the press ignores stories like the liz taylor rejection, and the fact that a private org, MUMC, rules over an important piece of queer 'public' space. with steve adams in charge of the flag and pole, it's a very private space. that must change.