3 comments
KayWhitlock
KayWhitlock

Important to remember, too, that Bayard Rustin was a huge champion for economic justice when red-baiting was widespread.  His politics were always intersectional.  He was the moral force at the center of the Quaker/American Friends Service Committee's publication, "Speak Truth to Power," in 1955 - a document that foresaw a national security state.  Yet he was not credited for that document - by his own request because he believed his gayness would be used to discredit the entire work.  As it was, his central involvement with that effort was made possible only because Steve Carey, who later would lead the organization, championed him against stiff internal opposition. 

 

Regrettably, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) worked hard to disassociate from him earlier on, when he was arrested in Pasadena on a morals involving alleged sex with two younger white men.  At the time, he was working for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR).  Both AFSC and FOR are faith-based groups witnessing for social justice, peace, and humanitarian service.  FOR removed him from the staff.

 

Yes, it was in the 1950s, but this is a powerful illustration of how even liberal/progressive groups failed to stand with queers and, on occasion, others who became the targets of McCarthy-type campaigns of political persecution. 

 

When I worked for AFSC (I served in different staff capacities), as the then 50th anniversary of the publication of "Speak Truth to Power" approached, I advocated strongly and continually for printing a new edition and organizing an event that at long last told the full truth about Rustin's involvement and honored him.  It would also permit AFSC to speak publicly about the period when they disavowed him - a public moment of self-reflection and accountability that could have served as a model.

 

It did not happen. 

 

Now, there is a pdf of "Speak Truth to Power" on the AFSC website and you can read it with a 2012 note about Bayard Rustin's involvement. Apparently, AFSC only truly acknowledged him once there was more general acknowledgment of him, and queer writers and filmmakers had made sure his legacy in so many justice arenas would be acknowledged.  (If I sound angry - I am.  While I am pleased AFSC is at long last acknowledging his contribution, I note that it is years after the organization ended all of its LGBT programming.)  

 

Speak Truth to Power pdf here:

 

http://afsc.org/category/topic/publications