Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-04-18
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

VIEWPOINTS Bayard Rustin: One of the tallest trees in the forest
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Rev. Irene Monroe
2012-04-04

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


Around the country LGBTQ communities recently celebrated the anniversary of Bayard Rustin's 100th birthday. In April, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts will have its annual Bayard Rustin Breakfast. Also, "State of the Re:Union"—a nationally aired radio show distributed by NPR and PRX—was awarded first place in the Excellence in Radio category from the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association for the Black History Month special the program did on Rustin entitled "Bayard Rustin: Who Is This Man?"

To date, Rustin's still largely an unknown because of the heterosexism that has canonized the history of last century's civil-rights movement.

Bayard was born March 17, 1912, in the Quaker-settled area of West Chester Pennsylvania, one of the stops on the Underground Railroad. The handsome six-footer who possessed both athletic and academic prowess is most noted as the strategist and chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington that catapulted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. onto a world stage. Rustin also played a key role in helping King develop the strategy of nonviolence in the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956), which successfully dismantled the long-standing Jim Crow ordinance of segregated seating on public conveyances in Alabama.

One of my favorite quotes by Rustin is: "When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him." For LGBTQ African Americans, Rustin is the only open gay hero we have, and for many of us his work and words give us courage to fight homophobia in ourselves and in our communities.

In a letter to a friend explaining his predilection toward gay sex Rustin wrote, "I must pray, trust, experience, dream, hope and all else possible until I know clearly in my own mind and spirit that I have failed to become heterosexual, if I must fail, not because of a faint heart, or for lack of confidence in my true self, or for pride, or for emotional instability, or for moral lethargy, or any other character fault, but rather, because I come to see after the most complete searching that the best for me lies elsewhere."

During the civil-rights movement, Rustin was always the man behind the scene, and a large part of that had to due with the fact that he was gay. As Albert Shanker, then-president of the American Federation of Teachers and friend of Rustin, stated in a review on Jervis Anderson's biography Bayard Rustin: The Troubles I've Seen that Rustin "...was the quintessential outsider—a black man, a Quaker, a one-time pacifist, a political, social dissident, and a homosexual."

African-American ministers involved in the civil-rights movement would have nothing to do with Rustin, and they intentionally spread the rumor throughout the movement that King was gay because of his close friendship with Rustin.

In a spring 1987 interview with Rustin in Open Hands, a resource for ministries affirming the diversity of human sexuality, Rustin recalled that difficult period quite vividly. He stated, "Martin Luther King, with whom I worked very closely, became very distressed when a number of the ministers working for him wanted him to dismiss me from his staff because of my homosexuality. Martin set up a committee to discover what he should do. They said that, despite the fact that I had contributed tremendously to the organization … they thought I should separate myself from Dr. King. This was the time when [Rev. Adam Clayton] Powell threatened to expose my so-called homosexual relationship with Dr. King."

When Rustin pushed him on the issue to speak up on his behalf King did not. In John D'Emilo's book Lost Prophet: The Life and times of Bayard Rustin he wrote the following on the matter:

"Rustin offered to resign in the hope that his would force the issue. Much to his chagrin, King did not reject the offer. At the time, King was also involved in a major challenge to the conservative leadership of the National Baptist convention, and one of his ministerial lieutenants in the fight was also gay.

'Basically, King said, "I can't take on two queers at on time,'" one of Rustin's associates recollected later."

When Rustin was asked about MLK's views on gays in a March 1987 interview with Redvers Jean Marie he stated, "It is difficult for me to know what Dr. King felt about gayness…"

As a March on Washington volunteer in 1963, Rustin was Eleanor Holmes Norton's boss. The renowned Congresswoman of D.C. recalled the kerfuffle concerning Rustin's sexuality.

"I was sure the attacks would come because I knew what they could attack Bayard for," Norton stated to Steve Hendrix in a 2011 interview. "It flared up and then flared right back down," Norton stated. "Thank God, because there was no substitute for Bayard."

The association of Rustin to the march was inseparable to those who worked closely with him. "The 53-year-old known at the time as 'Mr. March-on-Washington' was a lanky, cane-swinging, poetry-quoting black Quaker intellectual who wore his hair in a graying pompadour," Hendrix wrote in Bayard Rustin: Organizer of the March on Washington.

"When the anniversary comes around, frankly I think of Bayard as much as I think of King," stated Norton. "King could hardly have given the speech if the march had not been so well attended and so well organized. If there had been any kind of disturbance, that would have been the story."

Rustin was a complex man and often times seemingly a contrarian. To the surprise of many, Rustin was an opponent to "identity politics," and most likely would not have been waving a rainbow flag or approve of queer studies departments at colleges and universities. To many conservative African Americans, Rustin wasn't only "queer" in the literal sense but was perceived also as one who didn't have any of the approved and appropriate Black sensibilities.

"Rustin's steadfast opposition to identity politics also came under criticism by exponents of the developing Black Power movement. His critical stance toward affirmative action programs and black studies departments in American universities was not a popular viewpoint among many of his fellow Afro-Americans, and as at various other times of his life Rustin found himself to a certain extent isolated," Buzz Haughton wrote in his article "Bayard Rustin: Civil Rights Leader," in the fall 1999 issue of Quaker Studies.

As we comb through the annals of history more of us are learning that Rustin was also one of the tallest trees in our forest.


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

VIEWPOINT Catholic LGBTQIs see mixed record in first five years of Francis papacy 2018-04-18 - Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, recently issued the following statement in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis: ...


Gay News

MLK's assassination reminds nation of gun violence 2018-04-11 - The 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination is, sadly, a searing reminder of unaddressed gun violence in the ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN How #METOO Becomes Culture Change; Tradeswomen and Sexual Harassment 2018-03-28 - From a speech at the Chicago Women's History Center Screening of Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power, Jan. 13, 2018. Like so many ...


Gay News

VIEWPOINTS Cardinal Cupich, Church and families 2018-03-28 - Cardinal Cupich says Church should learn from families. We hope it will learn from all families. In a recent address at the ...


Gay News

SENIOR MOMENTS Letter from Palm Springs 2018-03-28 - Never in a million years did I ever think that I'd go to a gym. It's so out of character that I ...


Gay News

VIEWPOINTS The Seasoned Life 2018-03-14 - You might find this hard to believe, but it's true. Before I came to earth I had already picked out my parents ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN For theater critics, diversity, cultural connection imperative 2018-03-07 - A few years ago, at a town hall addressing the controversy that arose over reviews of Steppenwolf's production of This Is Modern Art, ...


Gay News

VIEWPOINTS Billy Graham's ministry of LGBTQ intolerance 2018-03-07 - The Reverend William ( Billy ) Franklin Graham Jr. ( 1918-2018 ) has died at the age of 99. Too often, hagiographies are ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN My journey, my story 2018-02-28 - I honestly knew ever since I was able to speak that I was not like other little girls. However, I didn't understand why ...


Gay News

THE AMAZON TRAIL My daily last straw 2018-02-28 - What exactly is the last straw? I thought it was the presidential buffoon's goading of North Korea, but I was wrong. Our government ...


 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.