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Same Gender—Loving Family, And Brother Outsider: The Life Of Bayard Rustin
by Sherri Jackson
2003-09-01

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'It is my sincere conviction that the power of love in the world is the greatest power existing. If you have a greater power, my friend, you may move me.'

— Bayard Rustin

It was indeed a historical event and evening at Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago on July 29, 2003. More than 200 individuals came out for the viewing of the documentary Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, and dialogue followed.

There was a room filled with folks from all communities and different belief systems together as individuals and persons with children and grandchildren. Folks wearing proudly the rainbow flag and socializing, were all together for an evening of information and fellowship. It was the the vision of Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Senior Pastor along with Rev. Stacey L. Edwards, Associate Pastor/Minister to Singles, to have a 'Whosoever church where all are welcome no matter who you are.' The Same Gender-Loving Family part of the Singles Community hosted the event. It was to salute the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and learn about the accomplishments of one of the many unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

The March on Washington celebration took place in D.C. Aug. 23, 2003. Rustin was an openly Same Gender-Loving African-American, Quaker background, and was the architect of the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech (this was not the original title of King's speech; that title was given to King's speech by the media).

Rustin, a master strategist and tireless activist, is best remembered for the organizing of the 1963 March on Washington along with A. Philip Randolph. It was one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States. Rustin brought Gandhi's protest techniques to the American civil-rights movement, and helped mold Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., into an international symbol of peace and nonviolence. Despite Rustin's achievements, he was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a homophobic era.

The documentary Brother Outsider presents an 85-minute portrait intended for PBS broadcast, focusing on Rustin's activism for peace, racial equality, economic justice and human rights. As I watched the audience you could witness laughter, tears, moans, and sighs. But, what I witnessed most was a groundbreaking event that none of us truly know the future outcome. I saw new bridges being built between the straight and the gay African American Christian community, and I was filled with a feeling of hope as I saw hearts and minds coming together as one in unity and eager for change.

I asked folks after the event what they thought of the Movement, Rustin, and of King's friendship with and worshiping together with Rustin? 'The evening was groundbreaking, for how many Black Churches in this city acknowledge and embrace SGL members in a public forum? I hope that lives were impacted by knowing that we do not have to feel separated from God's love, grace, and mercy,' said Ronald Wadley.

'I thought it was very informative. I was not familiar with Mr. Rustin at all. I didn't know he was that involved with the Civil Rights Movement. It was educational. I really enjoyed it!,' said Kim.

'I really didn't know about Mr. Rustin; that gave me a better insight on Dr. King. I was not aware he was the one that actually started the March on Washington, but so many other marches and rights we're going through today,' said Albert Tribble.

The Singles Community Ministry is not about coming to get hooked up. If that happens that is great also, as long as it is keeping with God's plan for your life; but The Singles Ministry really is about having a consecrated relationship with God and feeling good about who you are as an individual.

Rev. Stacey L. Edwards says: The Singles Community at Trinity UCC (TUCC) is made up of Never Married, Same Gender-Loving, Divorced and Widowed, and Single Parents. How does the African-American community and African-American leadership deal with the issues of diversity in the 21st Century when Europeans are no longer the majority? Is being 'out' in a place of worship dangerous, or acceptable? Does being 'out' have a great impact on class, sexuality, and gender issues and if so, how will we as African-Americans deal with these issues?

I ask this due to recent issues such as gay marriage, adoption, and the rights of privacy being played out in the media and in the White House. Some think we are the era and generation that will have to make a change as Same Gender Loving and LBGT if we truly are to see future change, as we are benefactors of change from the Civil Rights Movement.

For more info on Trinity UCC go to tucc.org . www.pbs.org/pov/pov2002brotheroutsider www.pbs.org/pov/pov2002brotheroutsider; sherriactup2@yahoo.com


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