Bayard Rustin played a significant role in creating the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, advised Dr. King during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was the key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and was awarded the Presidential Metal of Freedom posthumously in 2013.
Rustin’s impact on the civil rights movement was epic. Rustin was an indispensable organizer in the civil rights movement who knew how to effectively advance a message of nonviolence for racial and economic equality. Rustin being a gay man did not detour Dr. King from including him as a close advisor and valuing Rustin’s expertise.
LGBTQ rights are in peril – advocates for human rights bravely carry forward the torch Rustin elevated by continuing the fight for equality. It was dangerous to be openly gay back in the day, and danger still exists today. Black transgender women remain vulnerable with high rates of violent physical attack and homicide. LGBTQ youth face disproportionate rates of homelessness, rejection from family, based on sexual orientation or gender identity, is noted as the main reason.
The Black community has rallied and organized to uplift and support one another through desegregation, the fight for voting rights, equality in education, and systematic police brutality. We must continue to see our connection to each other by advocating for LGBTQ rights. The only shame is being silent. If we do not collectively speak out, we shrink the space equality has to exist. Oppressing a segment of community destroys the foundation for any future fight to further fairness.
“The principal factors which influenced my life are 1) nonviolent tactics; 2) constitutional means; 3) democratic procedures; 4) respect for human personality; 5) a belief that all people are one.” Bayard Rustin