Harvey Milk is not a name many students recognize, but they should. This man is one of the great leaders in the American Civil Rights History, particularly for the gay community. Wednesday May 22 is Harvey Milk Day. It's not as well known as Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday or President's Day or even Memorial Day, but it's an opportunity to stop for a minute and recognize the first openly gay man elected to public office (in 1977) and discuss with your class what that means exactly. Why is this important? Why should we care?
At my school Friday, students flooded the hallways and it was oddly quiet but there was a magical energy in there air. April 19th, this year's Day of Silence, was when students all over the country took a day-long vow of silence to represent those in the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questions) community who are forced into silence by society. Everywhere I looked, there were glimpses of rainbow pins and colored duct tape covering the mouths of the those participating or on the sleeves of students who supported their peers.
Identity is a key concept in a Facing History classroom and I believe one of the most exciting to discuss because it encourages students to think of their own identity, which can be very complicated: the way society perceives a person versus how they see themselves. This is a versatile concept that can be connected to any moment, and current events such as the recent change concerning women in the armed forces, are a perfect way to do that.