Rustin/Lorde Breakfast remembers black gay leaders

The 10th annual Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Breakfast brought more than 200 people to St. Mark United Methodist Church this morning, uniting a diverse group of young people and elders alike from Atlanta’s LGBT community to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Rustin, a gay mentor to MLK who organized the renowned 1963 March on Washington and brought Ghandi’s teachings of non-violence into the Civil Rights Movement, suffered greatly as an openly gay man in such homophobic times, including being fired from leadership positions. He died in 1987 at the age of 75.

Lorde, a lesbian author and poet, was also an activist who wrote “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name,” which she described as not an autobiography, but a “biomythography.” ZAMI, Atlanta’s own organization for black lesbians of African descent, takes its name from Lorde’s book. Lorde battled cancer in her later years and died in 1992 at the age of 58.

At the breakfast, a panel discussion on “Resilience” as inspired by Rustin and Lorde included speakers talking about ways they remain strong in difficult times.

As a transgender woman, Tracee McDaniel said “it’s about survival” for many people who are transgender and non-gender conforming — simply staying alive and trying to find a job in this tough recession makes resilience even more necessary, as well as having a giving and loving support system.

Rev. Josh Noblitt, social justice minister at St. Mark United Methodist Church, said when he was attacked in Piedmont Park last July, the victim of a hate crime, he had to determine what to do with the roller coaster of emotions he felt. He said becoming an outspoken voice, rather than harboring anger within himself, was a way for him to remain resilient.

Nikki Young led the panel discussion on resilience.

“What we teach others is also the way we teach each other and share our stories. [Rustin] is really specific about the intersectional approach we have to have,” she said.

The breakfast is organized by Craig Washington and Darlene Hudson. Washington noted that Rustin called on “angelic troublemakers” to make change in our society and said the room was filled with such people.

The event was first organized 10 years ago as a way for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to gather before the annual citywide MLK Day march and rally that is inclusive of the LGBT community, including having openly gay speakers each year. This year the gay speakers at the rally were Tracy Elliott, executive director of AID Atlanta, and Anneliese Singh, founder of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition.


Top photo: Craig Washington is co-founder of Atlanta’s Bayard Rustin – Audre Lorde Breakfast, which commemorates black gay leaders during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. (File photo)