Target: Bayard Rustin Film Project
Goal: Honor this lesser known Civil Rights leader, and thank the organization dedicated to keeping his memory alive
Following the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington D.C., when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream of equality with the world, it is only right to remember the man behind the scenes who made it all possible. Bayard Rustin was a social and political activist whose vision and organizational prowess enabled the historic march. A Wall Street Journal report notes Rustin administered countless details to ensure a smooth protest, distributing instructional pamphlets to marchers with everything from advice to sleep and eat well (joining a list of preferred protest foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) to directions and parking instructions. He insisted that the protest present consistent demands – civil rights legislation, jobs, and a minimum-wage increase, politely foiling the singer Josephine Baker’s attempts to give an impromptu speech minutes before the events were to begin.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1912, Rustin was a Quaker, a Socialist, and openly homosexual. He was jailed several times: in protest of World War II in accordance with his pacifist Quaker beliefs, for protesting British rule in India and, after experiencing violent persecution alongside his fellow bus boycotters, for fighting segregation in the Freedom Rides he helped organize. The discrimination Rustin faced from political opponents, who held Rustin’s sexual orientation against the 1963 march, played into the fears of his fellow civil rights leaders that having so prominent a gay leader would taint their cause. Nevertheless, Rustin refused to let discrimination stand in the way of his fight for human rights, civic and economic equality, and peace. His consultations with leaders from Ghana to India led to the creation of various peaceful social justice initiatives. Studying the non-violent strategies of Mahatma Gandhi, his own visits to India in the 1940s enabled him to mentor Dr. King, who had not personally adopted nonviolence until Rustin came to Montgomery to assist in the bus boycott.
For the numerous contributions made to our country and our world, President Obama will honor the late Mr. Rustin with the Medal of Freedom, to be given to his longtime partner Walter Naegle.
By signing the petition below, you can thank the Bayard Rustin Film Project for their award-winning film that vivifies one of the most important, yet practically unknown civil rights leaders in history and join in honoring a man who fought against great odds to form a better reality.
Dear Bayard Rustin Film Project,
I would like to commend you on your documentary “Brother Outsider” that honors the late Bayard Rustin. As a master strategist, civil rights leader, and activist for human rights, civil and economic equality, and peace, Rustin’s efforts have shaped an improved world for us today. The causes for which he fought resonate still; his story speaks to the power of courage, grace, and tenacity against all odds. Given the discrimination Rustin fought on various levels by his peers and his opponents, he also has much to teach us about fighting for positive change without inviting the darkness that violence and hate bring.
As we remember the historic 1963 march on Washington, often considered the major turning point of the civil rights movement, you have committed to accounting in full what it took to realize such a success. Your work does an invaluable service in keeping the memory of Bayard Rustin alive. Thank you for reminding us of this important notion — it takes leaders of all kinds to make a difference.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: tlcnaptown Staff via tlcnaptown.com