Sunday, October 18, 2009


Had my preparations for the March on Washington gone as planed, this would of been a mini-journal of that journey. My adult life has been like a ongoing gay soap opera, and often documented by my traveling companion... my camera. Over 30 years ago, my photograph of Harvey Milk, taken at an impromptu San Francisco March, on June 7,1977 became a footnote in gay history... and introduced Milk, nationally 5 months before he was elected as the country's first openly gay male politician, via the Associated Press. I always regretted not going to the gay march on Washington D.C. in 1979. This time, I made up my mind... I would be
in Washington for the National Equality NOW March.

A few months ago, I hooked up with the local chapter of "Join the Impact" group. And since that time, we had weekly meetings to plan our participation in the National Equality March in Washington. It started with the "An evening with Cleve Jones" event. Cleve was inspirational, as he told the audience filled with mostly young gays, the reasons why we should make the pilgrimage to D.C. in October. At our meetings, we talked about having a single bus take us there, but as the time grew nearer, the local JTI organizers had filled 4 bus loads with over 250 Chicago area pilgrims.

We had sign making parties, and created a few original chants to go with them. I entered a video contest sponsored by the "Equality" March... the winner was to make a speech at the rally. As luck would have it... I was one of 5 finalist. Voting for the 5 entries, took place on YOUTUBE . When the votes were tabulated... I came in 3rd. The winner, an 18 year old college kid from New York, won with a powerful presentation. Ironically... he was "straight"!

Several of us, decided to put together a mini-video documentary about our D.C. adventure... based on "What I would of said in my speech", had I won the contest. At the same time... we were going to find "OUT" why others on the buses, and in D.C. also made the journey. Sam Sussman, the winner of the "speech" contest asked to meet me there... as well as several reporters.
On Saturday, the video crew came to my apartment... we made some predictions, and they made a video of me walking out my apartment door, and on our way to history in the making... We then met in back of the Art Institute, and started boarding the Buses at 6:30 P.M. It was a jovial mood... Rainbow flags, signs and non-stop smiles, once we started our journey... we watched a few old "Maude" TV shows, and a movie... and we made it to what was to be our first pit stop in Genoa , Ohio at exactly 1 minute after midnight. However, it was announced that the bus was having transmission problems... and the next 5 1/2 hours was spent in a Hardee's food mall, before help would arrive... ...but by then, it was too late to get us to time for the march. So, we returned to Chicago... to add insult to injury, our signs could not be taken out of the broken bus's storage area... and were not available for those who took part in the Daily Plaza rally when we arrived back in Chicago... So like the best made plans of mice and men... our effort to be part of this historic event... did not take place. Disappointed,yes! However thankful that the 3 other buses, and thousands and thousands of gays made it in person... and I was able to see the historic great march on C.SPAN!

Attached is the "Speech" I would of made, had I won... or to be included in the video, that never happened,too.

The "What if "speech had I won... PASSING THE TORCH...

Thanks to television, I have witnessed a lot of history in the making
— and often that history came "OUT" of Washington, D.C!

One of those historic events was the inaugural address of a young
President, John F. Kennedy, back in 1961. He was the first Roman
Catholic ever elected President! This was something I had been told
would never happen in my lifetime — I was then 24 years old.

Among his many ideas and challenges was his statement, "Ask not what
your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."
Another phrase caught my attention and I thought it was aimed directly
at me when JFK said, "The torch has been passed to a new generation of
Americans" — this was made clear after 8 years of the presidency of
Dwight D. Eisenhower. In another speech, he talked about landing of a
man on the moon and returning him and his crew safely back to earth by
the end of the 1960s — truly an event that, when promised, seemed a
million light years away!

But there is a great gap between dreams and reality — I began the
1970s in San Francisco, a year after JFK's prediction of a man walking on the
moon came true. Even with this stunning prediction of space conquest, it seemed
that my dreams as a gay man were even farther away than the sun!!

The only exercise I had back then, was walking from one gay bar to
another — and hoping I would not be arrested! There were laws on the
books of many cities saying that it was unlawful for two adults of the
same sex to hold hands, dance, or kiss each other in public. And if
these things happened, patrons would be arrested and the gay bars
raided or have their licenses taken away.

