Alex Blaze

HRC defends retail outlet in the former Castro Camera

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 14, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: castro camera, Dustin Lance Black, HRC, san francisco

I remember hearing earlier this year about an attempt to destroy one of the old, 9_640CastroCamera1973R.jpgirreplaceable hotels on the historic Ile St. Louis in the middle of Paris and put in a parking lot (the plan was blocked by the Socialists, thank god for them), but HRC's plans to replace gay activism with gay consumerism Harvey Milk's Castro Camera with a junk shop just feels worse. Maybe because I'm really gay but not really Parisian.

HRC President Joe Solmonese said the new location will stock items bearing Milk's words and image, with a portion of the proceeds going to a local elementary school named in Milk's honor and the GLBT Historical Society. The organization also plans to preserve a Milk mural the previous tenants installed, Solmonese said.

"People are rightly protective of the legacy of Harvey Milk, and we intend to do our part to honor that legacy," Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said. "Bringing an LGBT civil rights presence to the space that has previously been several for-profit retail outlets is a worthwhile goal."

I agree that bringing "an LGBT civil rights presence to the space that has previously been several for-profit retail outlets" is indeed a worthwhile goal, but that argument doesn't seem to be in favor of HRC moving in.

If anyone knows of a way to get an "LGBT civil rights presence" into that spot instead of that large, unfeeling corporation, now would be a good time to speak up.

Part of HRC's defense is that they can sign up people to work for them:

HRC creative director Don Kiser understands the concerns and says he is open to suggestions, but thinks the criticism is overstated. The group obtains about one-third of the new names on its mailing lists from visitors to its retail stores in San Francisco, Provincetown, Mass., and Washington. Each tourist who goes in to buy a Harvey Milk T-shirt or an HRC tote bag is a potential activist, Kiser says.

"They live in small towns in Texas and flyover states. Those are the people we need to help find the spirit that Harvey Milk had," he said. "If they can go back and take a little of the spirit the Castro has, we will see sea changes."

First, HRC has a creative director? The only reference I can find of him on their site is crediting him with coming up with their square equals sign logos. Does it bother anyone else that they have full-time staff devoted to coming up with new merchandise?

Second, I don't think HRC has the credibility to be pulling the "flyover states" card, especially while they're opening up a retail outlet in a gentrified gayborhood in San Francisco. If anyone does, it's that Bill Brownie character from the Bil-reeco Report, quoted in the same article, who spent an ungodly amount of time in Indiana working on LGBT rights.

Last, if that's what HRC truly thinks activism is, going to buy a tote bag and giving your email address to them so they can blast you for money, then they really don't deserve to be in that space. People from flyover states don't need to find the "spirit of the Castro" or for folks at HRC to look down their noses at them like rubes or a T-shirt with Harvey Milk's face on it, what they need is material support to work on an agenda they make themselves.

Of course, the critics of HRC have to battle each other to be the most ridiculous:

Not according to activists like Jones and Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for "Milk" -- the 2008 Sean Penn movie about the first openly gay man elected to a major elected office in the U.S.

During his life, Milk railed against well-heeled gay leaders he regarded as assimilationists and elitists -- Black devoted two scenes in "Milk" to the subject. Some of the leading activists he crossed swords with went on to launch the Human Rights Campaign, which sometimes is criticized for focusing on lavish fundraisers and political access at the expense of results, Jones said.

"He was not an 'A-Gay' and had no desire to be an A-Gay. He despised those people and they despised him," he said. "That, to me, is the crowd HRC represents. Don't try to wrap yourself up in Harvey Milk's mantle and pretend you are one of us."

"Quit stepping on my territory, HRC!" Dustin Lance Black screeched. "I'm the only A-gay who's allowed to co-opt Harvey Milk's legacy for profit!"


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The reason HRC should not be in that space is because HRC endorses the kinds of politicians that Harvey Milk fought against. HRC endorses politicians who seek to delay or ruin progress on women's rights, environmental justice, and beyond. Would Harvey Milk have been happy with HRC's endorsement of Joe Lieberman? How 'bout Olympia Snowe? Susan Collins? All of these characters have been anti-labor and held up progress. And all of them were endorsed by HRC over their more progressive challengers. Challengers who actually scored higher on HRC's own rating cards! But the irony doesn't stop there. Harvey Milk advocated for queer youth and the homeless, and he fought against a law that would criminalize them for being on the streets. HRC on the other hand awarded local politician Scott Wiener as a hero recently. Wiener is a huge advocate for the new Sit/Lie law in San Francisco which would allow police to round up the homeless and put them in jail holding cells. It's time for our community to unite against HRC's corporate agenda.

HRC will only be using the space to raise money - that's their primary mission. Thankfully, some of the money will go to non-HRC charities.

The one thing that HRC has accomplished in their 30 years is fundraising, more than $550 million ... so far.

If anyone knows of a way to get an "LGBT civil rights presence" into that spot instead of that large, unfeeling corporation, now would be a good time to speak up.
How about putting cramming a Wal-Mart in there?

Same as HRC in commercialism terms - and probably more likely to hire a trans person.

John Rutledge | December 15, 2010 10:05 AM

It pains me to see the HRC so blasted. I am one who came out late in life at 45, the same for my partner at 55. I do not have the years of political savvy built up as an out gay man as most do on Bilerico. I do not share the views spoken here. The HRC was helpful to us as we began our new out life. Their visibility and perceived strength felt supportive to us. To me, anything which generates visibilty to our population, and yes which generates traffic in their stores, plants seeds of equality-mindedness. You never know who might be helped by the HRC or how lives may be affected.Small town and new gays have no clue the HRC may not be A-list cool, or even what that term is. I see too many LGBT whiners blasting others in our family for not doing things the way they think they should be done. I find our divisiveness petty and childish. Our overall effectiveness is diminshed. Let's get over ourselves.

I don't think people are "whining" about HRC John. I think the issue is accountability and despite your "feeling good" about HRC, they don't have much to show for the $550 million they've spent during the last 30 years.

HRC's greatest accomplishment are their little stickers that serve primarily as a tool for "cruising."

Andrew, that one was priceless!!
May I borrow it?

Spread the truth (or wink and pull over). They really do work. ; )

I haven't had time for HRC since earlier days when they opposed equal marriage rights efforts. I'd say keep 'em out. I'm with Harvey on this one. Fight 'em.