Salt Lake City’s 9th and 9th district was filled with people today, joining together below rainbow banners and balloons waving atop street signs to celebrate the dedication of the newly named Harvey Milk Boulevard.
The dedication began with District 3 City Councilman Stan Penfold exclaiming, “Welcome to Harvey Milk Boulevard.”
Following Penfold, Mayor Jackie Biskupski marveled at the size of celebration’s crowd and emphasized her belief in the pertinence of Milk’s legacy to Salt Lake City.
“Every time people walk down this street it will give them hope that we will be equal one day,” Biskupski said. “The street name doesn’t simply celebrate a person but celebrates a movement toward equality.”
Biskupski closed her dedication by pointing to the need for activism to further the cause of equality for all people across the Utah.
“We still have work to do,” she said. “I hope you’ll stay in the game and help us.”
The mayor was not alone in calling for equal rights activism. Forrest Crawford, a Weber State University professor and civil rights activist, spoke of a distinction between those who “use the movement and those who participate in the movement.”
He then looked out across the 9th and 9th crowd and asked, “Which one are you?”
Senator Jim Dabakis also called for activism in an emotionally charged plea at the latter portion of the dedication.
“Will you protect the children of Utah,” he said. “Will you be there? I beg you, get involved.”
It is within the thread of activism that the spirit of the dedication found unity. In addition to Penfold, Biskupski, Crawford and Dabakis—each diverse individuals in their own rights—the dedication featured words from Troy Williams and Lucas Fowler of Equality Utah, Salt Lake City’s NAACP Chapter President Jeanetta Williams and Archie Archuleta of the Board of the Utah Coalition of La Raza. Despite their evident differences in cause, the speakers were united in the advancement of equality through activism.
Specifically, Jeanetta Williams carried a unifying tone in her message, drawing similarities between struggles both the African American and LGBTQ communities have faced. Williams addressed the issues surrounding transgender individuals bathroom use, stating it was reminiscent of the segregation African Americans were subject to under Jim Crow law.
“We won our separate bathroom fight,” Williams said. “We will win this one as well.”
The “separate bathroom fight” Williams mentioned was interwoven amongst the lauding and celebration of Harvey Milk’s legacy in many of the dedication speeches—likely, marking the next step for the LGBTQ community in their fight toward equality.
Lucas Fowler, most memorably, spited Gov. Gary Herbert’s recent call to fight President Obama’s directive that ordered public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.
“As long as Gov. Herbert wants to check our kids’ genitals at the bathroom door, we are not done,” Fowler said.
The dedication today—as much as it was a celebration—was a call to action embedded in the namesake of 900 South.
“I think it’s the same as it has been for generations. It’s about acknowledging we are all welcome here, we all matter and that it is unfortunate people had to lose their lives to get that point across,” Biskupski said. “But we need to celebrate those people, their spirit and their foresight in saying, ‘we’ve got to stand up for ourselves.’”