Brother outsider: Marching towards Civil Rights

    “The proof that one truly believe is in action,” Bayard Rustin from the film Brother Outsider.


Monica Siu Siu -- The Stinger
Student passing by lined up posters of human rights inside the Erlenbach Lecture Hall

On Thursday, November 15, the Gender Equity Resource Center, Black Student Union, and the Alliance collaborated in the screening of the film Brother Outsider at the Erlenbach Lecture Hall in Swenson, in conjunction with the Bayard Rustin Memorial March.

Jewleah Johnson, a staff member for the Gender Equity Resource Center, says that the goal of the event is to raise awareness about the civil right movements, the legacy of Bayard Rustin and the problems that surround us every day

Brother Outsider tells the life story of Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin. Rustin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and was raised by his maternal grandparents. He moved to Harlem and studied at New York City College. During this time, he got involved in the Scottsboro Case in which nine African-Americans had been falsely convicted of raping two white women. At that same time, Bayard Rustin had joined the Young Communist League in what he believed was that, “the communists were passionately involved in the civil rights movement so they were ready-made for me.” His believe that African-American people had to take more radical actions in order to achieve the freedoms they wanted. He left the communist party in 1938 as he was upset that communists were nolonger fighting for black people.

In 1941, Rustin met Reverend A. G. Muste, who had influenced him in believing that you should act with your body, the greatest weapon you have. Rustin became greatly interested in love and in nonviolence. During that same year, he worked for Philip Randolph, an African-American trade union leader. He joined with Randolph to plan the March on Washington, the greatest march in the history of the U.S. Muste was impressed by the advocating and organizational talent of Rustin andappointed Rustin as the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) secretary for student and general affairs. This job allowed Rustin to travel around, spreading the ideas of Muste and meeting people who were like-minded; which also meant that he was to be influenced by pacifists and activists like Mahatma Gandhi.

After being thrown in jail in 1947 for not signing the draft to join the United States Army, he participated in the Journey of Reconciliation, an interstate journey on a bus carrying eight white men and eight black men to challenge segregated transportation. Rustin and the other members were arrested and sentenced to a chain gang in Chapel Hill, Carolina due to the fact that he was sitting in the front of the bus beside a white man. Soon after they completed their 30 days of road work, the chain gang was discontinued after he published his story.

The famous incident of the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man had united Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King. Now, as King’s advisor, Rustin was determined to bring together the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Controversy started to circulate about Rustin as the head of the FBI, Edgar Hoover, had revealed Rustin’s past as a member of the communist party. His various arrests and imprisonments including his arrest under the charge of being a sexual pervert came to light.

Monica Siu Siu -- The Stinger
Rustin was an openly gay man and pictures began to surface of him speaking to Martin Luther King, Jr. while taking a bath. The pictures started to make people believe that Rustin was having a homosexual relationship with King. Such fear, from part of the supporters of the civil movement and of King himself, led Rustin to voluntarily step down from his position. Even though these scandals were happening, Rustin still organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which finally took place in August 1963. The march ended with King’s infamous “I have a dream” speech.

The March on Washington proved to be very successful. Many civil rights have been awarded for the equality of all men in the USA since this time. Rustin never stopped being an activist and pacifist. He later funded the Philip Randolph Institute that works for the African American community and the trade union movement. In his final years, Rustin traveled the world acting as a civil, LGBT, and human rights activist. Rustin died in New York in 1987.

Preview the film Brother Outsider by clicking on the following link.

Brother Outsider – The Life of Bayard Rustin

The Bayard Rustin Memorial March will take place on Tuesday, November 27at 3p.m. to commemorate activist Bayard Rustin. The march will start at the Erlenbach Gathering Area and finish at the Douglas CountyCourt House. Signs were made today in the Gender Equity Resource Center that will be carried during the march.


Print Friendly