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    Down for the Count

    By Andrea Shorter–

    While the doomsday clock ticks down to the outcome of the impeachment trial against President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the following is some diversionary food for thought that just might help you to coax and inspire that especially anxious friend from their retreat into fetal position wrapped up on a couch in a cozy 20-pound weighted blanket. Not you, of course, but for others who could use a little charitable lift in mood and spirit as the fate of the republic hangs in the balance.

    First up, a more hopeful countdown to an overdue justice: We are just a few days away from African American History month in February, and six months away from the 50th anniversary of LGBTQ Pride month in June. This year will mark the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August, as well as 33 years since the death of that historical event’s most major organizer, Bayard Rustin.

    Andrea Shorter with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
    Photo by Bill Wilson

    Rustin was the prominent African American, openly gay Quaker who worked behind the scenes and alongside the great civil rights icons of the 20th Century—the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph, and others—to finally forge a long delayed March on Washington for civil rights, where King delivered his famous and now canonized “I Have a Dream” speech before a massive crowd on the mall and heard around the world by millions.

    In his 75 years, Rustin would establish his own iconic status as a master organizer, agitator, strategist, and resistor in various causes for civil and human rights around the world, with his legacy enjoying much overdue scholarly examination, and popular praise posthumously following his death in 1987. Along the way, his storied and often controversial path as an openly gay man invited the expected prejudices and attempts by others to suppress in the mid-century, including several episodes of arrests, convictions, and imprisonment for engaging in then outlawed homosexual conduct.

    One such arrest and conviction occurred in Pasadena in 1953 for a sexual encounter or “sexual perversion” (i.e., sodomy) with another man in a parked car. Now, 67 years later, State Senator Scott Wiener—a member of the California Legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus—has joined forces with leaders of the Black Caucus to petition Governor Gavin Newsom for a pardon of Rustin. We should expect Governor Newsom not only to grant that long overdue pardon soon, but also to further elevate Rustin’s much deserved status and legacy as a true champion of human rights.

    As a co-founder of and on behalf of the Bayard Rustin LGBTQ Coalition for Civil Rights, I could not express urgently enough our fervent support for this long overdue justice for Rustin in what should occur within a matter of days, and not months or years. I had the pleasure of learning about the fascinating and inspired life of Rustin; check out an archived recording of a broadcast interview with author and scholar Michael Long that I had the pleasure of conducting in 2012 upon the release of his book I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters ( https://bit.ly/2uBSDb0 ). And, of course, read the book.

    On January 17, Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Mayor London Breed in launching the #SFCounts 2020 Census Campaign. The campaign urges participation in the census because its results determine representation in Congress and the allocation of federal funding for the next decade. Commissioner and San Francisco Bay Times columnist Andrea Shorter is co-chair of the #SFCounts campaign. http://www.sfcounts.org
    Photo by Rink

    Last but not least of another more hopeful countdown to justice: 2020 marks a new U.S. census period. It is an honor to again co-chair San Francisco’s Complete Count Committee that works through the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigration Affairs to ensure community outreach, engagement, and completion of the census.

    We recently launched the start of the committee’s community-wide efforts with Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and San Francisco Mayor London Breed in a ceremony at City Hall. While I will be providing more details about this year’s census in an upcoming column entry, including the push for online participation, and how every citizen can help meet the challenges of engaging immigrant populations during an anti-immigrant administration, it is always opportune to impress that the countdown to a complete census for every living being in San Francisco, in California, and the nation is perhaps more important than ever. Meanwhile, many thanks to Speaker Pelosi for so eagerly joining our kick-off (despite her exceptionally busy schedule now) for what is expected to be another successful census of San Franciscans.

    Okay, are you feeling any better about other countdowns on the horizon? Admittedly, the “serenity now” coziness of weighted blankets is hard to resist these days. No matter the seemingly predetermined outcome of the impeachment trial, in the words of Speaker Pelosi, don’t agonize; organize towards assuring the election of a worthy president in November. In the spirit of Rustin, justice will and must prevail—eventually.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-Founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

    Published on January 30, 2020