Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Man Behind The March - Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights. In the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation, Rustin practiced nonviolence. Wikipedia

I stayed up late last night mesmerized by a documentary on Bayard Rustin. Who knew that this man, so intelligent and way ahead of his time, was the organizing force behind the March On Washington in 1963.  Mr. Rustin was arrested for refusing to leave the white persons's seating only section of a bus years before Rosa Parks.

What was so fascinating about this man was his honesty, drive and perseverance to steer humanity toward more peaceful and non-
violent ways of protesting injustices. Whether confronting inequalities in labor, housing, public transportation  or healthcare, Mr. Rustin was there not to just join the movement but to help organize and steer the cause toward a goal for the greater good. And to think he began as a conscientious objector to being drafted in world war II, spending three years in prison for his refusal to kill another human being.

Though too late to meet Mahtma Ghandi, he traveled to India in 1948, a year after that country gained independence from Btitain, and was welcomed by its leaders.  Mr. Rustin's life is full of fight and resistence.  He was always the man in the background of large movements for social change.  He debated with various leaders and overcame charges of being a communist and sexual pervert.  He was openly homosexual at a time when it was illegal to be so.

Throughout the documentary there would be footage shown at a protest and there you'd see Mr. Rustin on the platform behind a main speaker or waiting to speak himself. When the Vietnam war came around it seemed he may have compromised his non-violent position and went along with the Johnson administration, but his strategy was to make sure that when black soldiers came home from the war that they'd have all the social services, educational and job opportunities equivalent to their white brothers returning home from serving their country.

Bayard Rustin challenged blacks and whites to step outside their own skins and see the beauty of all humanity. His debate with Malcolm X was a classic example of the battle between integration and seperation from a black peoples standpoint.  His mentoring of Martin Luther Kng was crucial in helping the young civil-rights leader steer through the turbulent times and accomplish greatness.

At one time in my understanding of the history of civil and social change in America I may have viewed Mr. Rustin as a sellout and weakling.  But having more life experience under my belt, as well as, interactions with a wider range of persons of different ethnic, political, religious and sexual preferences, I must say that Bayard Rustin the man is one deserving of the title Leader For Humanity.

Peace and Blessings to a man who helped make it possible for me, a black man, here in these United States of America, to see past the limits my country still imposes on peoples of color.  It is because of courageous men like Mr. Rustin that I, through non-violent actions, hope to always question and challenge othe evils of civil and human injustice.  Lord give me the courage to be true and righteous.

Bayard Rustin

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