HPJ encourages all our members and supporters to attend this special event honoring a great civil rights and labor leader Bayard Rustin:
Pride At Work Hawai‘i announces CELEBRATING BAYARD RUSTIN to honor the centenary of an extraordinary activist, organizer, and leader.
“We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.”- Bayard Rustin
Pride At Work Hawai’i is presenting a FREE event in celebration of a key figure of the civil rights, anti-war and labor movements, Bayard Rustin, on the eve of what would have been his 100th birthday. It will feature a showing of the award-winning documentary, “Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin,” followed by an informal discussion. Pupus, drinks and popcorn will be provided; limited free parking is available at the hall (see map). Co-sponsors include United Public Workers (AFSCME Local 646), Pride Alliance Hawai‘i, University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly, and UNITE HERE Local 5.
About Bayard Rustin
“We are all one. And if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.” – Bayard Rustin
Born March 17, 1912, Bayard Rustin is best known (if he is remembered at all) as the man who trained Martin Luther King in Gandhian non-violent civil disobedience, the masterful organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the founder of the A. Philip Randolph Institute. However, Rustin’s open homosexuality, radical pacifism and socialist politics served to marginalize his influence and his legacy in 20th Century American history.
The child of an African-American working class teenage mother, Rustin was trained by both Quaker pacifists and Communist Party activists in the 1930s. Refusing to serve in World War II, Rustin spent more than two years in federal prison; two years after his release, he served 22 days on a North Carolina chain gang for challenging segregation in interstate busing.
A talented and charismatic leader, Rustin was mentored by radical Christian pacifist A.J. Muste and Black socialist labor leader A. Philip Randolph, and helped introduce Gandhi’s protest techniques of non-violent direct action to the American civil rights movement in the decade before the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He also played a key role in the founding of the civil rights groups Congress of Racial Equality and the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and helped lead important pacifist organizations including Fellowship of Reconciliation and War Resisters’ League. However, his sexuality and radical politics sometimes led to attacks from both inside and outside the civil rights and pacifist movements; following a 1953 arrest on a so-called “morals charge” for homosexual activity, he was forced to resign from FOR and dropped from consideration for a leadership position in the SCLC.
From Protest to Politics
“Loving your enemy is manifest in putting your arms not around the man but around the social situation, to take power from those who misuse it–at which point they can become human too.”- Bayard Rustin
After the success of the 1963 March and the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Rustin advocated for a turn “from protest to politics” in the quest for social and economic justice. As co-founder of the AFL-CIO-supported A. Philip Randolph Institute, he used his position to bring the struggle for civil rights into the heart of the American labor movement, and to encourage civil rights groups to embrace economic justice issues. Seeing the potential for national transformation under Lyndon Johnson, he also sought to build progressive coalitions to move the Democratic Party to the political left in order to advance social and economic justice.
Even as Rustin finally gained national recognition and found a level of acceptance and appreciation from civil rights leaders and politicians alike, he gradually became marginalized from increasingly radical front-line activists through the 1960s. An opponent of nationalism in all its forms, Rustin publicly denounced the Black Power and Palestinian liberation movements and refused to support the North Vietnamese (or take a leading role opposing the Vietnam War in the US). In the process, he came to earn the distrust of the 1960s anti-war movement, the New Left, and radical Black activists, causing many to forget or erase his historical role. During the last decade of his life before his 1987 death, he focused on international efforts to support refugees and spoke out for LGBT equality.
Bayard Rustin’s many identities – as Black, gay, Quaker, pacifist, and socialist, among others – and talents helped shape him into a skillful leader who could work effectively in different communities and on different, and sometimes conflicting, issues; but they also made it easy for others to undermine and marginalize him. Today, he is largely forgotten or ignored; yet his impact on the movements for equality, peace, and workers’ rights call for an ongoing reminder of his place in 20th Century history.
About the film
“Every indifference to prejudice is suicide because, if I don’t fight all bigotry, bigotry itself will be strengthened and, sooner or later, it will return on me.” – Bayard Rustin
The winner of numerous awards, the 2003 feature-length documentary BROTHER OUTSIDER presents a powerful and informative portrait of this brilliant, complicated, pivotal figure of 20th Century American history. BROTHER OUTSIDER has been shown at The United Nations, The Kennedy Center, and for members of Congress, as well as at hundreds of schools, community forums, labor gatherings, faith organizations, and film festivals.
We encourage everyone who supports LGBT workers rights to join Pride at Work Hawai‘i! Individual memberships are $25 per year (or whatever you can afford – no one will be denied membership for lack of funds); annual dues for organizational supporters starts at $100.
Contact: Pride At Work Hawai’i
P.O. Box 22416
Honolulu, Hawai’i 96822-2416
Pride At Work Hawai’i advocates for full equality for LGBITQ workers in their workplaces and their unions, and works to build mutual support between the labor movement and the LGBITQ community. Pride At Work Hawai’i (an affiliate of the Hawai’i State AFL-CIO) is a chapter of Pride At Work (www.prideatwork.org), a constituency group of the AFL-CIO.