Friday, May 22, 2009

The Bayard Rustin Memorial March on Washington

An Open Letter to LGBT Leadership:
Bayard Rustin Memorial March on Washington

Dear LGBT leaders,

The time to work together is now.

We have accomplished much in our particular areas of focus and in our particular communities. Some of us have worked nationally, others with a more locally directed effort. Some work in the public arena, others within faith communities. There is an unparalleled awareness of LGBT Equality Issues in the media. There is increasing protection against discrimination in ENDA legislation, hate crimes laws, safer schools and HIV/AIDS awareness. Marriage equality has arrived in some states.

There are many parallels between our current civil rights battle and the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Leadership in Civil and Human Rights is not measured by the strength or success of individual organizations but by the real change that has occurred. None of us will fully succeed until your organizations are no longer needed.

Many LGBT Americans people that live do not have equal access to the same rights that straight Americans have. Many of them are afraid to stand up and claim their rights. Others live their lives comfortably and do not see a reason to stand up for those who cannot.

Who will be there for us? To whom do we give our hard-earned money in these tight economic times? Often we see various organizations at odds about exactly what is needed and what is achievable. Our disagreements sometimes contribute to the problem, not the solution.

We are not so naïve as to not understand the realities of political posturing. We know that that this will not happen overnight. But we need to be visible. We need to be working together.

One factor contributing to the passage of Proposition 8 in California was a perception of straight supporters that their LGBT friends did not really care about being married, and many did not. But if these quiet members of our community were asked or volunteered their opinions about whether others had the right to marry, their answer might have been “of course.”

The lesson is that the presence of LGBT people in the lives of Americans is not enough. There have to be LGBT people who speak up and speak out, Too many of us don’t feel comfortable doing that. We need an icon. We need an “I have a dream” moment.

To that end we propose that naming that march to honor the gay man who was a pivotal part of the Civil and Human Rights movement, Bayard Rustin. This would recognize that many, many LGBT people worked for the equality of all people at a time when their own rights were not secured. They saw the big picture. They came together for justice, not their own self-interest. This theme of “Equal Rights for All” will speak to all Americans, not just LGBT Americans. All races, young and old, people of faith, agnostics, atheists, straight and gay people, poor and wealthy people, people of all political parties and or no political party are welcome. Everyone who knows that separate is not equal, that justice delayed is justice denied and the we live in a country that claims to espouse “liberty and justice for all” will be invited to commit a day to stand up for what they believe.

This will only happen if all LGBT leaders you can lay down our territorial claims long enough to come together and agree on a day and a theme. This rising tide will lift all boats and every organization that supports it will benefit. More importantly the LGBT citizen of the United States of America will benefit.

We propose October 11, 2009 for the Bayard Rustin Memorial March on Washington.

Now is the time.


S. Kyle Crawford
Neil D. Houghton
Mendon, NY

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