Today Logo announced that the late gay civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin will be honored at the 2015 Logo Trailblazer Honors on Saturday, June 27, at 8pm.
Martin Luther King III will present the inaugural Bayard Rustin Trailblazers Award, which honors invisible heroes of LGBT equality. The inaugural award will be given posthumously to its namesake, Bayard Rustin.
Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) will be part of a special video tribute to Rustin, and Raven Symoné, co-host of The View, will introduce King.
Rustin’s surviving partner, Walter Naegle, will accept the honor on his behalf.
“Bayard Rustin created an archetype that nearly every social justice movement has learned from, yet he unjustly fell victim to the same homophobia and racism that he spent his life fighting against,” said Stephen Friedman, President of MTV and Logo.
“We are so proud to partner with Martin Luther King III to honor Bayard’s legacy and bring his vital life’s work to a new generation.”
Rustin was born in 1912 to a Quaker family in West Chester, Pennsylvania. From a young age, Rustin pursued civil liberties in all forms, spending three years in jail during WWII as a conscientious objector and traveling to India to learn Gandhi’s method of nonviolent protest firsthand.
Once back in the States, he became a pivotal figure in the African-American civil rights movement: Rustin pioneered the earliest Freedom Rides, refused to give up his seat on a segregated bus more than a decade before Rosa Parks, and was a mentor to young minister named Martin Luther King Jr.
Rustin guided King, in fact, in directing the Montgomery bus boycotts, and is considered the architect the 1963 March on Washington, the stage for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
But he was an out gay man at a time when that was an impossibility, and he suffered for it.
Despite being an integral part of the African-American civil rights movement, Rustin worked behind the scenes for much of his career because of his sexuality. Even fellow activists worked to push him aside.
Sen. Strom Thurmond read Rustin’s entire arrest record into the congressional record, in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the March on Washington. His FBI file listed him as a “suspected communist and known homosexual subversive.”
After a 1953 arrest for solicitation, Bayard wrote “sex must be sublimated if I am to live in this world any longer.”
In his later years, Rustin directed his energy into the nascent LGBT movement, declaring, “the new n****rs are gays.”
A year before he died, Rustin gave a speech at the University of Pennsylvania where he declared “we cannot fight for the rights of gays unless we are ready to fight for a new mood in the United States, unless we are ready to fight for a radicalization of this society.”
In 2013, President Obama awarded Bayard Rustin a posthumous Medal Of Freedom.
The documentary Brother Outsider chronicles Rustin’s life and the causes he devoted himself to.
Below, Dustin Lance Black discusses Rustin’s important legacy.
And Raven-Symoné and Martin Luther King III honor Bayard Rustin.