ALAMEDA -- As Alamedans gear up to celebrate Harvey Milk Day on May 22, students around the Island are asked to submit poetry and poster drawings for the annual contest, as well as essays for two new scholarship awards.

"This will be the fifth year that Alameda celebrates Harvey Milk Day, and we have lots of activities planned around that special day," said Gene Kahane, an event co-chair and English teacher at Encinal High School.

Milk, a gay rights activist and member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was assassinated in 1978. In 2009, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger established Harvey Milk Day as a statewide day of remembrance.

To honor Milk's life and work, Alameda students in the fifth- to 12th-grades may compete for a $100 prize by creating a poster or poem that highlights his legacy. The entries are due April 21.

In addition, students concerned with social justice work may enter the Alameda Harvey Milk Day Scholarship contest by the same deadline. Two high school seniors each will be awarded $500 based on the 500-word application essay and a letter of recommendation.

"Alameda's Harvey Milk Day celebration has become one of the larger events in Northern California," said Kahane, who helped start the poetry and poster contest last year in cooperation with event co-chair Olivia Higgins, an educator and activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning rights.


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Harvey Milk Day activities have taken place at many different schools over the past few years, including the College of Alameda, Lincoln Middle School, Wood Middle School and Encinal High.

"There's a really important school connection," said Kahane, "thanks to the work of the school district's LGBTQ Roundtable."

The poster and poetry contest, he said, aim "to help the community celebrate Harvey Milk and encourage kids to learn both about him and his social-justice efforts."

There were more than 30 entries in each category last year, and Kahane hopes a similar or greater number of students will participate this year.

Also on tap for 2014, he added, are a number of new activities. The film "Milk" will be shown at the Alameda Theater on May 20. The play "The Laramie Project" will be staged at Encinal High on May 22. LGBTQ-themed books will be donated to the Alameda Free Library on May 27, and a choral concert is set for May 30 at the First Congregational Church.

"There have been big gains recently, but also major setbacks, including the recent assault of a student attending Maybeck High School in Berkeley," Kahane said. "It's important to celebrate achievements and, at the same time, continue with our advocacy work."

For more information on the contests, write to gkahane@alameda.k12.ca.us or visit the Alameda Harvey Milk Day page on Facebook.