The below letter was released today by NAACP chair emeritus Julian Bond, noting the role of Bayard Rustin in the famous “I Have a Dream” speech and event.
“Thousands are in Washington, D.C. today to re-create something so powerful and so vivid that it still plays on loop in my mind. They’re here for the 50th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington.
“We are returning amidst a newly reinvigorated fight for civil rights that has grown rapidly to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
“After all, LGBT rights are civil rights.
“No parallel between movements is exact. But like race, our sexuality and gender identity aren’t preferences. They are immutable, unchangeable – and the constitution protects us all against discrimination based on immutable differences.
“Today, we are fighting for jobs, for economic opportunity, for a level playing field free of inequality and of discrimination. It’s the same fight our LGBT brothers and sisters are waging – and together we have formed a national constituency for civil rights.
‘And while we haven’t fully secured Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most remarkable dream, we are getting closer every single day.
Julian Bond with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and more recently at an HRC event.
“In August 1963, I was the Communications Director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led at the time by John Lewis, the march’s youngest speaker that day.
“A gay black man by the name of Bayard Rustin was one of the chief organizers – an early embodiment of the unity and commonality that bonded the movement for LGBT equality with the fight for equal treatment of African-Americans.
“In his honor, HRC will help lead a commemoration of Bayard’s incredible contributions to the civil rights movement on Monday. And it was recently announced that President Obama will posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the United States.
Fifty years later, I can still feel the power of that noble, August day. Its weight is what drove me for years – from founding the Southern Poverty Law Center, to overseeing the NAACP as Chairman, not to mention the ten terms I served as a member of the Georgia legislature. And later, that exact same commitment to achieving equal rights is what convinced me to stand with the Human Rights Campaign in endorsing marriage equality.
Together we have marched millions of miles to land on the right side of history, and today we stand firmly planted, hoping only that more will join us, one by one, until everyone in this nation is truly free and equal. I know you are with the marchers today – in spirit and in solidarity – and I hope you’ll follow the news coverage of today’s powerful events.
Thank you for being part of the historic struggle for civil rights.
Chairman Emeritus, NAACP