Harvey Milk: Making Connections and Gaining Support

There are many lessons that can be learned from Harvey Milk’s story of activism and community organizing. In his “Scoop the Poop Act” of 1978, Milk required dog owners to scoop their pets’ waste off the streets. Milk said that “whoever can solve the dogsh*t problem [in the city] can be elected mayor of San Francisco, even president of the United States.” He even held a press conference where he stepped in dog poop on purpose to make his point!

Harvey Milk used a simple problem that affected the everyday lives of San Francisco’s residents to gain support from people outside of the LGBTQ community. He used an issue that had nothing to do with the LGBTQ community to gain the support he needed to work on larger issues. The story of Harvey Milk’s “Scoop the Poop Act” teaches us that many social justice issues can be linked with other issues in order to gain visibility and support!

Read the following fictional case study and answer the following questions with your GSA:

A Gay-Straight Alliance at a high school in Queens is trying to get their school’s support to approve a school-wide assembly where a former student will return to tell his coming out story through Live Out Loud’s Homecoming Project. The GSA members have also been bullied by some of the members of the school’s football team and hope that the Homecoming Project assembly will help combat some of the bullying problems they’ve had, especially since the Homecoming Project speaker is a former star quarterback.

The GSA knows that the football stadium at the school needs to be cleaned up, so they volunteer to clean it. By cleaning the stadium, they gain both the administration’s support and the football team’s appreciation. All of the students at the school will benefit from their newly cleaned stadium as well at the Homecoming Project assembly!

  • How did the GSA at the Queens high school use the football stadium issue as a way to gain support and also achieve their goals and get their message across?
  • What are some ways you can use a small issue to bring attention to a larger issue at your school (such as bullying, homophobia and heterosexism)?

Click here to download a timeline of Harvey Milk’s life that shows how his work the “Scoop the Poop Act” tied to the rest of his career.