TODAY: Harvey Milk Day activities, drag pageant

The City of West Hollywood will kick-off pride season with the first event of its six-week WeHo Pride Arts Festival on Harvey Milk Day, Monday, May 22. This year, in light of the wave of anti-drag legislation and protests across the nation, the City of West Hollywood will commemorate the life and legacy of the extraordinary leader Harvey Milk who fought tirelessly for equality and social progress by hosting an event featuring a the first ever José Sarria Drag Pageant, among other activities.

The City of West Hollywood invites the community to celebrate Harvey Milk Day on Monday, May 22, 2023, beginning at 6 p.m. with the first ever José Sarria Drag Pageant, organized by the City of West Hollywood and HIT, and co-sponsored by the Imperial Court. The event will take place at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center’s Respite Deck, located at 8750 El Tovar Place, adjacent to West Hollywood Library. This is a free event. Reservations are required at

The José Sarria Drag Pageant is hosted by Maebe A. Girl, who became the first drag queen elected to public office in the United States, after being elected to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in 2019. Pageant judges are: Queen Mother Karina Samala and Emperor Eugene Maysky of the Imperial Court; Ebony Lane; City of West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne; and Kiki Xtravaganza. There will be a special performance by Nina Bo’nina Brown, who competed on the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Drag Kings and Queens are invited to compete for the crown in three rounds: Formal Wear, Question and Answer, and Talent. Cash prizes will be awarded to the Top 10 finishers. Those interested in entering the pageant should email Sean Knapp at by 11 p.m. on Sunday, May 21, 2023; participation details will be emailed to those who register.

In addition to the Drag Pageant, there will be a voter registration table, a Harvey Milk photo opportunity, milk and cookies, information tables from local organizations, and custom typewritten poetry provided by Pride Poets. Pride Poets is a cohort of LGBTQ poets who create custom poetry for the public on typewriters and which was founded by current West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the City’s LGBTQ Arts Festival in 2019. Pride Poets participation in this event is funded by a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant.

José Julio Sarria was the first openly gay man to run for office in the United States when he ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961. He was unsuccessful in his run, but he garnered 6,000 votes and set in motion the idea that a gay voting bloc could wield real power. In this way, he helped pave the way for Harvey Milk’s successful run for office. José Julio Sarria was also a well-known drag performer under the name Window Norton, and founded the International Imperial Court System which is one of the oldest and largest LGBT organizations in the world.

Harvey Milk Day was established in 2009 by the California State Legislature and it was signed into law by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2015, West Hollywood became the first city in the nation to observe Harvey Milk Day as an official holiday and has held events commemorating the day since 2010. Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected leader in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. (Out lesbian Kathy Kozachenko was elected to the Ann Arbor City Council in Michigan in 1974 — becoming the first openly gay person elected to political office in the United States.) In November 1978, Milk was assassinated by Supervisor Dan White after only 11 months in office. In 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk with a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the LGBT movement.

More information about the WeHo Pride Arts Festival is available at Information about WeHo Pride Weekend, which takes place June 2-4, 2023, is available at

The City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Pride Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors. The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including: Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Drag Story Hour, Human Rights Speakers Series and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival. For additional information, please visit

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s Harvey Milk Day celebration, please contact Mike Che, City of West Hollywood Arts Coordinator, at (323) 848-6377 or at For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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