An invitation to a dinner in honor of Harvey Milk

By Rob Hunt

Illustration by Dylan Lee Hodges.

IUPUI students and staff are invited to celebrate diversity at the 5th annual IUPUI Harvey Milk Dinner, held Saturday, October 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the downtown Indianapolis Marriott Hotel, located at 350 Maryland Street. This year’s keynote speaker will be noted actor, comedian, musician and writer Lea DeLaria.

Harvey Milk is remembered as a pioneer in the LGBT community as one of the first openly gay elected officials in this country. Elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, Milk attained office during a time when it was a still widely held belief by many medical professionals that homosexuality was a mental disorder. Despite being assassinated less than a year after inauguration, he quickly achieved a legacy as a leader and a pioneer.

He was an outspoken leader, not just for gay rights, but also for childcare and housing issues. His story was later immortalized in the 2008 film Milk, starring Sean Penn.

The dinner this year corresponds with National Coming Out Day, observed every October 11 since 1988 to honor the 1987 march on Washington for lesbian and gay rights. This day is celebrated not just in the United States, but internationally. Other participating countries include Australia, Croatia, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom. The Human Rights Campaign sponsors events across the country such as parades, rallies, and information campaigns.

Jayme Little of the Indiana University Alumni Association, an event sponsor, is excited about the growth of the Milk Dinner over the past five years. He said that in the past this event has been held upstairs at the Campus Center but was moved this year to accommodate the ever increasing audience and he is hoping to see more than 300 in attendance this year. He estimates that roughly 25 percent of those in attendance are students while the majority of the seats are purchased by groups and organizations.

“I would like to see that change. We’d like to see more individual students, and we’ll get there,” Little said.

DeLaria was considered the first openly gay comedian on late night TV after her 1993 appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show. Her acting credits include television, movies and Broadway. She has appeared in such movies as “Edge of Seventeen” and “First Wives Club” and her television credits include “Will and Grace”, “One Life to Live”, “Matlock” and she is currently appearing in the Netflix hit, “Orange is the New Black”.

Advocates for Sexual Equality president, Jeff Chapman, says that the price of admission will include dinner, a seat at the table for the pre-function event and DeLaria’s keynote address. DeLaria will be available to meet students and take photographs after the event for a limited time.  Chapman also says this is a great opportunity to increase student involvement on campus, an important goal of his.

“Right now we’ve just been fundraising and increasing student awareness. We’re pushing for more student involvement whether it be contact attendance or lending a hand in fundraising, you name it,” Chapman said.

Can’t afford the $25 to attend? There is still an opportunity to be there for the dinner. Little says that when sponsors make a certain purchase for the event, tickets will be made available for students who can’t otherwise attend.

“These tickets will be distributed by ASE. Any student who feels they qualify can email for details,” he said.

Tickets are $25 for IUPUI, Ivy Tech, or high school students and $55 for faculty, staff and community at large. For further ticket information you can contact Jayme Little at or 317-274-1345.

This event is sponsored by the Indiana University Alumni Association, IUPUI ASE, and the LGBT Faculty-Staff Council at IUPUI and will be emceed by IUPUI students Chapman and former ASE president Katie Koile.