“We need in every community a group of angelic troublemakers.” -Bayard Rustin.
Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement March on Washington. Fifty years ago, Dr. King stood at the Lincoln Memorial and gave his spine-tingling “I have a Dream!” speech which gave America a blueprint of what equality would feel like and look like. Not only did he give our country a vision for what equal justice under the law looked like, he gave us the vision of a loving brotherhood and sisterhood, a Divine family, of all Americans regardless of race, religion, or other man-made forms of separation.
Bayard Rustin, an African American gay man, was a major architect in the March on Washington and Dr. King’s work. However, because of the combination of extreme racism and homophobia of the times, Rustin was unable to be out and proud and his contributions were hidden so as not to draw attention to him.
In fact, he even made a personal spiritual choice to sublimate his sexuality, not because gay people should, as some in the extreme religious factions believe, but because any sexual activity between members of the same-sex was against the law, sublimating his sexuality allowed him to remain untouchable by the discriminatory man-made laws and to be of service to a broader cause. This was a huge personal sacrifice!! However, he made this choice because the opponents of civil rights were trying to discredit Dr. King by associating him with “homosexuals.”
He is finally being recognized for his contributions to our nation’s history and his selfless work to end discrimination. Not only did he help organize the March on Washington, Rustin had gone to India and helped bring the non-violent teachings and methods of change Ghandi taught back to the Civil Rights Movement. Like, Ghandi, Rustin made great personal sacrifices for the over all good of his country and to be of greater service to the world.
Today we celebrate Bayard Rustin’s contributions. We recognize him and celebrate the rights of all people to be free and treated equally under the law. And we continue to hold in our vision the unfolding blueprint of what our world will look like when we see and truly embody the truth that we are all part of one human family!