Christian pop culture through the eyes of a radical housewife and part time atheist, Miss Poppy Hussein Dixon. Online since 1995. Stop by every day for the latest in Christian crime, intimidation, fraud, and foolishness.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

White Night Riots

Yesterday my 13-year-old son and I went to see the movie Milk, about assassinated San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk.

I moved to San Francisco from Boise, Idaho on October 11, 1978. I'd been run out of Reno the night before for dancing with a girl. I'm not gay, but where I came from in Idaho you could dance with anyone you wanted.

I'd been in San Francisco a little over a month when Harvey Milk was killed. I was 21 and was waiting in line at a bank in Noe Valley when a woman rushed in and cried, They've killed the mayor!

Everyone gasped. No one knew what was going on. It hadn't been a week since all those people had been killed in Guyana. Many, if not most, of the dead were from San Francisco. It felt like the world was coming apart.

The movie was a disappointment. There was so little rage expressed. Just before the credit roll there was text mentioning the White Night riot, as if it was a single event. It went on for three nights, and it was not at all like the peaceful candlelight vigil that ends the movie. I remember rows of burning police cars.

I've been reading about the Ludlow Massacre, the Watts riots, and the L.A. riots, and am beginning to see these events, and all the others like them, not as isolated incidents constrained to ghettos of individualized peoples - mine workers, Chicanos, blacks, women, gays - but as an expression of Americans fighting for their lives, which IS fighting for democracy.

It's hard to find a toehold in this stream of history. There are so many people who need help. Where do you go? What do you do? I do what I can, but it seems so little. After eight years of political languish I need much, much more.


Anonymous said...

Whoa, Miss Poppy. Well said, indeed.

I'm a few years younger, but I recall hearing about Harvey Milk's murder both when it happened (I was in high school at the time) and later, in college, when we talked about "the Gay" more openly. (The funny thing is, two of my closes high school friends were gay and I didn't know until, literally, five or ten years after high school. I still gotta get that gaydar fixed ...)

Anyways, the point I was going to make is: Although we heard about Milk's assassination here in the Midwest, we heard nothing -- literally nothing -- about the riots. Not because local TV didn't love a good, lurid tale of violence (they did, of course), but because the idea of gays being angry instead of timid would, quite literally, have scared the living shit out of people here.


Anyway, great post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I also must say that I'd never heard of the White Night riots. I lived in Colorado at the time. I never even heard about the verdict that I can recall.
I believe you are correct. People resort to this violence when other venues have failed. Ludlow wasn't that far from where I lived. If things don't turn around economically and justice-wise in this country, we could see more of this in the future. May the goddess help us all.

Bukko_in_Australia said...

Wow, Miss Poppy, your trajectory in life sounds mighty similar to Mrs. Bukko's. She moved to S.F. just before Moscone and Jonestown, and hung out in Noe Valley. (Was actually living off Stanyan Street where it goes up Mount Sutro during those years.) You weren't by any chance a Deadhead then were you? Because if you were, you definitely would have crossed paths.

Miss Poppy Hussein Dixon said...


I'm reading "Hope on a Tightrope" by Cornel West, and though I was just a child and living in Idaho, I didn't hear of any riots when Martin Luther King died. Now I read,

"They loved [Martin Luther King, Jr.] so deeply that their rage and anguish spilled over, 125 rebellions in 29 states were unleashed and over 100,000 federal troops were deployed all around the country." p. 203

100,000 federal troops? WTF?!

Any rebellion or riot I've ever heard about was framed as an isolated incident, a disgruntled splinter group run amok.

The alternatives have always been ignorance or fear. But now with things breaking down the way they are it seems new options are revealing themselves.

Miss Poppy Hussein Dixon said...


I lived on Stanyon Street for awhile, around 1982, just around the corner from that amazing produce stand. I lived downstairs from Jeanie Rose, a noted herbalist at the time. I was never a deadhead though. I was a disco skater, and skated in GG Park, hung out with a motley group of ambulance drivers.

I loved to go up the hill near Sutro tower, through the Haight, and watch the sun rise, wrapped in warm blankets. Ah..., that was a golden time.

Bukko_in_Australia said...

Fond memories indeed. During the three years that Mrs. Bukko and I owned a house in S.F., we were on the back side of Mt. Sutro, up near the top, with a glorious view over the Sunset District, over 180 degrees of the Pacific Ocean, up the coast to Mount Tam... The best place we'll ever live, given up for voluntary political exile. On the bright side, the profit from selling the house means we can afford annual holidays to Europe.

I look forward to returning to live in San Francisco after the break-up of the "United" States, when it's part of the Ecotopian Republic of the Pacific Northwest! From Big Sur through British Columbia -- what a glorious nation it will be...