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Long Beach’s Harvey Milk Park is nation’s first park named for gay rights pioneer

Long Beach's Harvey Milk Promenade Park is the first park in the United States named for the slain civil rights leader. Photo: Trang Le/Q Voice News

Long Beach’s Harvey Milk Promenade Park is the first park in the United States named for the slain civil rights leader. Photos: Trang Le/Q Voice News

LONG BEACH –  Harvey Milk Park is the nation’s first park named for the slain civil rights leader.

Milk, a well-known trailblazer in the San Francisco gay rights movement, was the first openly gay person to win office in California when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1976. Milk, along with Mayor George Moscone, was assassinated on Nov. 27, 1978 by a former city supervisor, Dan White.

Located at Third Street and The Promenade, 185 E. Third St., the tiny park – it’s 1/5 of an acre – sits in the shadow of an enclosed parking garage and a 40-foot beach themed, mosaic mural commissioned by the Works Progress Administration. Officials broke ground in on May 22, 2012, Milk’s 82nd birthday, and opened the park the following year.
The centerpiece of the park is Equality Plaza, which commemorates Milk and includes plaques with the names of local LGBTQ leaders on its Memorial Wall.

The names were chosen by the Harvey Milk Promenade Park Committee. New names will be selected by the committee and added annually on Milk’s birthday.

The plaza includes a concrete replica of the famous “Soapbox” Milk stood on to inspire crowds when he spoke, and a 20-foot flagpole flying the gay pride flag.

Here are the nine inductees first honored on the Memorial Wall:

  • Robert Crow, co-founder and former president of Long Beach Pride
  • Ray Lowen, founding member of The Long Beach LGBTQ Center
  • Patty Moore, former chair and assistant director of The Center
  • Michael Noll, the first openly-gay Signal Hill council member
  • Frank Rubio, longtime Long Beach Pride executive committee member
  • Ellen Ward, former Signal Hill councilwoman and former executive director of AIDS WALK
  • Rev. Michael Cole, founder of Christ’s Chapel Long Beach and the AIDS Food Store
  • Ellen Mary Martinez, a 25-year member of Long Beach Pride
  • Jean Harris, former executive director of the California Alliance for Pride and Equality.
The centerpiece of the Harvey Milk Park is Equality Plaza, which commemorates Milk and includes plaques with the names of local LGBT leaders on the Memorial Wall. The plaza also includes a concrete replica of the famous "Soapbox" Milk stood on to inspire crowds when he spoke, and a 20-foot flagpole flying the gay pride flag.

The centerpiece of the Harvey Milk Park is Equality Plaza, which commemorates Milk and includes plaques with the names of local LGBT leaders on the Memorial Wall. The plaza also includes a concrete replica of the famous “Soapbox” Milk stood on to inspire crowds when he spoke, and a 20-foot flagpole flying the gay pride flag.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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