Over the past decade, the Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Breakfast has become the hallmark event of MLK Weekend in Atlanta as LGBT activists gather together for food and conversation.
Craig Washington and Darlene Hudson, organizers of the annual breakfast, agree the event is known for bringing together a diverse crowd of people to discuss social justice while eating a free breakfast of eggs, bacon and biscuits.
This year there will not be a formal panel, Washington said. Instead, key leaders in the city’s LGBT community will present the theme and “deliver the charge” to attendees, he said. This year’s theme is “Re-Imagine the Dream.”
“We trust that it will motivate more ownership and envisioning of today’s dream for social justice and equality for today’s progressive LGBTQ people and our allies, our beloved community,” Washington said.
“In inviting our folks to re-imagine the dream there is the obvious reference to Dr. King’s vision for equality. However the breakfast prioritizes the social justice and community development work of LGBTQ people, centralizing black and other queer people of color,” he explained.
The breakfast is a time to fill stomachs but also fill minds of people hungry for knowledge and support.
“People experience the breakfast as a safe space to ‘break bread’ together as they learn about precious histories, celebrate today’s movement builders and address matters that are urgent to our survival,” Washington said.
“Year after year, attendees tell us that they most enjoy the discussions at their tables and the fellowship. They love the featured panels and speeches but it is the bonding they enjoy most! I love that and every year we work to meet that need, satisfy that hunger,” he said.
‘Uplifting’ black LGBTQ voices
In 2002, the first annual Bayard Rustin Breakfast was held to bring LGBT activists together before the annual MLK March & Rally sponsored by the Africa/African American Renaissance Festival.
It was also a way to honor Rustin, the openly gay activist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and organized the renowned 1963 March on Washington. The addition of Audre Lorde, the iconic lesbian poet and author, came several years later.
As the years have gone by, the Rustin / Lorde breakfast has grown to some 200 people in a standing-room-only crowd at St. Mark United Methodist Church, this year set for Jan. 21.
“In my opinion, the Lorde/Rustin Breakfast has become a symbol of what it means for diverse communities to come together to discuss the social challenges of today, ideas about how we face those challenges, and to share our accomplishments and hopes for the future,” said Hudson.
The breakfast also ensures that black LGBT people and activists are recognized and honored, Washington said.
“The breakfast helps ensure that black LGBTQ contributions to social justice in the U.S. and abroad will be uplifted,” he said.
“More people gain a deeper understanding of LGBTQ and people of color communities and our activism. The community is mobilized around our commonalities, not through ignoring differences, rather by acknowledging them and breaking common ground,” he added.
Mentoring leaders of tomorrow
Hudson said the breakfast serves as an opportunity to mentor young people.
“A large part of the work we do must also be to cultivate activism in our youth to give them the opportunity to learn and grow,” she said.
“Who knows — we might have the next U.S. President in our midst! My hope is that as new partnerships are formed, additional groups will come on board to learn about the breakfast and contribute their energies and ideas,” Hudson said.
The idea of the breakfast to “break bread” before participating in the march that attracts hundreds of people and organizations to march through the city’s streets and hold a rally at the King Center continues today, but the breakfast has evolved to become a place to work toward equality for all, Washington said.
“Through their experience with the breakfast, individuals who are less experienced may have a clearer idea of how they can contribute, how valuable their voice is to the collective,” he said.
“Lenses are sharpened regarding the connection between queerness, race, gender, and class and the ways to challenge oppression, achieve equality and embrace each other. It is our hope that the breakfast enhances connectivity and collaboration across our beloved community,” Washington added.
MLK Weekend and the honoring of Rustin and Lorde is a time for activists to become “angelic troublemakers,” a term coined by Rustin.
“We honor the lives of freedom fighters who fought against and were marginalized by racism, homophobia, sexism and class oppression,” Washington said of the breakfast. “This year attendees will help identify a common vision and direct pathways to reaching that vision, making our dream more of a concrete reality.”
The breakfast is also an annual event to remind people as they enter the new year to make resolutions to better themselves as well as their communities.
“Many have expressed to us that after attending the breakfast they left with feelings of being energized to carry on with the community work they do,” Hudson said.
“The breakfast is also about being in fellowship with other social justice workers and the community … I believe we must not only look for more opportunities to bring people of diverse backgrounds together to discuss tough issues, such as racism, poverty and violence, but we must also bring together resources and connections to ensure that the work is supported,” she explained.
Also this year, the Atlanta Pride Committee, Out on Film and Charis Books and More/Charis Circle are joining forces Jan. 9 to present a pre-MLK screening of “Brother Outsider,” the renowned documentary of Rustin. There will also be readings of Lorde’s poetry.
MLK Weekend is also a weekend of many parties put on by black gay and lesbian promoters. Wassup N ATL plans several parties for men Jan. 17-21 while Traxx Girls promises parties for women who love women. Traxx Atlanta is also planning parties during the weekend and Ladies at Play has booked Tongue and Groove on Jan. 20 for its King weekend party.
Top photo: Each year, the Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Breakfast brings together people from all walks of life to ‘break bread’ and discuss ways to keep the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive in LGBT communities. Organizers Darlene Hudson and Craig Washington tout the event’s diversity. (by Dyana Bagby)