The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) are urging President Obama to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to civil and human rights activist Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), posthumously, for his distinguished service to this nation and in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 28, 2013). Rustin was a proud Black gay man and an indispensable architect of the Civil Rights Movement, serving as a masterful organizer and strategist as well as an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To honor Rustin's remarkable accomplishments, courage and his invaluable legacy, NBJC, APRI and AFT have joined forces to host “A Tribute to Bayard Rustin and the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington” to create national awareness of the invaluable contributions of the late Bayard Rustin.
"Every year, during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, we hear the iconic 'I Have a Dream' speech, which was delivered at the 1963 March on Washington," says veteran lesbian activist Mandy Carter, NBJC’s Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemoration Project National Coordinator. "Yet, most people do not know that Bayard Rustin, an out Black gay man, was the key organizer for that groundbreaking event. America needs to know that Bayard existed. Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and same-gender-loving people need to know that Rustin stood firm in his identity and, by his very presence, challenged others in the Civil Rights Movement to overcome homophobia."
We need your help. In order to achieve this feat, NBJC, APRI and AFT have launched a public awareness campaign to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This campaign will encourage supporters to sign on to this petition to the President. Join a coalition of civil and human rights, economic justice, labor, youth and faith-based organizations from across the nation in our call for President Obama to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bayard Rustin, posthumously.
Sign our petition today and share it with your networks on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like your organization to be listed on our organizational sign on letter, please contact NBJC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. NBJC’s mission is to end racism and homophobia. As America’s leading national Black LGBT civil rights organization focused on federal public policy, NBJC has accepted the charge to lead Black families in strengthening the bonds and bridging the gaps between the movements for racial justice and LGBT equality. For more information on NBJC’s Bayard Rustin Commemoration Project, visit http://nbjc.org/bayard-rustin.
The A. Philip Randolph Institute is an organization of Black Trade Unionist whose mission is to fight for racial equality and economic justice. To APRl's co-founders, A. Philip Randolph and his protégé, Bayard Rustin, the fight for workers' rights and civil rights were inseparable. Randolph and Rustin forged an alliance between the civil rights movement and the labor movement, and in 1965 founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute to continue the struggle for social, political and economic justice for all working Americans.
Founded in 1916, the American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students across the United States, their families and their communities. Rustin was a close friend and ally of the AFT and its late president Albert Shanker. Many AFT activists and staff, including late AFT president Sandra Feldman, worked closely with Rustin in organizing the 1963 march.
Rustin’s most noteworthy achievements include serving as chief architect of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, mentoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and helping to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. As an effective bridge builder across a broad range of demographics, he spent more than 60 years involved in social, racial, economic, class, labor and other justice movements, both domestically and internationally.
As the mastermind behind the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Rustin was able to mobilize over 250,000 attendees, making the 1963 March on Washington the largest social justice demonstration ever seen in the nation's capital. As is evident by the extraordinary turnout at the Lincoln Memorial, his organizing prowess was well ahead of his time, resulting in the creation of diverse coalitions and the broadening of the base of the Civil Rights Movement.
Despite his many achievements, Rustin was silenced and removed from important leadership positions due to his sexual orientation. Although significant progress and landmark legislative advancements have been achieved in the last 50 years, the United States continues to struggle with many of the civil and human rights issues Bayard Rustin sought to address throughout his lifetime. His focus on civil rights and economic justice, coupled with his belief in peace, human rights and the dignity of all people remain relevant.
I am inspired by his lifelong calling to advance nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience through direct action as a means to achieve freedom and equal opportunity for all people. As a young man, Rustin actively worked to be the change that he sought to see in the world, protesting racial segregation and discrimination and organizing sit-ins and freedom rides in both the North and South. A leading intellectual, Rustin was instrumental in drafting the framework, which would ultimately lead to the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
I believe it is time for Bayard Rustin to receive the proper recognition that an exemplary public servant of his stature deserves. His relentless commitment to the ideals of democracy and freedom, and his unmatched contributions to justice warrant this important honor. Mr. President, I strongly urge you to use your discretion to grant Bayard Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously.