Monday, January 21, 2008

Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Right Pilgrims

Yesterday, I attended worship at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, NC, and noticed on the back of the bulletin a few words that embraced Martin Luther King, Jr. as a kind of "saint" in that tradition. This being the day that we as a nation lift up and celebrate the life of not only Martin Luther King, Jr., but of all who worked toward equality among the races, it bears pointing out that one of those near Martin Luther King, Jr., was Bayard Rustin, an African American man who was also gay, who helped organize many of the marches--or shall we call them pilgrimages--including the march to Washington, D.C., in which King gave one of his greatest speeches, "I have a dream."

In reading up on King and Rustin, what I am struck by is how King's widow, Coretta Scott King, and their children believe fervently that King would've support equality among those of us in the LGBT community, and straight community.

Consider the following quotes:
Kings widow, Coretta Scott King, spoke out last year against a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage.

Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union, she said during a speech in March 2004.

Mrs. King has long been a vocal supporter of gay equality and has said that her husband would have been, too.

As my husband, Martin Luther King Jr., said, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' Like Martin, I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others, she has said.

Kings namesake, son Martin Luther King III, has also said that his father would have supported the push for gay civil rights.

People criticized my father back in 1963 for allowing [openly gay activist] Bayard Rustin to organize the March on Washington, but my father was outspoken in his support, King III told Southern Voice in a 2001 interview.

Rustin, an openly gay African-American man, was the chief organizer of Kings 1963 march. Rustin also founded several civil rights organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

For more of this citation, click here on Thomas Paine's Corner.

Let us celebrate this as a day of equality for all, regardless of one's ethnicity, heritage, race, gender, economic class, age, ability...or sexual orientation. After all, Martin Luther King, Jr. would expect nothing less than equality for ALL of the people of the world.

Peace, Brett

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