In a recent lecture capping off a two-day residency honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Black queer poet and scholar Cheryl Clarke explored the concept of “beloved community” and whom the Kings meant to include in their vision of an inclusive, nonviolent society governed by human decency.
“Figures such as James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, along with Coretta Scott King and John Lewis, have helped pave the way for the inclusion of LGBT people as beloved members of communities across the nation and the world,” Clarke said. “Yet we are still asking the questions, ‘Whose “beloved community”?’ ‘Who is among the beloved?’”
The social justice activist outlined how LGBTQ people must include themselves within that community in a talk last week hosted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
“What was King talking about [in his ‘beloved community’ speech]? A hope for the future. An interracial community dedicated to peaceful and steadfast insistence on faith, in radical coexistence and radical revisioning of living in the world. The practice of ‘beloved community’ is a life practice,” Clarke said, adding, “Any community that calls itself beloved has to have a deep commitment to feminism and women’s leadership.”
Clarke recounted a story from 1983 in which King’s widow stood in defiant support of Black lesbian poet and Civil Rights activist Audre Lorde, who was set to speak at the 20th anniversary rally of King’s March on Washington. Walter Fauntroy, then delegate to the U.S. House representing Washington, D.C., complained that including Lorde would be seen as the March “endorsing homosexuality.” Scott King responded that Lorde “is esteemed. She must speak.”
Scott King maintained her support for LGBTQ rights until her death in 2006.