Brother outsider: Marching towards Civil Rights

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

 

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.

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.

 

Images cour­tesy of Mon­ica Siu Siu — The Stinger
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