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12/14/2010

Portrait of dissension developing at Castro Camera

by Jeremy Hooper

Milk1973The dustup over the Human Rights Campaign's plan to set up shop inside of Harvey Milk's old camera store is getting a new layer of dust. The story has now hit the AP wire, with HRC's branded bumper stickers pitted against the grassroots activism that Harvey held dear.

Here'a snip and a link to the full piece::

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights lobbying group, wants to open up an information center and a gift shop in the building that would pay tribute to the slain gay rights leader.

But Milk's friends and admirers are so incensed at the group taking over the slain San Francisco supervisor's stomping grounds that they would rather see a Starbucks there, underscoring the tensions that exist within the various factions of the gay rights movement.
New tenant of Harvey Milk's old store draws ire [AP via Yahoo! News]

Not gonna pick "sides" here. Because the bottom and more concerning line, in this writer's humble opinion: That if the nation's largest LGBT organization's decision to build on the legacy of the United State's most famous LGBT rights leader draws this much ire, then there is a HUGE problem with which said organization has no choice but to deal.

In an ideal world, this sort of move would be met with great applause by the LGBT population and like-minded allies, proud that Harvey's store is staying "in the family." Or at the very least it'd be seen as benign and understandable, with everyone in agreement that keeping advocacy in this location is one way to ensure that Harvey's death will not be in vain. But that's far from the case here. Instead, we live in a political reality where our largest, most-financed, most connected group's seeming desire to do right by the community is not only met with controversy from within -- but controversy that's grown great enough to earn the discerning attention of the Associated Press, sending out an LGBT rights in-fighting meme to global outlets. Regardless of whether you suit up for every cocktail party that comes to town or you chain yourself to any D.C. landmark that doesn't move (or do both), if you truly care about bettering this world for pro-equality, pro-fairness, pro-inclusion forces of good, then this reality should be of concern. If you work for HRC, changing this reality/perception should be your top concern.

And If you serve HRC in a top chair: One would think that getting out in the public at a scrappy little event, rolling up your shirt sleeves, grabbing a rusty old out of tune mic, and boldly countering this image (and the calls for resignation) in a real, human way would be a mindful idea. Three or four years ago, ideally. But now would probably help too.

***

**UPDATE, 1/19/2011: Good move:

The nation’s largest gay rights group said Tuesday that it planned to share the San Francisco storefront where Harvey Milk waged his political campaign with a nonprofit that provides suicide prevention services for gay young people.
California: Deal Reached Over Harvey Milk’s Store [AP via NYT]

***

**PHOTO Source: Uncle Donald's Castro Street

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