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Last Tuesday was Harvey Milk Day in California. Equality Action NOW (EAN), a local civil rights organization hosted their third annual Harvey Milk Day celebration at Mulvaney’s in Midtown Sacramento.
The event was well attended. Tina Reynolds, co-founder of EAN opened the event by giving a brief history of the organization. Ken Pierce, EAN’s long-time Public Relations Director, Angela Luna, 5th grade teacher and author of “In Celebration of Harvey Milk”, and Diana Lutz, all former recipients of the Harvey Milk Award, introduced and presented this year’s recipients of the “Spirit of Harvey Milk” Awards.
The “Spirit of Harvey Milk” award is given out to community members and activist who best represent the essence of what Milk stood for in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.
This year’s “Spirit of Harvey Milk” award went to the following:
Jennie Reiken, Former Equality California (EQCA) local organizer who ran a call-center here in Sacramento, informing and encouraging local citizens to support Marriage Equality by defeating Prop 8. Reiken’s team of volunteers also was instrumental in gaining support and encouraging others to call the Governor to sign the Harvey Milk Day bill. Currently, Reiken is working at the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento in suicide prevention for foster, homeless and LGBTQ youth in Sacramento County. .
Dr. Nicola Simmersbach, Individual and couples counselor, worked to bring equality to county mental health workers, educated peer mental health professionals on “reparative therapy” dangers to young people, organized vigil after several gay youth committed suicide, and was on the front line fighting Prop 8.
Ben Hudson, Director of the Gender Health Center, transgender and gender non-conformity activist offers training to therapists with transgender patients. Gender Health Center provides professional, accessible mental health services and supportive counseling to anyone who expresses the need with a focus on individuals associated with the Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay communities in a safe and supportive environment.
Emily Bender, Currently Community Organizer at Sacramento Mutual Housing Association. For 10 years, Bender has also served as Adult Advisor and Facilitator for the Friday Night Youth Group at the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center. She also co-founded the 20-Something Group also at the Center.
Lawrence Shweky, Coordinator, Integrated Support Services at Sacramento City Unified School District. Organized recently an LGBT Anti-bullying Conference for Professionals sponsored by the SCUSD. A straight ally to the LGBTQ community, Shweky is leading the way for school districts to implement the FAIR Education Act (SB-48) and put an end to peer abuse in our schools.
State Senator Mark Leno, Sen. Leno (D-San Francisco) authored both the Harvey Milk Day bill and the FAIR Education Act (SB-48). He has been a champion legislator on gay and civil rights issues as well as youth mental health and protection issues.