Salem Honors LGBT Civil Rights Leader Harvey Milk with Public Unveiling of Postage Stamp

By Keith Spencer with Photos by John Andrews ofSocial Palates

SALEM – Officials unveiled the U.S. Postal Service’snew Harvey Milk Forever Stamp at a ceremony held at the Salem Post Office as part of a kickoff to LGBT Pride Month. The iconic civil rights leader is the first openly gay elected official ever to be featured on a U.S. stamp, an effort supported by Salem groups and residents in a community known for its diversity and tolerance.

Congressman John Tierney and Salem Postmaster Mark Howell unveil the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp alongside Mayor Kim Driscoll, State Senator Joan Lovely, the Queen of Salem Gigi Gill, and other LGBT activists and supporters on June 1, 2014.

Congressman John Tierney and Salem Postmaster Mark Howell unveil the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp alongside Mayor Kim Driscoll, State Senator Joan Lovely, the Queen of Salem Gigi Gill, and other LGBT activists and supporters on June 1, 2014.

Salem is a place where it doesn’t matter how you identify yourself, it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is because you are welcome, not just today, but everyday and this stamp helps to commemorate that
— Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll

“Harvey Milk was deeply committed to the equality, and our residents are committed to those same principles,” said LGBT activist and the official Queen of Salem Gary “Gigi” Gill. “We are honored to have a piece of this history now hanging here in Salem.”

 

Gigi organized a local letter writing campaign to support a nationwide movement to honor the civil rights activist with a postage stamp. With help from a number of organizations and countless residents, they submitted letters to the USPS Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee in support of Milk’s honoring. An enlarged, framed copy of the stamp will now permanently hang in the Salem Post Office thanks to Postmaster Mark Howell and the overwhelming support of Gigi, Mayor Driscoll, and these organizations.

A smaller framed copy of the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp & plaque commemorating the event was given to Mayor Driscoll to be hung in City Hall. Photo © 2014 John Andrews of Social Palates Photography

A smaller framed copy of the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp & plaque commemorating the event was given to Mayor Driscoll to be hung in City Hall. Photo © 2014 John Andrews of Social Palates Photography

“The stamp represents a remembrance of the price paid by those that have gone before us in the struggle for equality,” said Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk, “and is also a graceful reminder that we each have a role to play in nourishing hope for those still struggling for acceptance, and that equality requires our vigilance, not only here, but across this globe that we all share.”

Gigi was joined by Salem Mayor Kimberley DriscollCongressman John Tierney, Salem Postmaster Mark Howell, and the groups Go Out Loud and North Shore Pride on the steps of the post office prior to the city’s official flag raising kick-off celebration of LGBT Pride Month.

A smaller framed copy of the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp & plaque commemorating the event was given to Mayor Driscoll to be hung in City Hall. Photo © 2014 John Andrews of Social Palates Photography

“Salem is a place where it doesn’t matter how you identify yourself, it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is because you are welcome, not just today, but everyday and this stamp helps to commemorate that,” Mayor Driscoll declared.

“I was honored to be here to take part in the unveiling of the Harvey Milk Stamp and to kick off Salem Pride,” Congressman John Tierney said. “I’m proud to call such a diverse and caring community my home.”

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Salem became the first community on the North Shore and the fifth in Massachusetts to pass a Non-Discrimination Ordinance earlier this year that takes into account protections for transgendered people in matters of public accommodations. Recently, the City of Somerville followed suit, becoming the sixth community in the Commonwealth.

“It was such a powerful day to witness the unveiling of the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp, to meet some neighbors, and to make new friends,” said Jarrett Hanley, a resident of Salem since 2010 and Salem State University graduate. “I feel so blessed to live in a community as warm and accepting as Salem.”

Two years ago, Gigi helped kicked off the city’s now annual flag raising ceremony, donating pride flags to the to be flown in downtown Salem and City Hall. On June 1, she continued the tradition in celebrating the community’s diversity, raising a total of 12 flags that will continue to fly the remainder of the month.