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Civil Rights Gay Pioneer Bayard Rustin Awarded 100th Birthday Proclamation

by Stuart Wilber on March 7, 2012

in Civil Rights,History,News,Politics,Stuart Wilber

Post image for Civil Rights Gay Pioneer Bayard Rustin Awarded 100th Birthday Proclamation

Bayard Rustin, the openly gay African American who was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s right hand man responsible for a good deal of the civil rights activist’s tactical and strategic success has been awarded a proclamation by Tom Bates, the Democratic 74-year old highly-popular mayor of the City of Berkeley, California, to commemorate the upcoming anniversary of Rustin’s 100th birthday. Bayard Rustin was born March 17, 1912, and died August 24, 1987, in New York City.

READ: Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Gay Strategist, Deserves Better

The proclamation was presented last night by Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore at the Berkeley City Council meeting, and a copy of the proclamation (image, above; full size, here,) once signed by Mayor Bates, was sent, along with the statement below, directly to The New Civil Rights Movement.

Bayard Rustin. Photograph used by permission of Walter Naegle.

“Bayard Rustin was one of the lead organizers and strategists for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August of 1963, who also brought Gandhi’s nonviolent protest techniques to the American Civil Rights Movement, and helped mold Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into an international symbol of peace and nonviolence,” Councilmember Moore said in a statement to The New Civil Rights Movement. “Bayard Rustin has gone largely unrecognized for his role in the Civil Rights Movement because he was openly gay. It was feared that having an openly gay advisor would discredit the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other leaders of the African-American Civil Rights Movement.”

Councilmember Darryl Moore, who also serves as Board Chair of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the leading national black LGBT civil rights organization, wanted to take the opportunity during Bayard Rustin’s 100th Birthday to shine a light on his lifetime of accomplishments. “Bayard Rustin is best known for his role in the Civil Rights Movement, but he was also hugely involved in the labor movement, international human rights and was a stalwart of the LGBT community,” says Moore. “He really was an incredible person who has changed our world in ways that we have not properly recognized nor appreciated.”

Bayard Rustin’s life is eloquently portrayed in the award winning documentary, Brother Outsider, The Life of Bayard Rustin. Information about Centennial Screenings, Readings and Events across the country are listed here.  If you or an organization to which you belong would like to schedule an event, please contact The Bayard Rustin Centennial Project by writing me at .

Stuart Wilber. Photo by Mathew Ryan Williams

Stuart Wilber believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Allied person is the most powerful kind of activism. Shortly after meeting his partner in Chicago in 1977, he opened a gallery named In a Plain Brown Wrapper, where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt with sexuality and gender identification. In the late 1980’s when they moved to San Clemente, CA in Orange County, life as an openly gay couple became a political act. They moved to Seattle 16 years ago and married in Canada a few weeks after British Columbia legalized same-​sex marriage. Although legally married in some countries, they are only considered domestic partners in Washington State. Equality continues to elude him.

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{ 1 comment }

TurboKitty March 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm


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