Comings & Goings

By Peter Rosenstein - August 23, 2023 12:00 am

At least four national LGBTQ rights organizations will participate in the 60th anniversary March on Washington: A Continuation of Dr. King’s Work, which is scheduled to begin Saturday, Aug. 26, with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

The LGBTQ organizations participating in the event include the National LGBTQ Task Force, whose executive director, Kierra Johnson, is scheduled to speak at the pre-march rally.

The other LGBTQ organizations scheduled to participate include the D.C.-based Center for Black Equity and the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG.

The National LGBTQ Task Force and PFLAG this year are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their founding in 1973.

PFLAG, formerly known as Parents And Friends of Lesbians And Gays, currently uses just the PFLAG name and describes itself as the “largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families.”

Earl Fowlkes, executive director of Center for Black Equity, said representatives from his organization and from HRC and PFLAG participated in a conference call with organizers of the march, who welcomed the LGBTQ organizations’ participation.

Among the lead organizers of the 60th anniversary March on Washington are Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of Martin Luther King Jr.; his wife, Andrea Waters King; and longtime civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton.

“My dad’s speech at the March on Washington nearly 60 years ago was a profound moment in American history,” King III said in a statement. “Despite the significant progress we have made over these six decades, we need to rededicate ourselves to the mission my dad gave his life for,” he said.

“The March on Washington will not just be a commemoration but a continuation of what Dr. King and our predecessors started,” Sharpton said in the statement released by the event’s organizers. “We must remember why we are still marching: civil rights of Black, Brown, Asian, Jewish, LGBTQ Americans and women are under relentless attack,” Sharpton said.

“I am honored to stand with the King family as we bring together these groups for a historic, cross-cultural and cross-generational demonstration to show that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Sharpton said. “Together, we will show the nation the strength in our unity and our resolve to realize Dr. King’s dream of a fair nation for all of us.”

The statement released by the event’s organizers says a pre-program for the rally and march was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial, with the main program set to begin at 11 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial site.

“Following the program, a march will begin through the streets of the nation’s capital,” the statement says, adding that additional details such as the route of the march would be released soon.

Longtime D.C. African-American and LGBTQ rights advocate Phil Pannell said this year’s inclusion of an LGBTQ speaker at the March on Washington rally represents a continuation of a welcoming of LGBTQ participation in the event over the past 20 or more years.

But Pannell said former D.C. Congressional Del. Walter Fauntroy, the lead organizer of the first of the resumed MLK Washington marches that took place in 1983, marking its 20th anniversary, strongly opposed allowing an LGBTQ person to speak at the event. Pannell points out that he and three other Black gay activists held a protest against Fauntroy’s position at his Capitol Hill office that resulted in their getting arrested. The Washington Blade reported their arrests in a news story.

Shortly after their arrests, “there was a conference call of all the major civil rights leaders and Audrey Lorde, a Black lesbian writer and poet, was put on the program” as a speaker, Pannell said in a text message to the Blade.

“There will be an LGBT speaker this Saturday,” Pannell added. “So, getting arrested 40 years ago was worth it.”

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