Monday, October 12, 2009

Bayard Rustin and the 2009 March on Washington

My friend Joyce came down from NYC on a bus sponsored by Audra McDonald for the big civil rights march yesterday. We met up amidst 300,000 of our closest friends and had a wonderful time.

Bayard Rustin is one of my personal heroes. He organized the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King made his "I Have a Dream" speech. He was the principal aide to labor and civil rights pioneer A. Phillip Randolph. He was 20th-century America's foremost strategist, practitioner and teacher of non-violent civil disobedience. That's not my assessment. It was Gandhi's.

Yes, that Gandhi.

It's why Gandhi invited Rustin to study in India after WWII.

Anyway, if you've never heard of Rustin, you're missing a key piece of the history of the 20th century. John D'Emilio's biography, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, is well worth giving a read.

Part of why you don't know about Rustin is that he was gay. So he lived in the shadows of peace movements, civil rights campaigns and coordinated acts of non-violent resistance that could not have happened without him.

I was tickled appropriately pink to hear his name and spirit invoked often and with due reverence yesterday.

One thing I love to do at political protests is read the signs. The two best I saw were:

A) A body-length placard worn by a thoroughly suburban looking teenager which read "I CAN'T BELIEVE WE STILL HAVE TO PROTEST ABOUT THIS SHIT", and

B) The one I've plucked from twitpics, below:

Joyce and I saw these folks on the Capitol grounds.

It's irreverent, perhaps even to the point of blasphemy for some, but I have no dog in that fight.


Effing brilliant. You go, church ladies!

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