STATEN ISLAND KICKS OFF PRIDE BY HONORING HARVEY MILK
As a kickoff to Gay Pride both in their home borough, throughout New York City, and nationwide, the hardworking men and women of Staten Island Pride Events (SIPE) are presenting an event that both celebrates our pride in who we are and honors our past history. The event will honor a true pioneer and hero of modern gay history: the late San Francisco City Councilman Harvey Milk. Milk, whose life story was the basis for the critically acclaimed big-screen biopic “Milk” in 2009, was the first openly gay man ever to be voted into public office. SIPE’s Kickoff to Pride will be held at The Staten Island Museum and will feature exhibits, a reading of “Dear Harvey” by Patricia Loughrey, raffles, refreshments, a cash bar, and entertainment by Athena Reich with Glenn Firester, Lovari, Anne Guinta, Caroline Murphy, and Dr. Hyde.
A longtime resident of Staten Island, Gerard Mawn of Staten Island Pride Events is one of the coordinators of the event. He has been happily committed to his life partner, Angel Love, for 13 years. The two were one of the first male couples to register their domestic partnership with New York City. In addition, Mawn stated, “We are the first couple to have a marriage ceremony performed by the Reverend Pat Bumgardner of MCC in the chapel at the City Clerks Office in downtown Manhattan.” In a sign of slow but steady progress, he adds, “It’s interesting that yesterday, New York City announced that they are promoting ceremonies. (You can read that story here.) When Angel and I did it five years ago on Valentine’s Day, we were asked to leave.”
Gerard spoke with Jed Ryan about the upcoming event and more of the prideful activities that Staten Island Pride Events has in store for us:
JR: Hi Gerard. Congratulations on the upcoming event on May 22nd. Now, Harvey Milk was definitely a pioneer in our community. In 2010, what is his legacy for all of us? What is his legacy for you, personally?
GM: I think Harvey would be mortified that in 2010 we do not have full equality. Where would we be today if Harvey was alive? We will never know that answer. Every day we must look at ourselves in the mirror and ask, “Have we done enough today? Could I do more? Have I made enough people angry because I will not be silent, or made them uncomfortable? Will I accept rejection and be defeated?” Harvey Milk said, “It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.”
JR: I agree. That’s quite an entertainment lineup you have planned for May 22! What made you choose these artists for the celebration?
GM: The artists we have chosen are a mixture of those who have been with us at other evnt and performed at last year’s kickoff. With the exclusive area reading of the play “Dear Harvey” by Patricia Loughrey, we believe that the evening will be very satisfying.
JR: It looks like Staten Island Pride Events (SIPE) has been more active than ever: more activities, different kinds of events, etc. What are some of the highlights you have in store for us in the future?
GM: We have a very busy month ahead. Our kickoff at the Staten Island Museum is this Saturday, May 22nd. On Saturday, June 5th we will participate in the Staten Island LGBT Pride Parade. On Saturday, June 19th, we host the annual Pride B&W Dinner Dance, and for fun we are hosting a Night OUT at the Staten Island Yankees on Wednesday, June 23rd. We will be there to cheer on our Out friend Jeremiah who was chosen to sing the National Anthem for the Staten Island Yankees home gayme during NYC Pride Week!
JR: Wow! Now, people who live on Staten Island have a lot of pride in their borough, but with GLBT events, sometimes Staten Island gets overshadowed by things going on in Manhattan and even Brooklyn and Queens. What would you want to tell people about the GLBT community in Staten Island?
GM: Don’t forget The Bronx, Long Island and New Jersey. We all have pride. Yes, we are overshadowed. We’re young – only our 6th year, but we call ourselves “First in Pride” as our events happen at the beginning of June, on the first Saturday. Also, Manhattan’s events are not referred to as “Manhattan Pride”. It’s an event for all of us. We are all one in celebration. As Milk said, “Here’s to homogeneity.”
JR: It looks like your work with SIPE and being an activist keeps you really busy. What’s your secret to being such a successful, shall we say, “multi-tasker”?
GM: I have strong support: level-headed and creative people who keep me grounded. I’m tenacious, mission driven, a dreamer, and never satisfied. I break boundaries. I’ll call for help from those who do not believe in my mission. I also put people in situations that make them uncomfortable. I’m a risk taker. I’m no Harvey Milk. but I probably piss people off just as much as he did.
JR: That’s a good thing! Harvey Milk felt that full equality for our community, in the eyes of the laws, should be our primary endeavor. In your opinion and from your experience, what can each and every one of us do, on a day to day basis, to reach that goal?
GM: Harvey Milk said in his 1973 concession speech: “I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted. I have a lot more to drink. For that reason, the political numbers game will be played. I know the rules of their game now and how to play it.” He eventually succeeded. Talent, tenacity, and opportunity: That’s the recipe for success. Most importantly of all: Be truthful to yourself! Create hope in yourself and others.
Now, that’s an inspiring launch to GLBT Pride Month! Contact SIPE for more info at SIPrideEvents@gmail.com.
SIPE’s Kickoff to Pride
Saturday, May 22 7PM-10PM
The Staten Island Museum
75 Stuyvesant Place