By the mid-70s, changes began to happen: we had gay newspapers and
magazines; there were gay-sponsored softball leagues and a new kind of
sport: gay politics! A transplanted New Yorker named Harvey Milk,
began to wake up our senses and pride. He spoke about coming "OUT" of
our closets and talked about gay rights. Yet, at the same time,there
were still right-wing bigots who were trying equally hard to get us
back into our closets, and have the doors sealed shut. They even tried
to get new laws passed which would ban gays from public teaching jobs.
Once Harvey was elected as the first openly gay politician in the
country in 1977, many cities had "Pride Parades" and a few token
rights were granted. However, the politics of assassination which took
John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy on a
national scale also found its way into San Francisco when Harvey Milk
and Mayor George Moscone were gunned down by a hate monger, Dan White.
I knew them both as friends but they did not live to see the
fulfillment of all the changes they had started.

Since that time, there has been progress in the field of Gay Rights–
however, often at a snail's pace during the past 30 years. In recent time,
especially after the release of the Award-winning movie,"Milk", which
introduced Harvey Milk, and that era of gay rights to millions of people,
young and old, gay and straight, here in America and around the world.

I marvel at some of the many instances of progress made here in
Washington…after 8 years of "Bush", we now have a new young black
president — again something that was not supposed to happen in my
lifetime– and I am now 72 years of age!

Once again, I am getting the feeling that the "torch" is passing to a
new generation of gay and straight equal rights fighters in America —
there's good news coming OUT OF WASHINGTON, D.C. However, this time, I
am going to be there(before the bus broke down)… to witness the
passing of the torch — and I will be accompanied by thousands and
thousands of gay AND straight Americans from small towns and large
cities, from all across this country. Today, October 11, 2009, it is
my hope that they will bring us equal rights for all in my lifetime, and
My Fellow Americans, this is OUR country,too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Prelude to the march... signs painted by members of JOIN THE IMPACT / Chicago
(c) J Pritikin-2009

Coming Soon... The Washington Journey...

This weekend, 4 bus loads of young gay and equal rights fighters, will be leaving from in front of the Chicago Art Institute and journey to Washington D.C., to be part of the Historic National Equality NOW March. I'm going with them and will report on this blog the happenings on my return... By the way... I want to thank everyone who gave me their support and votes on the "Idol"
contest. Now on to D.C.!

Sam's Winning "Idol" entry...

Sam Sussman will be speaking to THE NATIONAL EQUALITY NOW MARCH on 10/11/09
at Washington D.C. Here is the reason why!

About the Winning entry...

When I found OUT that I was not the winner... I went back to play his entry. You Know what? It was a winner! So I sent Sam Sussman the following email, and then he responded. I am glad to also say we bonded,too.

Good Morning Sam,
I was one of the 5 finalist, and I wanted you to know that the best entry won!
Congratulations on your victory, and for your powerful message, and for those who voted for you. I have known for over 40 years, that gay rights,civil rights, human rights and equal rights, are one in the same. Your win reminds me of a Championship softball team that I played on, that won the right to represent San Francisco in the 1978 Gay World Series in New York, only to be kicked "OUT" for having too many "straights" on our roster! I am attaching a Citation given to our team by Mayor Moscone.... That praised our team for its diversity.

I was a friend of Harvey Milk, and Jewish like him too, but did not support him when he ran for City Supervisor...
because I felt Lawyer Terry Hallinan,was better qualified to represent most of the residents, and business owners in our district. There were those within the gay community, that felt I was a traitor in doing so. There will be some, who will not be happy with the OUTcome of this election, because you are straight, I am not one of them. As we get ready to march in Washington, I am reminded that President Eisenhower said " Taking a stance in the middle of the road politically, will open you up to the extremes of both sides of a political issue." Thank you for your courage, your message is a message of HOPE, for the future and NOW.

Jerry Pritikin

Here is his response...


Thank you so much for writing to me. Out of the hundreds of emails I've received over the past 10 days, yours is one that touched me like no other. When I first saw your video, it moved me. You have lived the fight that I am just beginning, and suffered unfairly the injustices I hope to prevent future generations from suffering. For that, Jerry, you are a hero to me.

The story about the softball team is really amazing, and its funny that you draw a parallel between that and this contest, and the fact that I'm not gay. It warms my heart to see that despite all the hatred, the bigotry and injustice that has been thrown in your direction, you still have the love and warmth to accept me and my message even though I'm not a gay man.

I envy you, deeply, for knowing Harvey. I wish I could have known such a profound leader as he. You must have amazing stories and experiences with him.

Boy, Jerry, I'd sure like to shake your hand in Washington. Can I call you and meet up with you at some point during the weekend? I know you'll be busy, but if you could give me ten minutes of your time, I'd be honored.

Thanks again, so much, for writing. I'm not sure if you really can know how much it means to me.

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