2016 Rustin/ Lorde Break­fast

'Art is Move­ment' at an­nual LGBT event

GA Voice - - Front Page -

By DAR­IAN AARON and PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS “Our col­lec­tive sto­ries of strug­gle and re­siliency are the core foun­da­tion for the larger dis­cus­sion of the value of black lives.”

—So­cial jus­tice and HIV ac­tivist Devin Bar­ring­ton-Ward

Black Lives Mat­ter. Trans Lives Mat­ter. Trou­bling rates of new HIV in­fec­tions. There has per­haps never been as im­por­tant a time for At­lanta’s African-Amer­i­can LGBT com­mu­nity to come to­gether to share tes­ti­mo­ni­als, frus­tra­tions, as­pi­ra­tions and goals than now, and that’s ex­actly what hap­pened on Jan. 18 at the 15th An­nual Rustin/Lorde Break­fast.

Hun­dreds packed into down­town At­lanta’s Lou­d­er­milk Cen­ter for the event, which was started in 2002 by ac­tivists Dar­lene Hud­son and Craig Wash­ing­ton to cel­e­brate Ba­yard Rustin and Au­dre Lorde’s con­tri­bu­tions to the black LGBT move­ment while also cel­e­brat­ing Martin Luther King Jr. on the na­tional hol­i­day set aside to re­mem­ber the civil rights icon. Rustin was a gay civil rights leader and chief or­ga­nizer of the 1963 March on Wash­ing­ton for Jobs and Free­dom, while Lorde was a les­bian writer, poet and ac­tivist.

This year’s event man­aged to avoid the protest put on last year by mem­bers of South­ern­ers On New Ground, who car­ried signs through the crowd to raise aware­ness about po­lice bru­tal­ity against black and brown peo­ple and to stress not only that “Black Lives Mat­ter,” but also, “Black Trans Lives Mat­ter” and “Black Queer Trans Womyn Mat­ter.”

But that didn’t mean those move­ments weren’t dis­cussed or rec­og­nized, as the top­ics came up through­out the morn­ing and sev­eral in the au­di­ence were spot­ted wear­ing Black Lives Mat­ter hood­ies.

Spo­ken word vo­cal per­for­mance fires up crowd

A spo­ken word and vo­cal per­for­mance popped up dur­ing the event—lit­er­ally. The spo­ken word per­form­ers emerged from dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the room, their voices be­ing heard by the crowd be­fore they were seen. Per­form­ers in­cluded At­lanta ac­tivist and HIV preven­tion coun­selor An­thony An- toine, au­thor An­tron-Re­shaud Olukay­ode and Larry Walker.

An­toine gave a pas­sion­ate spo­ken word per­for­mance where he talked about his jour­ney as a black, gay man. Lorde and Rustin had a help­ing hand in the per­for­mance as well, with An­toine cit­ing fa­mous quotes from both, in­clud­ing Lorde’s “Our vi­sions be­gin with our de­sires” and Rustin’s “We need in ev­ery com­mu­nity a group of an­gelic trou­ble­mak­ers. Our power is in our abil­ity to make things un­work­able.”

An­toine’s per­for­mance cli­maxed with him find­ing his peo­ple and his will, say­ing, “Then, like a thun­der­ous roar, an ex­plo­sion oc­curs. Some­thing gives. Ei­ther sink or swim and I want to live! I rise above this con­fu­sion turned anger turned rage turned vi­o­lence turned pride. Self-pride. Giv­ing praises to God who is no longer just your God but my God too. Giv­ing praises to all my ho­mo­sex­ual brothers and sis­ters who in many ways were my first love, who taught me how to re­ally love. Giv­ing praises to all of you, yes all of you that love and ac­cept me, and yes I give praises to even those that hate and re­ject me. Why? Be­cause all of you made me who I am to­day—strong.”

He ended by im­plor­ing those in at­ten­dance to speak up about their Pride, “Be­cause there are broad shoul­ders upon which we stand. The blue­print has been laid.”

Mon­ica Raye Simp­son then closed out by singing a soul-stir­ring ren­di­tion of Ma­halia Jack­son’s “Pre­cious Lord.” It was a fit­ting mo­ment con­sid­er­ing the theme of this year’s break­fast, “Art Is Move­ment.”

Call to in­clude ev­ery­one’s sto­ries in com­mu­nity’s agenda

So­cial jus­tice and HIV ac­tivist Devin Bar­ring­ton-Ward fol­lowed up with a speech that also ref­er­enced and quoted black lead­ers through­out his­tory, in­clud­ing abo­li­tion­ist and civil rights ac­tivist Fred­er­ick Dou­glass and poet Lu­cille Clifton.

He noted the high num­ber of mur­ders of trans­gen­der women last year, then ex­panded the tent to salute all women in the com­mu­nity, say­ing, “We owe it to our trans­gen­der sis­ters, femme-iden­ti­fied com­mu­nity mem­bers and our black cis­gen­der women to ac­knowl­edge their re­siliency, their strug­gle and the need for their political and pol­icy de­mands to be up­lifted, sup­ported and val­ued in our political discourse and the over­all agenda of the black LGBTQ com­mu­nity.”

He also talked about black gay men and “the strug­gle of bear­ing the un­just bur­den of the HIV epi­demic,” say­ing the high num­ber of in­fec­tions has less to do with per­sonal be­hav­ior and more to do with homelessness, un­em­ploy­ment, poverty, un­just in­car­cer­a­tion and less ac­cess to health care and HIV treat­ment.

Black Lives Mat­ter also came up, with Bar­ring­ton-Ward say­ing ev­ery­one’s sto­ries need to be in­cluded in the com­mu­nity’s agenda.

“Our col­lec­tive sto­ries of strug­gle and re­siliency are the core foun­da­tion for the larger dis­cus­sion of the value of black lives. So when we are ask­ing Bernie San­ders, Hil­lary Clin­ton, Jeb Bush and even Ge­or­gia’s own Gov­er­nor Nathan Deal the value of black life to Amer­ica, to Ge­or­gia and to At­lanta, we are ask­ing those ques­tions and mak­ing those de­mands with the over­all nar­ra­tive of all black life, be­cause all black lives mat­ter.”

The crowd then be­gan to file out, with most headed for the King Day March, which in­cluded an LGBT con­tin­gent led by Rev. Dun­can Teague.

The theme of this year’s Rustin/Lorde Break­fast was ‘Art Is Move­ment,’ and it in­cluded spo­ken word and vo­cal per­for­mances. (Pho­tos by Dar­ian Aaron)

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