By Ben Cartwright / SDGLN / May 23rd, 2012
SAN DIEGO – More than 100 people gathered at what is now the corner of Harvey Milk Street and Centre Street in Hillcrest to witness the unveiling of the signs that indicate the new street name at a late afternoon ceremony on Tuesday, May 22.
The ceremony was held on Milk’s birthday, who would have been 82 years old on Tuesday.
San Diego lays claim to being the first city in the world to honor Milk, the iconic gay-rights champion who served in the Navy while based in San Diego, with a street naming. Hillcrest’s Blaine Avenue was the street chosen to be named after Milk, primarily because of its location in the heart of the city’s LGBT neighborhood and the fact that it ends in front of The San Diego LGBT Community Center.
Harvey Milk Street spans just three blocks, starting at Centre Street across from the main entrance of The Center. It ends at Cleveland Avenue, adjacent to University Christian Church, which is an open affirming congregation, and home to the offices and rehearsal space of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.
San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria, who worked with the committee that proposed the idea for the street, told the crowd that Harvey Milk Street is the first piece in his dream to see Hillcrest become a thematic LGBT district, similar to Little Italy or Chinatown in downtown.
Next month, work will begin on the installation of a 65-foot flagpole on Normal Street at University Avenue, one block from Milk Street, which will bear an 18 foot by 12 foot rainbow flag year-round. The City Council approved this project on May 15, one week after it approved the Milk Street proposal.
Another rainbow group, San Diego Remembers, is in the early stages of plans to construct a park, proposed for the corner of Park Boulevard and Polk Street, which will be a memorial to those whose lives been lost to hate-motivated violence. The group plans to expand upon the small plaque located in the 1000 block of University Avenue, which is a memorial to John Wear, a local teenager who was killed in 1991 because he was perceived to be gay.
Several prominent community leaders joined Gloria on the stage during the hour-long program, including City Council President Tony Young; Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride; Delores Jacobs, CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center; and Stuart Milk, director of the Harvey Milk Foundation and nephew of Harvey Milk.
Crewnshaw, who shares his May 22 birthday with Milk, spoke about the importance of creating a visible presence for the LGBT community.
“Imagine the young LGBT person who might start at the post office, on a walk toward The LGBT Center, looking up at all the signs which now bear Harvey Milk’s name,” Crenshaw said.
Jacobs expressed excitement at how her staff will now give directions to The Center. “Head down Normal Street, turn left on Harvey Milk Street, and end up at The Center on Centre Street,” Jacobs explained.
Following the remarks, committee members gathered around the pole, which had a cover over the new Harvey Milk Street sign. As a string was pulled, the sign was revealed, followed by loud applause and cheers from the crowd, who were then invited to a reception in The Center’s auditorium.
Jennifer Sieber, co-chair of San Diego Pride’s board of directors, posted on Facebook:
“This is a momentous day for all San Diegans! My daughter is a second generation Hillcrest native, and I’m so proud to be able to share this day with her.”
Many community members were also surprised on Wednesday morning to see front page coverage of the event in U-T San Diego, the region’s only daily print newspaper now owned by a conservative Republican. The brief story includes a large photo of the new street sign with the crowd in the background and a photo of Harvey Milk.