Tuesday, February 2, 2016

February is African American History Month - Bayard Rustin

UNKNOWN HEROES - well in this case - lesser known.
   Bayard Rustin was a complicated and accomplished and amazing individual who was so ahead of his time in so many ways.  There is finally a movie "Brother Outsider" about his life which you can buy for $24.95 at the website.
   There are lots of links with information about Mr. Rustin - this one  is from A & E Television and not too bad.  Here is the photo that seems to be all over the Internet.
   Here's a "synopsis" of his life:   "Bayard Rustin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, on March 17, 1912. He moved to New York in the 1930s and was involved in pacifist groups and early civil rights protests. Combining non-violent resistance with organizational skills, he was a key adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. Though he was arrested several times for his own civil disobedience and open homosexuality, he continued to fight for equality. He died in New York City on August 24, 1987."
   Rustin is known as the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.  He is also credited with encouraging nonviolence for the movement.  
   But he was so many other things as well -- he was a pacifist and a Quaker, a socialist, anti-war activist -- jailed for his pacifism and spending two years there.  Spent more time in jail for civil disobedience against discrimination in public transit as well as homosexual activity. He lived openly as a gay man -- certainly a man ahead of his time with seeming unsurpassed courage.  He organized a demonstration against nuclear weapons in England!  He went to India to meet with Gandhi.
   He wrote books and was a speaker. So many talents, he was a singer -- you can also get a CD of his songs at the same link for "Brother Outsider".  PBS has an even better site about him - written by Henry Louis Gates. 
   Rustin organized the 1963 March on Washington which was a tremendous success. Although never appreciated in his lifetime, saddled with homophobia and racism, Rustin was surely one of the key figures of the civil rights movement.  
   More from Henry Louis Gates [who says he had been thinking about Rustin for 40 years] which shows the profundity of Rustin:  "It is noteworthy that it was President Kennedy who made awarding the Medal of Freedom a presidential privilege in February 1963, the same year as the march. Later this year, Barack Obama, the president whose elections the march made possible — and the first to support publicly gay marriage — will make things right by awarding it to Rustin. “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke sang for the first time in a recording studio in 1963. I, like many, am glad that change is now coming for Rustin in 2013, not only because it is the march’s golden anniversary but because it is also the year the Supreme Court ended discrimination against gay couples seeking federal benefits while protecting their right to marry in California, the very state where in 1953 Rustin’s fate was sealed as the black leader destined to be “closeted” behind the scenes."

Some great links and books:
http://www.out.com/news-opinion/2013/08/28/bayard-rustin-walter-naegle-partner-gay-civil-rights-activist-march-washington  Rustin's partner talks about him and his life.  "Being black, being homosexual, being a political radical, that’s a combination that’s pretty volatile and it comes along like Halley’s Comet,” Naegle says, adding, “Bayard’s life was complex, but at the same time I think it makes it a lot more interesting.”
http://www.religionnews.com/2015/06/30/gay-civil-rights-activist-mlk-mentor-bayard-rustin-honored/    Wonderful photos of Rustin at this site - I need permission to use them.
http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Prophet-Times-Bayard-Rustin/dp/0226142698  Lost Prophet: Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D'Emilio
http://www.amazon.com/We-Are-One-Bayard-Rustin/dp/1590784987/ref=pd_sim_14_6?ie=UTF8&dpID=51PQOsRIiEL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160%2C160_&refRID=16E0CVK7RMBWTNA6CB8G   We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimner - a book for children.    Quote from Larry Dane Brimner’s book We Are One:   “Bayard was a man of many dimensions - an intellectual, an organizer, a speaker, a singer, a stage actor, an artist, and a collector. Yet, it was his social activism and his use of Gandhian methods of nonviolence that most interested me. Seemingly without fear, he fought for the dignity of an entire people knowing that every time he stood for his beliegs, it could - and likely would - mean a brutal beating or an arrest or both.”

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