The news, reported April 18, correlates with a public discussion at Charis Books & More on Friday, April 22, titled, “Public Dialogue on the Modern Civil Rights and Black GLBT Movements.”
Presenters at the Charis event include Rudolph Byrd of the Johnson Institute and who is also the founding director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies.
Also speaking at Friday’s Charis event are Cheryl Clarke, dean of students at the Livingston Campus in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutger University-New Brunswick Campus; and Thomas Glave, English professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
At Emory University, the 10-member working group plans to examine rewnowned black gay figures such as Audre Lorde and Bayard Rustin.
Rustin, one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest companions and trusted advisers, was openly gay and had an incredible impact on Dr. King’s life and work by introducing him to nonviolent direct action. He also organized the now famous 1963 March on Washington. Rustin, however, was pushed out by others in King’s inner circle because they did not like an openly gay person working with them.
“This is an example of the powerful manifestation of homophobia in African American communities at the highest level,” Byrd said.
The working group will also tackle numerous other topics. From the Emory Report: “The working group also will focus on religion’s centrality in the civil rights struggle and its implications for the BLGBT movement, the effect of the AIDS pandemic on BLGBT communities and their role in shaping cultural and political debates of the 1980s and 1990s.”
Current plans are to take the research and publish them in a book.
Jewelle Gomez, director of grants and community initiatives for San Francisco-based Horizons Foundation and another member of the working group, hopes the group can “make connections from different segments of human rights activism, leading to meaningful social change.”
“If we do that, people would no longer be satisfied with their own slice-of-the-pie approach,” she said. “We would start to understand that oppression is systematic, affecting a broad array of people. The more we act against each other, the more we’re supporting oppression.”
An international conference to discuss the BLGBT and civil rights movement is also planned for fall 2012.