Program Honoring Harvey Milk Discusses FAIR Education Act
By Ken Pierce
Though it was a sparse crowd, none-the-less the first of several events honoring Harvey Milk, last Tuesday, was exciting, informative, and meaningful.
Held at the beautiful California Museum and hosted by The Harvey Milk Foundation, Equality California (EQCA) and the California State LGBT Legislative Caucus, the event focused on a discussion of the FAIR Education Act (SB 48) as well as related issues including peer abuse which is prevalent in some of our schools.
The FAIR Education Act authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) mandates all California schools to be more inclusive in teaching students about the history and accomplishments LGBT people have in American society.
Because of the questions raised by far-right extremist and faith-based political organizations the Harvey Milk Foundation thought a program dispelling rumors and untruths those organizations have made public would be helpful and a great way to honor the memory of Harvey Milk.
To open the evening Speaker of the Assembly, John A. Pérez gave a speech about the importance of the FAIR Education Act. After informing the audience of a few historical instances where LGBT people played a pivotal role in American history, he said, “By ensuring our students understand the importance, not just of Harvey Milk and the Stonewall Riots, but also the artists, business leaders, and military leaders who are LGBT who made enormous contributions to our society, ensuring that the work to build a more just society, a more perfect union continues to evolve.”
Members of the panel discussing the FAIR Education Act included, Stewart Milk, nephew of Harvey and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation; Sen. Mark Leno, author of the legislation that created Harvey Milk Day as well as the FAIR Education Act; Anne Kronenberg, also co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, and who was depicted in the movie, MILK and served as Harvey Milk’s campaign manager when he ran for San Francisco City Supervisor. Kronenberg currently serves as Director of the Department of Emergency Management for the City and County of San Francisco.
In addition, panel members included, Thomas Adams, PH.D., Director of Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources for the California Department of Education; Laurie Hasenamp, Interim Director of EQCA; and Dr. Larry Levine, Professor of Law at the University of the Pacific where he teaches Sexual Orientation and the Law.
The discussion was highly informative, not only dispelling myths about what the FAIR Education Act is and does, but how it will be implemented in the schools.
Stewart Milk talked about the role The Harvey Milk Foundation is taking on education. “The only way societal change happens is through education,” explained Milk.
He went on to talk about two centers named after his uncle that recently opened in Italy and how they both have educational programs that not only promote LGBT equality, but equality for all people.
Sen. Leno said the two bills, Harvey Milk Day and the FAIR Education Act are “linked due to Harvey Milk being the first openly gay man elected to a public office in California and gay hero to so many LGBT people and allies”, and the fact that educating students about his accomplishments on gay and civil rights issues will allow LGBT students to identify with those like Milk and encourage them to feel good about themselves.
The rest of the program was discussing implementation if the FAIR Education Act.
Stuart Milk said about not waiting on the textbooks with LGBT inclusion, “We continue to lose young people every day because we’re not teaching inclusion, we’re not teaching diversity. The individuals we have lost takes a toll, not just on losing them but on our entire society. We have lost the next Steve Jobs; we’ve lost the next Sen. Leno, because we are not doing the job of teaching inclusion in our schools. So I don’t accept that we have to wait until 2016 before the next generation of text books are out.”
Dr. Adams of the State Education Office and EQCA’s Laurie Hasenamp both confirmed that implementation is immediate with teachers adding it to their lesson plans while new teaching materials are being developed. While not all schools are following through with the implementation, in the coming months and year, that too will be addressed.
Harvey Milk Day events continued on his birthday, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. First, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang on the west steps of the California State Capitol building where they premiered their new Harvey Milk Day Anthem: “Give ‘Em Hope!”. Equality Action NOW (EAN), a local grassroots civil rights organization hosted their 3rd Annual Harvey Milk Day Celebration at Mulvaney’s Next Door to the B&L, 1215 19th Street, Sacramento from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. During a short program, special guest, Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) who sponsored the bill that created Harvey Milk Day will receive EAN’s “Spirit of Harvey Milk” award. Five other community members also received the award.
Photos by Kati Garner
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