Kylar Broadus says that often when he’s in large crowds these days, he can get a sense of hate. For society to go beyond that, people must be more willing to open up and understand others.
“We are all closer than we pretend, and we need to embrace that closeness,” said Broadus, an attorney, former professor, and black transgender man who has advocated for civil rights for transgender people and other groups. The Fayette family of Missouri served as a keynote speaker at the Independence Day celebration of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monday evening.
Broadus, 58, is a board member of the National Coalition for Black Justice, who founded the Trans People of Color Coalition in 2010 and has contributed to the work of several national LGBTQ rights organizations. In 2012, he testified before the US Senate in support of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.
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Oftentimes, Broadus told those assembled at the Truman Memorial, “We don’t see things that tend not to affect us,” and as such, people should always try to look at the world through someone else’s lens.
“I think we should open up and start understanding people,” he said.
Growing up in Fayette, then attending Central Methodist University, Broadus remembers how his parents instilled a healthy respect for all people, even as they grew up in the face of racism and discrimination. He remembers how his mother interacted at the grocery store with two gay professors who had recently moved to town, while the others had moved away.
“If my mother had felt any other way about gays, how would I have been,” he said. “We have to love anyone unconditionally; for me, that does not mean that I should love everything they do.”
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While Martin Luther King’s courage in his defense of civil rights has been evident for generations, Broadus said King didn’t get enough credit for his wits, in part because he was murdered before he turned 40.
“Think about how much he knows, how well he knows how to navigate the world, and how best to protect himself,” Broadus said.
Forced out of a job at a financial institution due to a gender shift, Broadus taught at Lincoln University in Jefferson City and had a private legal practice in Columbia for nearly two decades. Now working in Washington, DC
Broadus said he considers himself an organizer, “because I work to bring people together.”
“You cannot work in just one movement, because they are all connected; they all work together.” “I will always defend the rights of all people.”
Broadus encouraged people to take opportunities to step out of their comfort zones and meet people from different cultures and backgrounds, where we can often find a similar sense of family.
“I have never refused an experience,” he said. “We can talk to each other without the same language. We can talk about love with each other, and we can talk about peace with each other.”
He said that patience is key to overcoming contentious feelings, and remembered King’s quote about faith moving forward: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
“You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been,” Broadus said. “If we focus on building a community — and if you’re not helping to build a community, you’re helping to destroy — then we all benefit.”
The Van Horn High School Choir presented a range of musical selections to the audience. Christina Leakey, President and CEO of Truman Heritage Habitats for Humanity, has been honored with the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. William Cressman, Joseph Casbolt, won the annual John Olivares Scholarship Competition.