Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Brody's Notes & Scribbles... HRC Moves Into Harvey Milk's Old Store- Gay Grassroots Angry

575 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA   Photo By Paula Martinac
By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) DEC 7 | A little bird told me a couple of months ago that the Washington DC based Human Rights Campaign had successfully negotiated a lease on what was once slain San Fransisco city supervisor and Gay rights icon Harvey Milk's old camera store at 575 Castro Street in the city.  The moment my source told me that tidbit of news, my initial thought  was how much of a feces-storm would ensue from HRC taking over that location.
Judging from reactions to the announcement made yesterday by HRC President Joe Solmonese, the stampede to condemn the move has been what I expected and then some.
Here's what Solmonese said:
“It is Harvey Milk’s vision of hope that continues to inspire the work that we do at the Human Rights Campaign,” said Solmonese. “We are the beneficiaries of his groundbreaking activism and are honored to be a part of the future that he envisioned.”
Okay, the "love fest" starts with this statement from Robin McGehee, the director of GetEQUAL:
 "I can definitely tell you the grassroots community is very frustrated and feels it's an insult for the HRC to be in that space," says Robin McGehee, the director of GetEQUAL, a gay rights org that stages direct protests. "I hope by being that space every day they're reminded by the direct actions and protests that Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones spurred out of that spot and never compromise equality."
"In our opinion," McGehee says, "the HRC as a body is way too close to the White House and the president in particular and that compromised relationship means that you're put in a position where there's not an unequivocal stance demanding equality."
Using the current legislative battle over 'Don't Ask-Don't Tell' which McGehee predicts won't pass during this 'lame-duck' Congressional session, she continues with:
"This group that has millions of dollars and the access they have with the White House and Congress should be able to get federal legislation passed and not leaving us sitting less than equal."
Now, it ought to be noted that HRC did say also that in addition to HRC'smerchandise with its signature “equal” logo, the shop will carry items emblazoned with the words and images of the late supervisor. HRC stated a portion of the proceeds from the sale of those items would be donated to local Bay Area organisations that continue to carry on his legacy, such as the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and the SF based GLBT Historical Society.
Not that the fact HRC's doing so mollified McGehee or HRC's other critics much:
"I do believe there is often an effort on HRC's behalf to capitalize on equality, and I hope they're not capitalizing on the name of Harvey Milk. If the ghost of Harvey Milk pushes them to take no compromised actions to fight for equality than I'll appreciate them taking that space," said McGehee. 
The current HRC store which is located 600 Castro Street, at the corners of 19th Street and Castro Street, will move into the new location with a soft opening in January of 2011, and hold its grand opening in May of 2011 in conjunction with the Harvey Milk Day holiday activities. During the move, HRC has said that it will work to preserve a mural dedicated to Milk from a previous tenant, and work alongside the San Francisco GLBT Historical Society to create a new photo mural of Milk within the store.
Reactions from the blogosphere were universally derisive of HRC's leasing the location:
HRC is like the Disney Company of the gay rights world. That place should be preserved as a historic landmark but now its going to be a gift shop selling equal sign mugs. Gross.
Just as HRC does not speak for the entire community, Robin McGehee and her 10 person organization sure as hell don't speak for the grass roots. The store was empty for months, better HRC than nobody.
Holy gay blasphemy, Batman.
The HRC'ers are the same type of assimilationist/accomodationists that were Harvey Milk's political rivals.
Granted HRC and groups like them have their place in the scheme of things but...Harvey Milk's old camera shop is NOT their place.
REVOLTING! All the HRC does is sell Teddy bears and throw dinners to raise money to perpetuate THEMSELVES! Name one piece of legislation they have successfully driven through the process. All they understand is ass kissing and accommodation. I think I have to go throw up now.
Bil Browning, Editor-in-Chief of The Bilerico Project wrote:
What fresh hell is this? HRC is moving into Harvey Milk's old camera shop in the Castro? Methinks "insult" is a little too dramatic understated.
What's next? Removing the Mona Lisa's face and replacing it with the Wal-Mart smiley face? Slapping the Amazon logo on Michelangelo's David statue? Flying the Google flag over Buckingham Palace?
I tend to give HRC the benefit of the doubt more than most other LGBT bloggers, but this is over the top. Harvey Milk's camera shop deserves to be a historical landmark and not a spot to push messenger bags and mousepads emblazoned with the HRC logo or Harvey's face. Harvey fought without the support of the rich bastards who dabbled in politics and urged him not to upset the status quo; he didn't try to sell them water bottles.
My take? While its crucial that Milk's historic legacy must be preserved especially concerning it at this location- I, like Bil, while willing to cut HRC some slack, am not exactly thrilled by this acquisition. Perhaps having the SF GLBT Historical Society take the location over might have been a better use of and certainly a much more qualified use of that particular storefront.


Trab said...

Obviously, to me, I'm not seeing this the same way as some of the others quoted. This is a store being talked about. It was obviously vacant. An organization has decided to move there. Case closed.

If you want to preserve a location you really have two options; buy it, or get it bought by someone or some group that will preserve it in the way you would like. Don't go all strange if the normal marketplace forces keep on moving.

Methinks this over-reaction is nearly as preposterous as the one seen because the Moslems want to build a community center within blocks of the 9-11 site in New York. Get over it and deal with issues that really matter.