Eliza Byard, executive director of the New York based Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), will join Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter as a speaker at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28 for the closing rally commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington.
A statement released by GLSEN says Byard was the only leader of an LGBT organization selected to speak at the event, which was to take place exactly 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the same location.
“I am humbled and honored to represent GLSEN at the anniversary of one of the landmark moments in United States and world history,” Byard said in the GLSEN statement. “Dr. King and March on Washington organizer Bayard Rustin are personal heroes who have inspired me and influenced our work at GLSEN to create a better world for all.”
GLSEN, which has affiliate organizations throughout the country, says its mission is to eliminate anti-LGBT discrimination, including anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, in the nation’s schools from kindergarten through the 12 grade.
President Obama and former Presidents Clinton and Carter were scheduled to be the lead speakers at the Aug. 28 event, the second of two 50th Anniversary March on Washington rallies scheduled to take place at the Lincoln Memorial.
GLSEN partner organizations, mostly in the South, nominated Byard to speak at the Aug. 28 event, the GLSEN statement says. The Atlanta based Martin Luther King Center, which is one of the lead organizers of the event, selected her as a speaker, according to the statement.
At least four other LGBT rights advocates are scheduled to speak at the Lincoln Memorial rally scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 24. They include Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees Union International. Both are out lesbians.
Also confirmed as out gay speakers at the Saturday event are Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, director of faith partnership and mobilization for the Human Rights Campaign, and Adrian Shanker, president of the statewide LGBT rights organization Equality Pennsylvania.
Other speakers scheduled for the Saturday rally include U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was a speaker at the 1963 rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
Additionally, Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. is expected to take the podium, as is Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the lead organizers of the 50th Anniversary March; and members of the family of Trayvon Martin.
An LGBT continent planning to take part in a “feeder” march heading to the Saturday rally at the Lincoln Memorial is scheduled to assemble 8 a.m. at the site of the D.C. War Memorial, which is located across Independence Avenue from the Martin Luther King Memorial.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton are scheduled to speak at the War Memorial site on the subject of D.C. statehood and congressional voting rights for the District before the gathering — including the LGBT contingent — marches to the Lincoln Memorial for the rally there.
Several LGBT organized events between Friday, Aug. 23, and Wednesday, Aug. 28, are scheduled to be held in connection with the 50th Anniversary March, with each playing some role in commemorating the life and accomplishments of Bayard Rustin, who was gay.
March on Washington LGBT-related events
Friday, Aug. 23
- Celebrating the Legacy of A. Philip Randolph & Bayard Rustin 44th Annual A. Philip Randolph Institute National Conference. 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Hyatt Regency Hotel. 400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.
- What is the Unfinished Business for the LGBT Community? A Conversation and Reception on the Heels of the Anniversary of the March on Washington. 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Foyer
- Welcoming Reception for LGBT Participants 50th Anniversary March on Washington . 6–10 p.m. Us Helping Us HIV/AIDS services organization. 3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.
Saturday, Aug. 24
- LGBT March contingent assembles at D.C. Statehood Rally . D.C. War Memorial (North side of Independence Ave. between World War II Memorial and Lincoln Memorial). Mayor Vincent Gray to speak 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
- 50th Anniversary March on Washington rally 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Lincoln Memorial
Monday, Aug. 26
A Tribute to Bayard Rustin & the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Sponsored by National Black Justice Coalition, American Federation of Teachers, A. Philip Randolph Institute. 6– 9 p.m., Lincoln Theater, 1215 U St., N.W.
Wednesday, Aug. 28
The Life and Legacy of Bayard Rustin: How an African American gay man became the lead organizer of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. Panel discussion and reception, hosted by the Center for Black Equity and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, 7 p.m. in the HRC Equality Forum Hall, 1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.