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GAY AND GRAY: BlackedOUT History

JanAdams75x75Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here.]

category_bug_gayandgray.gif For this month's Gay and Gray post, I want share some writing from a young friend of mine. Renee currently has an internship through Americorps with the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

According to their website:

”Gay-Straight Alliance Network is a youth leadership organization that works to empower youth activists to end harassment and discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

A few weeks ago, Renee sent her friends a happy email - she was learning a lot while working in this volunteer service program and she wanted to tell us about it.

Along with other young staff, she'd noticed how few resources existed for students that highlighted LGBTQ (lesbian-gay-bi-trans-questioning) heroes during Black History Month and she set out to remedy the omissions. Here's what she posted at the organization's blog:

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BlackedOUT History
Like many people, I thought I knew all that happened during the Civil Rights Movement. I mean, I went to a school named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Experimental Laboratory School from kindergarten through eighth grade! I was taught about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and a tiny bit about Malcolm X. I thought I knew it all!

“When I went to college, I started learning about Bayard Rustin, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde and countless others who made huge contributions to the movement. Who were these people? Why were they not mentioned in my grade school classes? Is it because they were gay and lesbian? Why, as a black student, am I not learning my own history?

“To learn more, I watched Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. I was very inspired by his life and the film, so I started researching more of his story.

“He was a non-violent activist who worked behind the scenes to create the non-violent Civil Rights Movement through the mentorship of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1963, Bayard Rustin, along with A. Philip Randolph, organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Due to Rustin being openly gay, the NAACP chairman did not want Rustin to be credited for organizing the march. After the success of the March on Washington, Rustin went on to organize The New York City School Boycott, write as a columnist for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) newspaper, and create change for many other Civil Rights and LGBTQ issues.

“After learning so much about Bayard Rustin, I was still eager to learn more. I, along with Geoffrey (GSA Network staff), began to compile information about Black LGBTQ figures in history so that the students of today don’t have to read the watered down version of their history. We encourage you to stand up, TAKE ACTION and partner with other school clubs and organizations, such as Black Student Clubs...

”As Bayard Rustin said, “We are all one. And if we don't know it, we will learn it the hard way."

* * *

GSANetwork posted more resources for students here.

Sometimes we elders encounter young people who think they know it all and nothing we bring to them could possibly teach them something. It's always heartening to meet a young person like Renee who wants to retrieve what history can teach - and find a way to use history as a springboard toward contemporary action.

This week I got another email from Renee. Apparently our new Republican Congress wants to eliminate funds for her program.

”I have had the most amazing experience here in San Francisco and I have learned so much over the past six months. Without AmeriCorps and Public Allies (the direct program I am with), I would not be able to serve all of the amazing middle and high school youth that I work with and I would not have had the opportunity to clean up parks and rehab schools with the 40 other Allies in Public Allies with me.

“I truly treasure the experiences that I have had so far and I hope that others are able to have the same experiences in the years to come. Please help us keep this amazing opportunity alive.

“I really hope/urge you to call your Congressperson to tell them not to cut AmeriCorps funding. Please take a couple minutes and call (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative's office or send them a quick email.”

There's something elders can do for the young.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce French: Alzheimer's Disease


Thank you so much for this post.

Awesome post. Thank you!

Interesting item about Bayard Rustin that I did not know - how he organized the universally renowned rally that Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

I had never heard of him and that shows just how much he was in the background. Thank you for an interesting lesson in history and a heads up to fight the fund cutting.

I was familiar with his name but could not have told you what he did in the Civil Rights movement--thank you for the valuable history lesson.

Thanks for writing this,Jan.

I remember Bayard Rustin well and you have brought him to my mind again and I appreciate the reminder of what a champion of civil rights he was.

I never knew he was gay. Of course, in those days you seldom knew who was gay.

Aren't we all glad those days are over?

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