Thousands of activists and spectators attended the 60th Anniversary March on Washington on Saturday, Aug. 26. Advocates and leaders from labor unions, faith communities, political groups, and community organizations traveled to the Lincoln Memorial at the historic site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech to call for a continuation in the fight for racial justice and equality.
Several speakers at the rally included a call for LGBTQ equality as an integral part of the broader fight for social justice. Leaders of LGBTQ organizations were among the speakers at the Lincoln Monument. Notable LGBTQ speakers included activists Ollie Henry and Hope Giselle representing the National Black Justice Coalition; Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force; Stacey Stevenson, president and CEO of Family Equality; and Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
Several speakers remarked upon the legacy of out gay activist and leader Bayard Rustin, the architect of the original 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
“I’m honored to be here among so many leaders, but especially the legacy of Bayard Rustin,” HRC President Robinson said in her remarks. “Bayard Rustin was the lead organizer for the first March on Washington and he led proudly and loudly as an out gay Black man, y’all. And I say that because the truth is that lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people: We are here today and we have always been here.”
“I have a simple request,” Robinson continued. “If you have a queer or trans child: love them and love them completely. If you have a Pride flag: fly it, waive it, and waive it proudly. And if you’ve got a vote: by God, use it.”
Task Force Executive Director Johnson spoke about the challenges facing members of the LGBTQ community, particularly those who live in the intersections of identities that face discrimination.
“Our lives are literally under attack,” Johnson said. “Our transgender, genderqueer and non-binary children are being targeted, religion has been weaponized to deny care and rights to our loved ones. The erosion of voting rights, the dehumanization of immigrants, the policing of Black and brown bodies and attempts to erase our contributions from the history books. And yet, here we are.”
Johnson continued, “We deserve congressional leaders that will pass essential, life-saving and affirming legislation like the EACH Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Renewing Immigration Provisions Act, and the expansion of civil rights in passing the Equality Act.”
In the pre-program speeches, non-binary activist Ollie Henry remarked, “The March on Washington has always been a march towards. A march towards actualizing the dreams our ancestors laid into each marble slab placed on this stolen soil. They had a dream to be seen, accepted and celebrated just as they are. Decades ago, queer folks in the movement were kept to the outskirts of our community’s garden. But today, we stand in the sunlight.”
Hope Giselle of Get Phluid and the GSA Network addressed the crowd.
“As I stand here, where 60 years ago someone believed in a dream, as a Black trans woman, my dream is to be able to walk around amongst my people at the very cookout that so many are invited to who don’t belong and feel safe,” she said. “My dream is that when I walk into my home, when I see the faces of the people that look like me, they are not turned up in disgust because of the way that I show up and that the contributions that I and the rest of my community make toward the betterment of Blackness is accepted as valuable.”
“To stand on the steps where this beautiful speech was given and be acknowledged in the fullness of who I am both being Black and being a trans woman at the same time feels amazing,” Giselle told the Blade. “But I also feel like it’s commemorative of the message that Dr. King gave, which is one, I believe, about solidarity of all people and about the coming together of everyone for the rights of folks.”
Following the speeches, activists held signs and chanted in a march beginning at Lincoln Circle proceeding south on 23rd Street, N.W. The march continued along Independence Avenue and concluded at West Potomac Park near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Story courtesy of the Washington Blade via the National LGBTQ Media Association. The National LGBTQ Media Association represents 13 legacy publications in major markets across the country with a collective readership of more than 400K in print and more than 1 million + online. Learn more here: https://nationallgbtmediaassociation.com/