April 23, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Honoring Gay Rights & Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin

On this day in history 67 years ago, gay civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay “lewd conduct” charge for having consensual sex with two men in a parked car in Pasadena. 

Fast forward to 2020 – today at 12:30 p.m., Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego) will hold a press conference on behalf of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and the Legislative Black Caucus. They will be asking Governor Gavin Newsom to issues a posthumous pardon to Rustin. 

Now, fast forward to this weekend – LGBTQ+ Long Beach chorus group, South Coast Chorale, is performing “The Man Behind the Dream.” This piece is a narrated choral work honoring the life of Rustin as a Gay Rights and Civil Rights activist. The Pride LA spoke with Chris Smith, the Artistic Director of the SCC. Check it out: 

In one sentence, what is South Coast Chorale?  

The South Coast Chorale is a musical voice of acceptance, inclusion and equality.

Can you elaborate more? 

As the official LGBT Chorus of Long Beach, the South Coast Chorale uses music as an entertaining and educational vehicle to build bridges between communities and remind us that we are all more alike than different.

How did the group come to be? 

The South Coast Chorale was founded in 1990, when a small group of individuals got together through their shared love of singing and a desire to have a safe place to express themselves through song.

Can you tell me a little bit about the Bayard Rustin performance? 

“The Man Behind the Dream” premiered in 2018 by six LGBT Choruses across the country.  This multi-movement piece, with music by Steve Milloy and lyrics by Vanessa German is set for chorus and spoken word, honors the life and work of openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin.

Photo: Facebook

A mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, Rustin was pushed to the margins of the movement due to his sexuality. For the Inland Empire premiere, the South Coast Chorale will be joined by the Raincross Master Chorale, the Riverside Resistance Revival Chorus and the UCR Chamber Singers, accompanied by a live band and video projection.  The concert will also include a performance by the DC6 singers of Los Angeles.

Why select this performance?  

Rustin’s story is a powerful piece of history that must continue to be brought out of the shadows. With the success of our premiere performance in 2018, we felt the piece needed to be performed again in a new location in an effort to promote and encourage building bridges between all communities.

What about it do you like the most? 

The piece is full of fun, touching and powerful music that has left a positive and lasting impact on the singers and audiences alike.  Plus there’s something for everyone with all the various musical styles.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the performance?  

Photo: Courtesy. SCC rehearsal for “The Man Behind the Dream”

We hope audiences will leave the performance with a deeper understanding of the diversity in the dream for civil rights and that everyone must work and march together in this continuing movement until there is equal rights and acceptance of all people.

More information about SCC and the Bayard Rustin performance can be found on our website at sccsingers.com.  Tickets can be purchased at riversidelive.com and using code MBD10 at checkout will save $10 per ticket.

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