Tuesday evening at San Francisco's City Hall, a gay, lesbian, etcetera group called the Rainbow World Fund (click here for their site) held their fourth annual lighting ceremony for "The Tree of Hope."
The huge "holiday" tree, situated at the top of the grand staircase under the City Hall rotunda, is decorated with thousands of origami cranes that contain a written wish from individuals around the world. They range from celebrities such as president-elect Obama who wishes "for a world for our children more just, more fair, and more kind than the one we know now" to messages from complete nonentities.
I went to this event a couple of years ago and was one of what seemed like a dozen people attending, but this year the organization has reached some kind of critical mass and the entire rotunda was jammed with people for the ceremony, happily sipping on complimentary wine and champagne.
The ubiquitous drag queen Donna Sachet was the emcee for the evening, which included too many speeches that went on too long.
The "First Lady of San Francisco," Jennifer Siebel Newsom spoke, as did Geoff Kors of Equality California who was being "zapped" by Michael Petrelis for being an out-of-touch A-gay who was responsible for the terrible Proposition 8 campaign (click here for Petrelis' account, which ends with him being escorted out of City Hall by a sheriff).
The most interesting speakers were Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, a Hiroshima bombing survivor and Yasumasa Nagamine, the Consul General of Japan. They seemed genuinely moved that a group of gay and lesbian San Franciscans had adopted a Japanese peace symbol and adorned a Christmas tree in City Hall.
As the Rainbow World Fund's website describes it:
Why the origami crane? This project draws inspiration from a little girl who lived and died nearly half a century ago. Sadako Sasaki was two when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Several years later, suffering from leukemia, Sadako learned of a legend that would grant one wish to the folders of 1,000 cranes. Her wish was for peace. She started folding but died 356 cranes short of her goal. Her classmates folded the rest in her honor and all 1,000 were buried with her. From that moment, when the world learned of her courageous story, the crane became a symbol of world peace.
The next-to-last speaker was Rev. Lea Brown from the gay Metropolitan Community Church and she made us do a call-and-response to "bless this tree and the rest of the world," and by the end of her routine, I was chanting "bless this tree and get off the stage."