At the time of Dr. King’s death his opposition to hatred and injustice had become more inclusive than just civil rights for black Americans. He spoke out against economic oppression regardless of race; he was outspoken against the war in Viet Nam and he was bold enough to venture into the gay community by turning to an openly gay black man, Bayard Rustin, as a mentor (pictured here with Dr. King). In fact, while Dr. King may have delivered his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech during The March on Washington, it was Bayard Rustin who put the march together. Mr. Rustin was the ‘architect of The March on Washington.
These facts about Martin Luther King often go unspoken in the black American community, but if we took time to look at the road Dr. King traveled we wouldn’t be in awe of his liberal, humanitarian ways.
His journey began years before he entered the struggle for civil rights. During his formative years as an intellectual he studied the words not only of Jesus the Christ and Frederick Douglass, but of Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Rheinhold Niebuhr as well because he understood that in order to battle inhumanity he must first understand the depth of humanity. This is something so many of us have failed to realize about the vision of Martin Luther King.
I know it was something I hadn’t understood during the time Dr. King was on this earth.
I can remember, as a young black gay man, two days before my fourteenth birthday, standing in front of the T.V. in our living room watching the newsflash of his assassination. Reflecting on that evening, I see a young man who understood enough of the struggle of being black in America, but I also see a young man who felt no one would ever understand the struggle he was going through of being gay in America. I now see I was wrong.
I was wrong because the vision Martin Luther King laid before us did include me as a gay man. It included all peoples who are victims of hatred and injustice.
The person who knew Martin Luther King best, his wife, Coretta Scott King, spent the final years of her life embracing gay rights and speaking openly that her husband, if he had lived on into his later years, would have embraced gay rights. She knew of Martin’s dream and she carried it to the end of her days.
Dr. King’s vision was dynamic in that it transcended the darkness of hatred and ignorance and embraced the light of love. Now I understand that on the evening Dr. King took his last breath, I, a young black gay man, did inhale the sweetness of his dream and is why I continue to savor his words and the words of his wife who continued his dream:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”~ Dr. Martin Luther King
"We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny . . . I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be," ~ Dr. Martin Luther King
“Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.” ~ Coretta Scott King
"Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood," ~ Coretta Scott King