Welcomed with the firing of soap bubble guns into the sky and glitter confetti spread at their feet, students at the Harvey Milk High School began their first day of classes on Sept. 8. Hundreds of supporters packed onto the barricaded sidewalks of Astor Place, drowning out the promised heckles of a few Christian fundamentalists.
Across the street stood a group of moral crusaders from the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, famous for disrupting Mathew Shepard’s funeral and their website GodHatesFags.com.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Ruben Diaz has launched a suit to block Harvey Milk High’s funding, accusing it of segregation, discriminating against straights, and draining public education funds from his constituency.
Diaz has apparently not met the students of Harvey Milk. If he did, he would find persons such as Vivika Quinones, a Harvey Milk High student who graduated in 2002. She considers herself the typical student there: Latino, from the outer boroughs, and frustrated by the hostile environment of the two schools she went to before Harvey Milk High.
Vivika remembers Milk High fondly, calling it “a refuge.” “You cannot put a band-aid on such an open wound,” she notes, speaking of the conditions queer and trans youth face in the New York City public school system, “but Harvey Milk is a start.”
The support rally was organized by FIERCE, a queer youth group.