Weekend celebrates gay civil rights advocate Bayard Rustin's legacy

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When Deryck Tines first heard about Bayard Rustin while watching a film five years ago, he saw something of himself in the late civil rights leader.

The two men were both black, both gay, both singers; both worked as civil rights advocates.

"There were a lot of parallels," Mr. Tines, 50, a gospel singer, minister and artist who lives in Uptown, said in a phone interview today.

He wondered why he'd never heard of Bayard Rustin. The West Chester, Pa., native had worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the 1963 March on Washington and was a pacifist advocate for many causes, before his death in 1987 at the age of 75.

This weekend, Mr. Rustin's role in history will get attention at the first Bayard Rustin Centennial Pittsburgh Festival and UN-Masked Conference, part of a national two-year-effort by the Washington-D.C.-based National Black Justice Coalition to honor Mr. Bayard during the 100-year anniversary of his birth and the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington.

"These two years, we are pushing and re-celebrating, re-igniting the flame around Bayard," Mr. Tines said. "His vision for America, really black and white, old and young, gay straight. It's an inclusive vision."

Mr. Tines said he believed that Mr. Rustin, a major figure in the civil rights movement, had been omitted from history and from people's memories due in large part to his sexual orientation. The 100th anniversary of his birth -- which coincides with a growing momentum for gay rights in the United States, including the right to marry -- was a good time to reintroduce Mr. Rustin's legacy, Mr. Tines said.

The conference, which is open to the public, started Thursday night with a commemorative event for victims of AIDS and a jazz tribute for Bayard Rustin. Tonight, a free reception and discussion will be held from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown.

The conference will continue Saturday, with a program on HIV, homophobia and homelessness from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the William Pitt Union in Oakland and a town hall about the role of the black church from 5 to 9 p.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Hill District.

A musical tribute at 6 p.m Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church will conclude the conference. Mr. Tines expects 2,000 to 3,000 people to attend the four days of the conference.

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Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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