Beloved and I saw Milk this week. I was blown away. The framing device is an audio tape Harvey Milk made, a kind of last will and testament. He tells his story into a tape recorder, and then the story comes alive on screen.
The remarkable thing, the thing I did not know about Harvey Milk, was the way in which he backed into activism. He was tired of being closeted in New York, and so found his way to San Francisco and opened a small business. But even there, in the Castro, the gay mecca of the world at the time, LGBTQ people were simply not safe, and could be and were routinely beaten to death for simply walking down the street hand in hand with their partners. All Milk wanted was to make the police responsive to the community's needs, to make them allies instead of threats. And so he found himself running for citywide office. The rest is history.
As he gains more prominence, and as he tangles more and more with Dan White, Harvey seems to know he is likely to be assassinated. Like Martin Luther King, he understands the likely cost of his activism. Near the end of the film, Harvey says into his tape recorder, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door." That took my breath away. He consistently said, throughout the film, that openness about our sexuality is the only way that change will come about. "When they know one of us, they vote 2 to 1 for us," he says.
That phrase is resonating in my head and my heart. It's a powerful film. See it.