With diversity week at Quinnipiac rapidly approaching, Resident Assistant (RA) for the Suites, senior Hannah Rinehart, is a small, but mighty engine rearing full speed toward her goal of putting together a screening and panel discussion of the 2008 film, “Milk.”
The possibility of screening “Milk” was open to all RAs, but Rinehart felt the desire to take the lead on the program. Through diversity dialogues during RA training in August, Rinehart noticed that her peers were neutral or in firm disagreement that Quinnipiac is tolerant toward the gay community. She realized action needed to be taken.
“People don’t talk about it. [Quinnipiac] accepts it because we feel like we have to,” Rinehart said. “It is still taboo.”
“Milk” is the real-life story of American politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office, as part of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Directed by Gus Van Sant, “Milk” features Sean Penn in the titular role of the famed man, who shook Castro Street and the rest of San Francisco upside down with his progressive ideas. Milk was in support of those suffering under the conditions of the current policy in the early ’70s when he first ran for office. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, “Milk” won two in February: Best Original Screenplay and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Penn).
Throughout the screening of “Milk,” the film will be stopped periodically to facilitate discussion about a multitude of issues it tackles, including oppression and inclusion, which are relatable topics to numerous students on campus. Rinehart acknowledges that students may not exactly relate to Harvey Milk, but she hopes that holding an open dialogue about such a heroic figure will encourage anyone who feels oppressed or excluded to take part.
“The hardest part of diversity week is that initial step,” Rinehart said. “How do you get people to engage in these conversations? Truthfully, the conversation needs to be had as much as the race issue.”
Rinehart trusts that the screening of “Milk” is a different enough approach to begin conversations about a topic not often discussed. It is imperative to not to get an impression of “been there, done that,” as opposed to the topic of race, which Rinehart believes is forced down students’ throats.
“Not to say race shouldn’t be addressed, but when speaking to students it sounds like no one has found a way to discuss it in a way that they can engage in a dialogue. It is quite literally black and white,” Rinehart said. “To have a true dialogue on anything, you have to relieve the pressure of performance, so people can be honest about how they react and think about the people they want to be.”
“Milk” will be screened in Echlin 101 on Sept. 20 at 7:00 p.m., where milk and cookies will be served to those who attend. Rinehart does not show a glimmer of trepidation in her feelings toward the program and only manages to see the positive effect it will have in attaining tolerance throughout campus.
“There is hardly any tolerance on campus, and if there is, it is superficial,” Rinehart said.
She uses the old adage to not judge a book by its cover.
“As students and a University, we are constantly pigeonholed by those on the outside,” she said.