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‘Millions Moreâ€TM Organizers Bar Gay Black Speaker, Upsetting Many

by Brendan Coyne

Oct. 18, 2005 – Days after reportedly agreeing to include a black gay rights group in last weekend’s rally commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Million Man March, organizers with the Millions More Movement apparently went back on their word, barring National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) President Keith Boykin from taking the stage Saturday. The move turned what was to be a later celebratory event by queer blacks into a protest against a Washington, DC minister.

Earlier this week, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan asked Boykin to speak at Saturday’s rally, according to statements by NBJC, a black pro-gay rights group. Farrakhan has come under criticism in the past for marginalizing black homosexuals and females.

Reports of the agreement between Farrakhan and NBJC were praised by other queer rights groups. In a statement Friday, Human Rights Campaign, which helped organize the smaller march, said Farrakhan’s action showed "progress," and called it a "big victory for the community."

But Saturday, as Boykin prepared to take the stage, Millions More Movement co-organizer Rev. Barbara Skinner blocked him, the Washington Blade reports.

On his website, Boykin pointed to Rev. Willie Wilson, executive director of Millions More Movement and pastor of the Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast DC, as being behind the decision to keep him from speaking. Calling Wilson an "obstacle," Boykin said fellow NBJC member Donna Payne learned that the minister accused the gay-rights contingent of not responding to the invitation in time.

That action turned the "unity rally," a Saturday afternoon gathering celebrating the inclusion of a gay black men in the Millions More Movement, into a march on the larger event itself, the Washington Post reported. Several in the group questioned the motives of Farrakhan and other Millions More leaders, the paper said.

"Farrakhan gives us the sugary rhetoric, and Wilson serves up the vinegar," DC-area gay rights activist Phillip Pannell told the Post. "I think it was by design."

In a statement posted to its website Saturday, NBJC said it was "deeply disappointed by Rev. Willie Wilson's decision this morning to rescind the invitation to include an openly gay speaker at the Millions More March." The group called on Farrakhan to correct the situation.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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