Bayard Rustin may be the most influential civil and gay rights activist that most people haven’t heard of.
He was arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of a bus 12 years before Rosa Parks. He published a five-part series in the New York Post about his experience on a chain gang that led to the abolition of the practice in North Carolina. He taught Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violent resistance, assisted the bus boycott in Alabama and was a key organizer of the March on Washington. In 2013, President Barack Obama awarded him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.
And this month, Denver’s LGBTQ chorus, Harmony: A Colorado Chorale, is teaming up with local R&B group Hazel Miller Band and the Arvada High School Chorale to tell his story in “Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind The Dream.”
“He just was an incredible human being for all of his 75 years on earth,” Harmony artistic director Bill Loper said. “He just lived the example of a child of God, full of light and love who embraced that he was gay and did not apologize to anyone for who he was.”
The narrative choral work, composed and arranged by Cincinnati Men’s Chorus artistic director Steve Milloy, features Miller and local vocalist Mark Boykins. About 100 singers are on stage though, ranging in age from 15 to 85, Loper said.
The piece is a medley ranging from gospel and marching to funk and rap.
Performances in Denver are Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Antonia Brico Stage at Central Presbyterian Denver at the corner of East 17th Avenue and Sherman Street. The work also will be performed Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. at the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley.
Denver tickets are $20 for students and seniors, $25 for adults and $50 for VIP. They can be purchased online at harmonychorale.org.
Harmony Chorale along with Mark Boykins and Hazel Miller as narrators, run through a dress rehearsal of Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the Dream on February 1, 2018 at Central Presbyterian Church. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)