Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast – Building bridges

Like most regions, our San Diego community cares deeply about helping others.  In any given week you can attend a dinner gala or a special breakfast reception to raise money for various causes and celebrate important aspects of our community.  One of my favorites of these events is the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. This year’s breakfast was on Friday, May 19th, and this year I heard something wonderfully profound yet simple and I thought I’d share.

Truthfully, the first thing I heard was Beyonce blasting through the speakers, which let me know the party was going to be a good one – even at 7:30 in the morning!  But then as the breakfast got underway I knew I’d be in for something special because one of the first things they did was invite all the current and former LGBTQ elected officials in San Diego County to come to the stage.  This group couldn’t be described with just one set of identifiers.  They represented different races, complexions, genders, and ages, and this diversity was an important theme that emerged a few times during the event.

Although Bishop Yvette Flunder’s remarks at the breakfast aren’t the key point of this piece, please Google her if you are unfamiliar with this dynamic woman. With my limited time, I’m going to focus instead on the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Cleve Jones.

I can’t tell this part of the story without giving a little background about Cleve Jones. Jones escaped his early life in Phoenix and traded it in for being what he described as a “street kid” in The Castro in San Francisco in the early 1970’s.  He got to know Harvey Milk in those days and during his remarks at the Diversity Breakfast he took a moment to remind all of us that Milk was just as flawed and subject to human foibles as the rest of us. And that he was a truly kind man.  But just after he reminded us that killing a dreamer does not kill a dream, he said something that framed an issue in a way I think is really important.

As Jones was bringing his remarks to a close he said that members of the LGBTQ community are old and young and black and brown and white and rich and poor and in every family and every geography across the globe. His point? Because the LGBTQ community is within and represented in all of the other “groups” in our society, it is uniquely positioned to build the bridges across our human divides that can help us heal and move our society past its divisions.

Like hundreds of others in the room, I rose to my feet as Cleve Jones closed his remarks. And as I clapped just a bit harder and longer than I normally do, I felt a sense of joy as I thought about the shift in our collective consciousness that his words might bring about. A truly wonderful moment.