Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Alveda King speaks about her accusation against Bayard Rustin . . . or does she?

Alveda King
Today, I conducted a very short, very interesting (to say the least) interview with Alveda King, Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr's niece.

The interview stemmed from recent accusations she made about her uncle's gay aide and the architect of the 1963 March on Washington, Bayard Rustin. Ms. King charged in a statement :

"The 21st century homosexual lobby likes to point to the professional relationship between my uncle Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin, his openly homosexual staffer who left the movement at the height of the campaign. Rustin attempted to convince Uncle M. L. that homosexual rights were equal with civil rights. Uncle M. L. did not agree, and would not attach the homosexual agenda to the 20th century civil rights struggles. So Mr. Rustin resigned.

Bayard Rustin
That's simply not true. According to several sources, including the book Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, Rustin resigned because several other black leaders were jealous of King's influence and were going to spread the story that he and King were lovers.

Earlier today, I spoke to Eugene Vigil, Ms. King's assistant. He told me that he forwarded comments I made on her blog to her and that she may be calling me. I seriously doubted that she would. You see, the comments I left on her page had been removed (but have since been restored.) You can imagine my surprise when she called me a few hours later.

Her tone was cordial but cautionary. I imagine she didn't exactly appreciate me branding her statements as lies.

In spite of this, the interview went fine at first. She said that she would be emailing me a column from a lesbian which would prove her accusation.

She also said that I had to understand that she, being a 61-year-old woman, had lived through the Civil Rights Movement and that made her privy to certain conversations of those involved.  I asked her what specifically did she allegedly hear regarding Rustin attempting to get MLK to connect the civil rights movement with gay equality.

She refused to go into detail, explaining to me she would not debate the words of the deceased because she felt it was disrespectful. That was when I pointed out to her that she had already begun the debate by making accusations against Rustin.

And that's when the interview went downhill fast.

We spent several minutes practically talking over each other. She kept saying that she would send me a column by a lesbian which would supposedly prove her point. I, however, told her that she would have to give me more information than that and if she was privy to certain conversations, why couldn't she give me the details of said conversations.

I also have to admit that I was put off by Ms. King's constant mentioning of the column "by a lesbian." She would not say this woman's name until I asked her. She finally told me that the lesbian in question was Irene Monroe, an ordained minister, religion columnist, public theologian,  motivational speaker and a person who I have extreme admiration for.

Needless to say that I was interested in reading if Ms. Monroe's words validated Alveda's assertions. However, I continued to press Ms. King to give me facts as to the personal conversations she allegedly heard.

That was when she hung up on me.

Now, the information Ms. King sent me from Monroe was a piece entitled What Did Martin Luther King Do When Confronted With Homosexuality?

And the portion Ms. King was talking about which supposedly validated her claim about Rustin was this:

SADLY, BAYARD RUSTIN, the gay man who was chief organizer and strategist for the 1963 March on Washington that further catapulted Martin Luther King onto the world stage, was not the beneficiary of King’s dream.

In a spring 1987 interview with “Open Hands,” a resource for ministries affirming the diversity of human sexuality, Rustin stated that he pushed King to speak up on his behalf, but King did not. In John D’Emilo’s book “Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin,” D’Emilo wrote: “Rustin offered to resign in the hope that he would force the issue. Much to his chagrin, King did not reject the offer. At the time, King was also involved in a major challenge to the conservative leadership of the National Baptist Convention, and one of his ministerial lieutenants in the fight was also gay. Basically, King said, ‘I can’t take on two queers at one time.’”

The piece in question by Ms. Monroe was actually titled Monroe View: The King family's mixed legacy.

 It was written in 2007 and it does include the above passage.

But nowhere in that passage does Monroe indicate that Rustin tried to convince King to connect gay and civil rights. But unfortunately, however, Monroe did not into detail as to what exactly did Rustin want King to speak on his behalf about.

She corrected that error in a March 22, 2012 piece entitled Bayard Rustin: One of the Tallest Trees in Our Forest. Here is what she said at that time:

African-American ministers involved in the civil rights movement would have nothing to do with Rustin, and they intentionally spread rumors throughout the movement that King was gay because of his close friendship with Rustin.

In a spring 1987 interview with Rustin in Open Hands, a resource for ministries affirming the diversity of human sexuality, Rustin recalls that difficult period quite vividly:
Martin Luther King, with whom I worked very closely, became very distressed when a number of the ministers working for him wanted him to dismiss me from his staff because of my homosexuality. Martin set up a committee to discover what he should do. They said that, despite the fact that I had contributed tremendously to the organization ... they thought I should separate myself from Dr. King. This was the time when [Rev. Adam Clayton] Powell threatened to expose my so-called homosexual relationship with Dr. King.
When Rustin pushed King to speak up on his behalf, King did not. In John D'Emilio's book Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, he writes the following on the matter:
Rustin offered to resign in the hope that his would force the issue. Much to his chagrin, King did not reject the offer. At the time, King was also involved in a major challenge to the conservative leadership of the National Baptist Convention, and one of his ministerial lieutenants in the fight was also gay.

"Basically King said I can't take on two queers at on time," one of Rustin's associated recollected later.

And there you have it.

Alveda King bases her false accusation about Rustin attempting to manipulate MLK on a passage of a column taken out of context and comments she claims to have heard but won't go into detail about.

Draw your own conclusions as to Ms. King's credibility, folks.

As for me, I said I was determined to receive an answer one way or another. And I've got my answer.

I almost wish I could say that it wasn't what I suspected before I interviewed her. But it's not.

Whatever the case may be, I've done my duty. A great man was wronged and I hope that I did what was necessary to rectify that wrong.

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lcr said...

Unless you think your challenging Alveda King is going to inhibit her spreading of this malicious story, I'd ask Irene Monroe to contact her and straighten her out. Suspect she'd be very effective.

BlackTsunami said...

When someone is bound to spread a malicious story, very few things an stop them. I suspect that even Ms. Monroe wouldn't be able to hinder Alveda King. The thing that does count is that the truth is out there to counter her bull.

The Colorful One said...

It sounds to me like Ms. King is the type who feels that her blood-ties to her uncle should make her immune to the standard questioning and fact-checking that is (or used to be) an essential staple of good journalism.

I'm glad you found out and reported the truth. I just hope the truth gets as much circulation as the lie.

Clyde Barron said...

Thank you very much for uncovering the truth in this matter since Alveda King does not seem to be interested in the facts, only her own prejudice.

Daniel Wachenheim said...

Thank you for standing up for the heritage of Bayard Rustin. Ms. King lied in so many ways. She should be ashamed of herself.