Nephew of San Francisco icon Harvey Milk lights up Rome, six other Italian cities with hope

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Stuart Milk is awarded the historic Medal of Magenta
Photo By Andrea Banfi © 2011

By Andrea Banfi
GayNews24.it

Completing a whirlwind seven city human rights tour sponsored by Equality Italia, Stuart Milk, the activist nephew of the late US Civil rights leader, Harvey Milk included high level government conferences, official state visits, student, business and activist meetings. in this Harvey Milk Foundation Global Outreach. Starting in Genoa the first week of May and criss crossing the Mediterranean nation, Milk headlined film festivals, dinner receptions, youth centers as well as the recipient of the prestigious Medal of Turn, the historic Medal of Magenta, and the Silver Commendation of the Italian Chamber of Deputies from President Gianfranco Fini.

Equality Italia’s President Aurelio Mancuso, the second week of May in Rome, stated, “Stuart had more then accomplished our organizations ‘Milk Tour’ mission, he gave both the Italian people and our leaders a wake up call on inclusiveness and societal equality while sending a message to our youth that they can be celebrated, not tolerated”.

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US political leaders cited by Stuart Milk as “critical to a GLBT inclusive Civil Rights agenda in America and globally were US. President Obama, Democratic Leader Pelosi, and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee” “These leaders have truly set the bar high in standing by and fighting for our community, not just in California, not just in the US, but their voices are also directed abroad,” Milk repeated at nearly every stop including a reminder for the many US ex pats present to “turn out in 2012 and support our ‘Equality Champions’”.

In Rome, Milk along with US Ambassador Thorne were both awarded Roma’s Cup of Humanity where the Embassy stated “our great honor and pride in having Stuart Milk speaking in Italy and Europe about the important issue of LGBT rights and representing the US so very effectively”. The US Embassy in Italy has been credited for recently leading vocal support to Italian Gays and lesbians who have been victimized by homophobia in Central Rome this year.

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Stuart Milk in Rome at the National Museum of art with Embassy Staff
Photo By Andrea Banfi © 2011

Twenty year old Charles Plummer, an American student living in Rome, came to the award event specifically to hear Milk stating, “the political and social climate in Italy for gays is bad and my Italian friends deserve better” adding, “you can see how moved and encouraged they are tonight, this is rare in Italy”.

In addition to state visits at Parliament, Milk had “long, productive, substantive meetings with National Ministers, Regional Administrators and Mayors including a critical conference with Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna” said Equality Italia’s Mancusco adding, “the Carfagna meeting with Milk was vital in which the Minister reinforced to Milk that she had been wrong in previous anti-gay remarks and renewed her commitment to working with Equality Italia to end discrimination in employment, education, and human services”.

An exchange of educational material concluded with Milk giving the Minister the children’s picture book, “The Harvey Milk Story” with a agreement to discuss a future translation.

In Turin, Milk gave a speech opening the Torino GLBT film festival that visibly moved the audiences such as Rosa Capolitano, who gave Milk a diary, saying “I have followed you on Facebook, I had wished for this day I would hear you in person, Harvey comes through every word, this has given me
confidence in who I am”.

In Milan, Milk and Equality Italia headlined events in support of pro-GLBT City Council members and candidates in the current election cycle to sold out audiences. The historic northern Italian City of Magenta was the scene of a large out pouring of youth to hear Milk including a youth grouped named after his uncle, Milk Milano. In Bologna, Milk fielded seemingly non stop questions from hundreds of youth in the large college town while posing for pictures for hours on end.

Milk’s words, “you are to be celebrated, not tolerated” were met with applause while his closing “you and all your differences are gifts to world, even when the word does not realize that” was rarely met with a dry eye.

Accompanying Milk on this tour was Harvey Milk Foundation Director Michael Colby who carried commendations for each equality supportive Mayor and high ranking official issued by Stuart Milk and the Foundation’s International Council Chair Nicole Rameriz as well as proclamations from San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, who “acknowledges and commends the spirit of San Francisco’s former supervisor Harvey Milk in the LGBT rights work of elected officials in Italy”.

Moderating a debate and panel, leading journalist Donatella Alfonso from the national Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, commented publicly “how moving and graceful the words of the younger Milk were” saying that the “historic and elegant Genoa building where we are holding this important conversation is particularly fitting for these equally historic and eloquent statements by Stuart Milk”. National and regional press and media followed Milk from City to City but the event that garnered attention from Italian Business journals was Milk’s meetings, discussions and support of two major companies that have been out front in backing the GLBT community publicly, Eataly and Ikea.

Both companies have recently used photos of gay and lesbian couples in the media advertisements to demonstrate a strong interest in diversity including GLBT customersThe last night of the tour was the presentation of the Harvey Milk Foundation Medal to Mancuso and Equality Italia for years of dedicated service and coalition building while Equality Italia awarded Milk their Scroll of Authenticity. At this event it was announced that the Rome Community Center, due to reopen after extensive renovation this summer, will be officially named and dedicated the Harvey Milk Roma Community Center.

Milk’s Rome speech included, “I am energized and optimistic by all the Italian people I have met this past week, by all the youth including those here tonight, although is may seem the world does not care about your struggle, we do, my President is a strong advocate for you, the Milk Foundation is supporting you, locally you have Equality Italia building bridges with you, you must keep your hope, we are in this movement together, we are whole, we are not alone” during the standing ovation this received Milk added, “Harvey dreamed of giving you hope and the Harvey Milk Center in Rome will help full fill his prophecy, thank you!”

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