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Remarks on the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington



Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks

Executive Director & CEO

National Black Justice Coalition


In response to today’s 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, NBJC Executive Director and CEO Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks released the following statement:

Today, we commemorate the anniversary of the single most extraordinary example of non-violent protest in our nation’s history. A homecoming that has been fifty years in the making, today we honor the enduring legacy of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, that great watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement that brought clarity to the struggle for equality and helped change the course of our nation’s history.

Though our work is far from done, we pay homage to the stony road we have trod and honor the immense progress we’ve seen transpire on behalf of justice and equality for all people over the last fifty years. Today, we salute those heroes and heroines whose gallant leadership on that hot summer day long ago paved the way for generations of freedom fighters to own their power.

Particularly, as members of the Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, we look today to the legacy of the late civil and human rights activist Bayard Rustin, a proud Black gay man who was an indispensable architect of the Civil Rights Movement and the brilliance behind the 1963 March on Washington. Rustin’s indispensable contributions to the ethos of our country continue to reverberate and push us toward a more just and fair society.

In anticipation of today’s historic full-circle moment and in celebration of Rustin’s legacy, the National Black Justice Coalition has been working diligently over the past two years to bring awareness to life and work of Bayard Rustin, in addition to the lessons of his teachings that organized the 1963 March on Washington. Under the vision and stewardship of veteran lesbian activist Mandy Carter, we have launched the Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemoration Project, a multi-tiered strategy to harness the power of the media and mobilize Black LGBT youth to educate the public on the lessons of Rustin’s activism, while successfully petitioning the White House to award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom to garner Rustin the recognition he so richly deserves.

To that end, NBJC was proud to serve as a community partner for the August 24th National Action To Realize The Dream March & Rally, led by Rev. Al Sharpton & Martin Luther King, III, during which NBJC marched in solidarity with a contingent of other LGBT organizations including the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and Human Rights Campaign. In addition, I was honored to participate at the Rally as one of a handful of speakers representing Black LGBT people. Our presence at Saturday's rally represents a staunch difference from the 1963 March on Washington, signifying how far the Civil Rights community has come in embracing all struggles for equality.

Additionally, on Monday, August 27, NBJC was proud to join the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to host A Tribute to Bayard Rustin and the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, a celebration of the role Bayard Rustin played in the organization and execution of the 1963 March on Washington, hosted at Washington, DC’s historic Lincoln Theatre. Rustin was himself was an ardent supporter of labor unions and full equity for workers, and used his platform to fiercely challenge the status quo and fight on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized. While others have chosen to neglect Rustin’s significance to our fight for full equality, I applaud labor for all they have done, in recognition of the March’s 50th anniversary and throughout the years, to keep the relevance and lessons of Rustin’s work alive.

I am proud that the National Black Justice Coalition has remained dedicated to giving voice to Rustin’s history of social justice organizing and strategy. Our work at NBJC is a testament to the spirit of Rustin’s life, inspiring Black LGBT people to own their power and teaching others how Black LGBT people navigate space at the intersection of their identities. As we remember and reflect on the today’s historic meaning, it is imperative that we make the legacy of Bayard Rustin permanent in the historical narrative of the movement for equality. And, even more importantly, as we move forward from today’s anniversary and the past week of commemorative activities, it is incumbent for us to educate our children and communities about Bayard Rustin and the lessons of the 1963 March on Washington that he organized, and insist that our education and civic community institutions do the same.


The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation's leading Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, has launched the Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemoration Project to honor the life and legacy of the late Bayard Rustin. For more information, visit

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.