Black History Month 20 for 20: Bayard Rustin - The Unknown Hero
Monday January 30th I was shooting the shit on Twitter as usual, and turned my attention to the love I have for Master P. My friend Courtney with a K inspired me to start this series (as you can see below). For every weekday in February, I will profile Black persons in celebration of Black History Month. #BHM20for20 Why only 20? Y’all too busy sinning on the weekend to read (I’m joking but not really). Thank you Kourtnee.
“To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true.” – Bayard Rustin
Before starting this 20 for 20 Series, I never heard the name Bayard Rustin. It was the homie Tae who suggested that I profile Bayard Rustin & I thank him for that because what I found was the gay man who was the “silent” sidekick to MLK Jr. during of The Civil Rights Movement.
Bayard Rustin was a key organizer of the Journey of Reconciliation, which was the call to end segregation on busing in the South. The Journey of Reconciliation took place from April 9th – April 23rd of 1947, and 16 men (8 Black & 8 white) rode segregated buses in states ranging from VA, N.C., TN, and KY with the Black protestors riding in the front, and white protestors riding in the back. Bayard Rustin instilled the non-violent method of protesting & resistance lessons he learned from his time in India where he studied under the heads of the Ghandhian Movement. Rustin was also a member of War Resisters League, as well as Fellowship of Reconciliation but was dismissed from the latter in part to participating in “lewd” public acts in a car with another man. However, this did not slow down Rustin one bit, as he was one of, if not thee main organizer of The Great March on Washington.
The march draws its greatest attention because of MLK Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, but the attendance organization, and overall mapping out of the march deserves much more credit than it gets. Around a quarter-million people (that’s 250,000) showed up to march in 1963 without emails, texts or social networks to post flyers. Promoters who talk all day, every day about how their event is going to be a “zoo” or “movie” or better yet, a “zoovie” and can barely get women to show up for free before 11. I joke but really, that’s just to give everyone an idea of how amazing of a feat this truly was/is, and Bayard Rustin deserves unlimited credit.
The craziest thing I’ve learned about reading up on Rustin is that he didn’t really get into Gay Rights until the 80’s, and what’s even wilder is that because of how shitty this country treated (shit, still) same sex marriages, Rustin had to adopt his lover. Walter Naegle had to legally separate from his parents, then get adopted by Rustin, and go thru the entire process of making sure the environment was safe/sound for him under Rustin’s care, just so they could be together. Imagine living in a country where you have to adopt the person you’re in love with just to be with them, “legally”? We don’t have to imagine because it’s the same country that voted for a Tang colored bastard. On top of all of this, Bayard Rustin also organized school boycotts of segregations in NYC.
I honestly had no idea who this man was before February of 2017 started, and I have a lot more to learn but I am happy that Tae bought him to my attention, and even happier to say thank you to man who held it down behind the scenes. You know you’re an important person when they start naming buildings & schools after you in a way to say, “I know we didn’t fuck with you when you were alive but we gonna use your name to lie about your legacy.” It’s our job to keep the essence of Bayard Rustin’s legacy alive, and I thank him for his activism in all forms.
Next up, a Black woman who is striking a pose with her platform.