Crowds line up to buy Harvey Milk stamps outside of Castro post office 

click to enlarge Jillian Tripp buys Harvey Milk stamps Thursday at a post office in the Castro district, which Milk represented as supervisor. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/the s.f. examiner
  • Jillian Tripp buys Harvey Milk stamps Thursday at a post office in the Castro district, which Milk represented as supervisor.

Thursday morning began for Christopher Huth with 12 postcards and 12 stamps.

He sent some to Maine and others to North Carolina, his home state. He also sent one to the sultan of Brunei, a small Muslim nation on the island of Borneo.

Most of the cards were sent to friends and family, including his grandmother, but his majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah got one because of his government's persecution of gays.

The postcards carried the smiling face of slain gay-rights leader and former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk.

The black-and-white photo on the postcards, taken by Daniel Nicoletta, is the same image used on the postage stamp of Milk, which was officially released Thursday, the day that would have been his 84th birthday.

"He's one of the reasons why my partner and I live in San Francisco," said Huth, who thought it important to buy the stamps Thursday morning at the same Castro district post office once frequented by Milk.

For many, the U.S. Postal Service stamp -- the first of an openly gay American politician -- is an affirmation and validation of all Milk and the gay-rights movement represent.

The federal government's recognition of Milk on a stamp, said Cleve Jones, Milk's former partner and a gay-rights activist in his own right, is a "huge validation."

"So much has happened because we followed what he said," said Jones, who stood in front of the Castro post office Thursday. More than anything, he said, telling people they need to come out has been a force that has rejuvenated the struggle again and again.

Jones and Dustin Lance Black -- screenwriter of the 2008 biopic film "Milk" -- were among the crowd waiting to buy stamps outside the post office Thursday morning.

About 45 people lined up outside the post office before it opened at 9 a.m., according to post office manager Art Corpuz, who said he ordered 6,500 and nearly sold them all by lunchtime. To make sure they don't run out, he requested more.

Yolanda Layoc, a sales associate at the Castro post office, said the only other stamp she recalls that had this much buzz was Elvis Presley.

As for the postcards, Jones and Lance Black were responsible. They printed up 500 and addressed them to one of the sultan's hotels, the Beverly Hilton Hotel, as part of a boycott of his holdings outside of Brunei.

Taking action with the postcards, Jones said, seemed the most appropriate way to honor Milk.

"We're not done with this fight," Lance Black said.

Pelosi, others celebrate Milk at ceremony in White House

As San Francisco residents lined up at post offices around The City for a chance to buy the Harvey Milk commemorative stamp Thursday, the White House put on a celebration of its own.

The White House honored the stamp Thursday with a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony, co-hosted with the U.S. Post Office and the Harvey Milk Foundation.

Speakers at the ceremony included U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman.

The stamp, available in sheets of 20, features a smiling image of Milk, based on a photograph of Milk in front of his Castro Street camera store taken by Daniel Nicoletta circa 1977.

Thursday would have been Milk's 84th birthday. He and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were shot to death at City Hall on Nov. 27, 1978, by Dan White, a former city supervisor.

"Let this stamp remind us of the fundamental truth behind Mr. Milk's message -- that we all have a stake in equality," Stroman said at the stamp dedication ceremony. "Let this stamp inspire a new generation to continue Harvey Milk's legacy -- to keep working toward a world where prejudice gives way to acceptance, where division gives way to unity, and where fear gives way to hope."

A local dedication ceremony for the stamp will take place at City Hall on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

- Kate Conger

Harvey Milk


- Elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1977, Milk was one of America's first openly gay elected officials.

- In 1978 he and Mayor George Moscone were killed at City Hall by ex-Supervisor Dan White.

- Milk help lead the way for LGBT rights in America and further built San Francisco's reputation as a center for the sexual revolution in all its guises.

- "Milk believed that government should represent all citizens, ensuring equality and providing needed services. He spoke for the participation of LGBT people came out as their authentic selves, the more their families and friends would support protections for their equal rights," according to the Harvey Milk Foundation statement on the stamp sheets.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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