Friday, November 29, 2013

Critiquing the 35th Annual Milk/Moscone Vigil and March

(Bravo to the Eviction = Death banner at the front of the march! Local progressives need to keep an eye on great signage at demonstrations, so that an image does not need a caption for the viewer to see a message. Credit: Liz Highleyman.)

After speaking today with longtime affordable housing advocate and my friend Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who was key to organizing the November 27 vigil and street protest marking the 35th anniversary of the killing of Harvey Milk and George, I decided to critique the night of events and state what I believe was either good or poor about what I observed from my computer screen and after hearing from folks who were present.

Due to a retraining order exacted as part of a political  vendetta by the District 8 Supervisor, I was unable to attend the events. Regardless of my non-attendance, I believe my observations contain truth that needs to be spoken.

Let's begin with the good news. There was a fantastic and large turnout at 7 pm at Harvey Milk Plaza of LGBT community organizers, political club leaders, a sprinkling of elected and appointed officials, members of the Gay Men's Chorus and ordinary folks. Some estimates peg the number at the plaza and who marched from there down to City Hall near 2,000 and videos and photos show hordes in the streets.

Earlier, the Harvey Milk Foundation held its annual remembrance top-heavy with ambitious queer and straight politicians, with Stuart Milk serving as the host. Other than exploit his uncle's name, Stuart is a very minor actor in the modern gay movement who wouldn't attract nearly as much attention as he does if his family name were any other than Milk.

(Credit: Patrick Connors.)

(Credit: Steve Rhodes.)

(Credit: David Elliot Lewis.)

From all accounts, the community organizers who were allowed mic time at the plaza rally tapped into the fighting spirit of Harvey to decry the years of evictions that have led to a debilitating lack of affordable housing crisis. It pleases me no end that not a single self-serving elected official was invited to speak and that the focus was on San Francisco's greedy gentrification displacing hundreds of longtime residents. Hundreds gathered at the end of the march at City Hall, with candle of hope lighting the darkness.

In the minus column is the lack of signage for individuals to hold up. While the organizers put time and money into creating a decent-enough poster announcing the vigil, which I'm not sure it was wise to put so much effort into that when there was beaucoup free mainstream media and social networking awareness about the Nov. 27 date and round-year anniversary, no comparable effort was made to print up legal-sized message-appropriate signs.

FYI, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club has $4,500 in the bank, according to their latest filing with the Ethics Commission. For $100-$200 bucks they could have created powerful visual message with some printed signs and given individual another way to engage - by holding a candle of help and "Housing for All" signs.

Good to see a few folks created hand-made and readable signs, but imagine if hundreds of people held up small posters saying, Housing For All, and that crucial demand were part of the visual messaging from Wednesday night.

(Credit: Brian Chickpea Busta.)

A chance to hold the elitist 1 percent Human Rights Campaign, which never advocates locally or nationally for affordable housing for queers and remains silent about cuts to the food stamps program, just two example of how they don't contribute to solving economic justice issues for us, was dashed by two of the organizers.

On the Facebook event page, people piped up about how HRC is in bed with a hedge fund vulture and other problems with the group and I thought the criticism might transform into demands made on HRC before engaging with them on the vigil. Why not, say, demand HRC commit to lobby the Mayor and Supervisors for anti-eviction laws or put pro-tenant signs in their windows, something visible and tangle?

Big ego Brian Basinger who operates an AIDS housing organization that does fine work for clients, and a vigil organizer, quickly put an end to that hope. He responded to HRC critics thus:

One of the folks involved reached out to the HRC store and asked if we can use their space to store the collateral. They said yes immediately so he brought the news to the group. We do not have the luxury of time to have our energies redirected into that conversation, so I let it go. I invite everyone to come to the corner of 18th and Castro today to help distribute posters and flyers.

Cleve Jones said:

Many of us have had many issues with HRC over many years. Nonetheless, the local folks who staff the HRC store have offered us their support in this endeavor. It's helpful. 

So, for a crumb of space in their store for the posters Brian and Cleve silence discussion about HRC and woefully mischaracterizes things. It's no luxury to put pressure on HRC at all times. Now that the vigil is over, what assistance do Brian or Cleve or the activist community have in hand from HRC in creating affordable housing for queers?

(Credit: David Elliot Lewis.)

This may be the best news of all, which comes from Steven T. Jones over the Bay Guardian. Some social shunning of the most polarizing San Francisco politician who continually betrays the agenda and legacy of Harvey:

Housing activist Tony Robles, a board member of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, recalled being a student at Mission High School when the news of the assassinations was announced, an event that profoundly affected him. He said they represented “the spirit of community and the spirit of fighting for what is right.”

Robles called out Sup. [redacted], a Milk successor representing the Castro, calling [redacted] unworthy of that legacy, citing [redacted]’s legislation allowing more apartments to be converted to condos and with closing the parks at night. “You were no Harvey Milk when you made that move, brother,” Robles said, closing with this hope: “Let the poetry of Harvey Milk’s struggle live on in the streets of San Francisco.” 

Tommi reports what happened next:

People booed when they heard "supervisor of this district."

Many thanks to all who made the people's vigil and march something to be proud of!

No comments: