Basic Rights Oregon is a Proud Member of the Harvey Milk Street Project Committee
As the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy and policy organization, we support efforts to rename the 13 blocks of Portland’s SW Stark Street to honor Harvey Milk: a visionary human rights leader who became one of the first openly LGBTQ elected officials in the United States when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
To make this happen, we’ve joined a grassroots coalition that hopes to gain enough signatures to apply for the change. You can visit the Harvey Milk Street Project’s website to learn more.
For years, Oregon has been on the leading edge of LGBTQ justice. The City of Portland, in particular, has always been ahead of the curve. With a vacuum of leadership on the federal level, it’s more important than ever that we send a message to Oregon’s LGBTQ youth and the rest of the nation: Oregonians believe in dignity and respect for all its people no matter who we are and who we love.
Renaming SW Stark Street After Harvey Milk Will Send a Powerful Message
Harvey Milk was out and proud during an era when few in our community could be. He was elected just eight years after the Stonewall Riots where Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and others launched the modern era LGBTQ movement protesting police brutality in New York City.
He was out four years before the first cases of AIDS were reported. And it would be two full decades before Ellen DeGeneres came out on national television as part of her sitcom.
Harvey Milk truly was a bold and inspiring leader, who firmly believed we must be willing to share our stories openly and honestly in order to achieve equal treatment for the LGBTQ community. His life was tragically cut short when he was assassinated in 1978 at San Francisco City Hall – only a year after he was elected.
Leaders like Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera are tragically absent from our history books. Even in 2018, LGBTQ youth have few role models to look up to. At a time when the Trump administration is working to dismantle our progress on LGBTQ equality by undermining transgender equality, inclusion in the armed services, and the freedom to marry, this representation is more important than ever.
Naming a street for an LGBTQ hero sends a powerful message to our youth—who still face alarming rates of bullying, family rejection and homelessness. It tells them, “you are normal, you are okay, and there is nothing wrong with you.”
Why Harvey Milk and Not Another LGBTQ Leader?
While there are so many important figures who have fought for equality over years, Portland city code has specific requirements when it comes to renaming streets. Nominated figures must be deceased for 5 or more years, and must be recognized as a household name.
In discussing potential figures for this honor, the organizing committee ran through countless names. Because of his high-profile activism, lasting legacy, and nationwide household recognition, the coalition decided that Milk was the right name for this effort.
The 13 blocks of SW Stark Street chosen have a long history in Portland: they were once a gathering place and sanctuary for LGBTQ culture, community, and civil rights organizing. We hope that this renaming will open the door to further commemorate lesser known figures, living and local human rights leaders, and local LGBTQ history along the street in the coming years.
Help Us Make Portland’s Harvey Milk Street a Reality!
In order to apply for the street renaming, the coalition needs to gather 2,500 signatures to show the community supports the change. Any Portland resident 16 years or older can participate! While there is no electronic process to submit signatures, anyone can download the signature sheets and print them out.
Want to help us gather signatures? You can help with our campaign – even if you don’t live in Portland.
Just make sure to follow these simple instructions:
- Download the campaign’s list of frequently asked questions so you can share information about the project with your friends and family!
- Keep each two-page petition (all 20 signatures) together, & make sure to sign & address bottom of each petition (below the 20th signature space), even partially completed ones. Otherwise, they aren’t valid!
- Signature gathering has to be monitored; petition forms cannot be left unattended (i.e. no leaving a clipboard at the entrance to an event).
- Any city of Portland resident 16 years & older can sign (ask people to grab their nearby friends & family!)
- We need the original physical copies (no digital signatures are permitted) – we are happy to mail, email, pick up, drop off, & otherwise facilitate the process for you however we can.
- Petitions can be mailed to Basic Rights Oregon (620 SW 5th Ave., Suite 1210, Portland, OR 97204) or dropped off at Mother’s Bistro & Bar (212 SW Stark St, Portland OR 97204). If this is not possible, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a pickup!
- If folks have questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, feel free to direct them to the project’s website or contact email@example.com.
- Any other questions or concerns? Contact the project’s volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.