Saturday, 11 February 2012

Guest Blogger - Narvel Annable

I have been criticised for comparing Gay Rights with the 1960s Civil Rights movement in the USA.  Accordingly, in Nottinghamshire’s February/March 2012 edition of Queer Bulletin I was delighted to read the words of Coretta King –

“Dr Martin Luther King would be a champion of gay rights if he were alive. Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida, and in many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own. I salute their contribution.

“Homophobia is like racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanise a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimise the next minority group”.

I am proud to have made a decision to major in African American History at Eastern Michigan University at a time when the Detroit race riots were tearing that city apart.

I thank Coretta King for her encouraging words and am grateful for the good work of Bayard Rustin, a gay African American who was the organisational “mastermind” behind much of the civil rights movement’s work.
Narvel Annable

The Queer Bulletin to which Narvel refers is the bi-monthly newsletter of the Nottinghamshire Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. For quite a few years now QB has been bringing news and advice to the lgbt community in the city and I have myself contributed to it many times.

The QB article was published in the same week as Martin Luther King Day was celebrated in America. One name that needs to be brought to the fore this year is Bayard Rustin, another figure whose centenary is being celebrated in 2012.

Bayard’s contribution to the human rights movement cannot have been greater than at the march on Washington in 1963 at which King made his famous “I have a dream …” speech. Bayard organised the march and rally himself, with his sexuality being used by both politicians and media to smear the event.

As Narvel suggested, there are people who deny that King had any interest in human rights outside the black community. Recently Tony Dungy, a professional American football coach, has made statements to that effect.

Fortunately leading gay black activists have used Bayard’s centenary to point out that people cannot turn off one part of their personality to suit those working with them who have other prejudices. Martin Luther King was black and straight. Bayard Rustin was black and gay. They worked together closely on the same human rights issues and, as Coretta King has said, there can be no doubt that her husband would have been a champion of lgbt rights as well.

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