Atlanta’s Rustin-Lorde Breakfast ‘catalyst’ for all social justice events of year

One of city’s most diverse events relocates to All Saints Episcopal Church

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“We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers.” 
― Bayard Rustin

“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. ” 
― Audre Lorde

It’s a homecoming for the 13th annual Bayard Rustin-Audre Lorde Breakfast, held every year in Atlanta as part of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

This year’s theme, “Justice, Freedom, Desire: A Homecoming,” is about bringing attention to progressive issue, especially when it comes to black LGBT people.

“There’s been ongoing attention around social justice and what that means for the LGBTQ community, especially for black queer folk …” says Craig Washington, a co-founder of the popular breakfast that has grown to attract more than 200 people.

In the past, the Rustin-Lorde has focused its discussions to issues including immigration, poverty and healthcare.

But it was time to revisit why the breakfast was originally founded, Washington says ― to recognize black LGBT people ― and this year tackle the subject of some of the crushing discrimination faced by young LGBT people.

Homecoming has two layers, Washington explains. There’s the convening and reuniting as part of ritual that is shared each year at the breakfast. And then there is the actual physical shelter and security a home provides.

“There is a critical impact for younger queer folk that due to homophobia or poverty or racism they have been disconnected from their house, particularly those who are trans or gender queer and who cannot find shelter,” he says.

Safe spaces are needed for these young people, places like the Phillip Rush Center and the feminist Charis Books & More. And it’s unfortunate some of these places, like Outwrite Bookstore, are no longer here to provide that safe space, Washington says.

At the breakfast, roundtable discussions that are so much part of the event, will occur and people will have the opportunity to express what all the themes mean to them, Washington says.

The decision to add “desire” to the mix was intentional and includes, but is not limited to, sexual desire, he says.

“Audre Lorde [talked] a lot about the power of the erotic. Not just the hedonistic pleasure, although that is part of it, but the deeper, profound and spiritual dimensions there are to desire,” Washington says. “You can’t be free if you can’t be free to express your desire.”

New location for 2014

Darlene Hudson, who co-founded the breakfast with Washington, said moving to a new location at All Saints Episcopal Church this year is due to the larger and larger crowds coming together at the past location, Saint Mark United Methodist Church. For the past few years, it’s been standing room only at the Rustin-Lorde Breakfast and it was time for change, Hudson says.

“We also want to try some new and different things this year so people can see the impact the breakfast is having. We want people to leave more informed, willing to connect with others,” she says. “This is the catalyst that starts all the social justice events of the year.”

Washington and Hudson as well as all organizers of the breakfast also want to focus on queer youth at this year’s breakfast.

“We want our dialogue to engage … on what’s happening in our country and in Atlanta. Just for me in 2013 it was a rough year for our youth, LGBT youth. I wanted something that spoke to that,” Hudson says.

Hudson says there is too much violence directed to youths in their late teens and early 20s and they need to know there are safe spaces for them to go.

“And if we don’t have them, let’s create them, where they can be nurtured properly,” she says.

A children’s space was added to the breakfast a few years ago and has become popular, allowing younger participants to create signs to carry in the MLK March following the breakfast.

Speaking at this year’s breakfast will be Rev. Maressa Pendermon of Unity Fellowship Church and Pastor Troy Sanders of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain. Both will also be the LGBT speakers at the rally at the King Center that follows the annual MLK March. This year, Southerners on  New Ground, an organization working with rural LGBTQ people on issues ranging from immigration to fair wages, is the fiscal sponsor of the breakfast, bringing two like-minded organizations together in an official capacity, says Hudson.

The breakfast isn’t just about speakers, Hudson says. It is and always been about creating community dialogue.

This year, the community goes international with activists visiting from India, Nepal and Pakistan attending as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program of the U.S. Department of State.

For those who are thinking about attending this year’s breakfast and need some convincing, Washington says it’s a time and place to be around others who are on the front lines and doing the foot work needed to make Atlanta, and the world, a better place to live for all people.

“The people that come are really about seeking and building community, they are about mutual support, they are about doing what they can to change the world in a positive away,” he says.

“These people are fully alive and present. This breakfast is really about being with that tribe. Our participants are also a great demonstration of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community pulling together,” he adds. “It’s a great demonstration of Atlanta’s beloved community doing what we do.”

Bayard Rustin-Audre Lord Breakfast
Monday, Jan. 20
Doors open at 9:30 a.m., breakfast served at 10 a.m.
All Saints Episcopal Church
634 West Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30308

MLK March and Rally
Steps off at 1:45 p.m.
Corner of Peachtree Street and Baker Street and Xenora Clayton Way