Next Saturday, Harvey Milk would have turned 80.

Wow.

Yes! Saturday, May 22nd 2010, is Harvey Milk’s eightieth birthday. His adopted hometown of San Francisco, and especially his beloved Castro neighborhood, made big plans:

The city’s Castro District is ready to celebrate the first Harvey Milk Day in honor of its former self-proclaimed “Mayor of Castro Street.” The celebrations begin with several breakfasts Saturday, May 22 – on what would have been Milk’s 80th birthday – and culminate with a special screening of the Oscar-winning documentary on the celebrated gay politician’s life and a special tea dance fundraiser Sunday night.

The City will dedicate a pedestrian plaza across Castro Street from the Harvey Milk MUNI plaza at 17th and Market. Then a new plaque will be installed in front of the old Milk camera shop on Castro above 18th Street. All this hoopla for a New York transplant who based his business model on the reluctance of local drugstores to process ‘private & personal’ snapshots, who then made his political bones opposing dogshit on the sidewalks and in public parks. Really.

But he became so much more than that, in life and then in death. It just goes to show how hard it is to recognize an icon in his own time.

Supervisor Harvey Milk was taken from us more than thirty years ago:

Three decades later California is set to celebrate the first state holiday to recognize an out LGBT person’s contributions to society. While events and commemorations are being planned around the state and country, San Francisco’s festivities will largely be centered in the neighborhood Milk called home.

And, since Harvey Milk spoke so eloquently throughout his career about the young people — “ya gotta give ‘em hope!” — much of our City’s celebration will focus on youth, especially a special guest at the Diversity Brunch to kickoff the day’s festivities:

The breakfast will also feature special guest Natalie Jones, who was initially barred last year from presenting a paper about Milk to her sixth-grade class at Mt. Woodson Elementary School in Ramona, a city in San Diego County. After the ACLU threatened legal action, school officials reversed course, apologized to Jones, and allowed her to present her report about Milk to her classmates.

“We are going to have her give her report, uncensored of course,” said TJ Istvan, an organizer of the breakfast.

It is modeled after a similar event held for the first time last year in San Diego. Organizer Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a columnist for the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, will also be in attendance at this year’s San Francisco brunch, as will local photographer and Milk confidante Dan Nicoletta.

For a complete list of the day’s events, go here. And if you can’t be in San Francisco next Saturday, please give a thought to Harvey Milk on his 80th birthday.

Will you recognize Harvey Milk in your community in a meaningful way? At least take a moment to light the way for a young person who needs hope. There are plenty of them in our world today; please make a special effort next Saturday to give hope to a young person you know.

Do it for Harvey.