On Being Honored in Bayard Rustin’s Name

by on February 21, 2023 · 8 comments

in Civil Rights, From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

Just being mentioned with Bayard Rustin
would be enough to fill me with glee.
But receiving the Bayard Rustin
Lifetime Achievement Award
is mind blowing for me.

Makes me feel
like Bojangles
dancing a soft shoe
down a stairway
in a Shirley Temple movie
or on Old Broadway.

Because Bayard was a hero of mine.
Big time.

Dude spent a lifetime

trying to make humankind

more loving and kind

and he went about it

with style and grace,

forever seeking new ways

to embrace

everybody’s hopes and dreams

through peaceful means,

a pacifist

following Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent

approach to achieving equality,

a philosophy

Dr. Martin Luther King

took to our country’s mean streets

as his followers

were greeted by fire hoses

that washed them down the street;

police dogs that tore at their clothes

and their dark-skinned flesh,

spilling their blood in the street;

those there to “protect and serve”

going upside their heads with billy clubs

like in a real life

Whac-A-Mole game

gone shamelessly awry in the street…

But “We Shall Overcome” was the word on the street

and Bayard kept on


and strategizing

and analyzing,

leading to a day

when we were treated

with a legendary

“I Have a Dream” speech

that’s now ingrained in our history,

and he also with each step of the way

fought proudly and uncloseted

for the dignity, of people like him

who were gay.

And when I think of what he’d have to say

about the ongoing struggle of today,

I can just hear him say: “Love each other, brothers and sisters.



Because whether we are

African American or Asian American

Latino or Indigenous, gay or straight,


we’re in this fight together,

and it will be via our commonalities

that we build the world we want to see.

Oh, and I have to say

that it’s moments like these

that I find myself thinking

of the gay people in my life

during my formative years

who’ve contributed to who I’ve come to be:

Mr. Batiste and Mr. Haynes

who had to live on the “down low”;

Hazel, one of the most incredible

human beings I have ever come to know

whose smile was as bright

as the sun reflecting off mountain snow,

always laying some knowledge on me

she thought I needed to know;

Artie Green who put on

colorful fashion shows

that were the talk of the town in Tucson

so many years ago.

They’ve been on my mind every time

I’ve marched and chanted

Hey, hey! Ho, ho!

Homophobia’s got to go!”

kind of rhymes;

when I’ve stood against

ballot propositions

trying to get rid of LGBTQ educators,

colleagues of mine;

when I’ve defended

boys who came to the prom in a dress;

when the graduates

of the first gay convocation

at my alma mater, the U of A,

listened to my address;

when I’ve supported GLSEN and GSA

or taken on

the Boy Scouts of America of the USA

for their bigotry towards scouts and leaders

who happen to be gay

or taken part in actions

to make sure

LGBTQ students are safe

at school or where they play.

So, to receive any kind of accolades

for my participation

in work I’ve simply

felt needed to be done,

is a gesture

I hold dear

with the deepest appreciation.

I already was,

but this ensures

that I will keep on pushing

towards a more ideal civilization

as there’s still so much to be done,

rights to be won.

But for these brief moments

I’ll just bask in

and thank everyone

for this most treasured recognition.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

shirley Sprinkles February 22, 2023 at 7:22 pm

You must surely know how proud to learn of this honor! You’re on the ladder to highest success–keep climbing, my dearest friend. BE THE BEST!


John P. Falchi February 22, 2023 at 7:55 pm

Ernie, this is an award Well-deserved, I remember in the days when you served as a Principal in the San Diego City School District, how you would stand up in principle for those who were being picked on, discriminated against and even hurt, when few others would stick up for them. Bayard Rustin was a great man who is, largely ignored in many school history books because he was gay. In those early civil rights days he executed organizational feats that went unrecognized because of his gender. However, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King knew of the importance of relying on his organizational expertise and certainly involved him in those big, important events. You have emulated much of his background and style in what you went about doing in your life and you have many friends out there because of it, and we love your rapping style poetry, too, Ernie! Please keep it coming! Your friend John.


Dave Baldwin February 22, 2023 at 8:34 pm

Ernie, I want you to know that I’m very proud to know you.


STAN LEVIN February 23, 2023 at 6:56 am

I feel honored and often humbled to be one of your many life-friends. Keep on keepin’ on, soul-mate! Love you.


Jerry Wallingford February 23, 2023 at 9:37 am

Beautifully written. Congratulations on the well-deserved honor.


Thomas L Gayton February 23, 2023 at 1:14 pm



Paul Espinosa February 24, 2023 at 4:46 pm

Congratulations on this well-deserved award and also for a beautiful reflection on the profound work and life of Bayard Rustin, a man ahead of his time who still speaks so clearly to our own times.


John P. Falchi February 24, 2023 at 6:08 pm

Hi Paul-It’s good to hear of your compliment to Ernie for his well-deserved award, and also to hear from someone else who respects “…the profound work and life of Bayard Rustin…” He indeed was ahead of his time. Are you also axquainted with the life and work of Pauli Murray, who also accomplished a lot and was ahead of her time, as well. John.


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