Has The HRC Turned Harvey Milk’s Legacy Into A Marketing Novelty?

The address 575 Castro in San Francisco was once the location of the Castro Camera shop owned by Harvey Milk, the man who became the first openly gay man elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He ran his campaign from his apartment above Castro Camera, and after he was assassinated, Castro Camera became sacred mecca for LGBT activists. In 2010, the Human Rights campaign bought the land to open an HRC Action Center and Store.

HRC, harvey milk, san francisco
(image via Lynn Friedman)
The initial reaction about the HRC buying the land and creating a store was extremely negative. Although the HRC is an organization devoted to protecting and enforcing the rights of LGBT people, unnamed LGBT activists said the site was too sacred for an HRC store and a store will trump the legacy of Harvey Milk. The store sells merchandise with pictures of and quotes by Milk but many activists criticized the store for using Milk’s legacy for HRC’s gain.
In 2010, Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter of the 2008 Milk biopic, told The New York Times, “I don’t mind us having images of Harvey Milk on all sorts of objects that are for sale if it keeps his memory alive. I have a problem with that money being used to fund a philosophy that he fought against,” a reference to the HRC’s “inside-the-Beltway lobbying” rather than Milk’s “in-your-face activism.”
It would’ve been best if the HRC bought the property and created a Harvey Milk museum. If the museum sold merchandise the HRC could make money and still continue the legacy of Milk. Although the idea of the HRC making money off of Milk’s legacy is unfavorable, it’s better that an organization committed to working towards equal rights for LGBT people occupies the space as opposed to any non-LGBT retail store without the same focus in mind. At least this way, the site is still helpful to the LGBT community.
The store, though initially protested, opened in 2011 and partnered with The Trevor Project, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and the GLBT historical society. The store, which sells Harvey Milk merchandise, donates 100 percent of the proceeds from those items to local organizations that continue to carry on the legacy of Harvey Milk.
Watch this video of people protesting the HRC store:

(featured image via Weho City)