Community Leaders to Honor Gay Black Civil Rights Icon on MLK Day

The late Bayard Rustin will be recognized alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Gayborhood next Monday.
MLK Day of Service at William Way LGBT Community Center is on Monday, January 16th.

The MLK Day of Service at William Way LGBT Community Center is on Monday, January 16th.

This MLK Day, the Gayborhood will recognize not only the late civil rights icon and namesake of the federal holiday, but a gay black leader as well. Bayard Rustin, the late out civil rights trailblazer, was not only the lead organizer for the famous 1963 March on Washington but also an advocate for LGBTQ and women’s rights causes throughout his entire life. The West Chester native’s legacy will be commemorated as part of the community’s Team Bayard MLK Day of Service at the William Way LGBT Community Center.

“There are very few LGBTQ events in the Gayborhood that are centered around African-Americans or their history,” said Sharron Cooks, the chairwoman of Team Bayard. “Rustin’s contributions to the civil rights movement of the 1960s as a black gay man have been overlooked and unacknowledged until just a few years ago.”

The Team Bayard MLK Day of Service was started in 2014 by William Way executive director Christopher Bartlett, and this year marks the first time the event has received outside sponsorships. Cooks said generous contributions from Woody’s nightclub owner Michael Weiss and the Mayfair Social Club will ensure that the event “will not only have volunteer activities from participating Philadelphia organizations, but also several live performances along with the ability for organizers to serve a light lunch and dinner to attendees.”

The daylong free event will include many service activities, including a clothing donation drive, assembling safe-sex kits for COLOURS, a Center City and Gayborhood street cleanup, and HIV counseling/testing by PhillyFIGHT. There will also be special guest speakers and performances, with lunch and dinner provided.

The Team Bayard MLK Day of Service runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Monday, January 16th, at William Way, 1315 Spruce Street.