By Erin Holloway
“We are all one. If we don’t know that, we will learn it the hard way,” said, activist, Bayard Rustin. Volunteer State Community College’s own Jeff King, manager of Diversity and Inclusion Services, presented a documentary on Bayard Rustin’s life.
Rustin was a prominent activist during his life, most notably the civil rights and gay rights movements. Rustin himself was openly gay which makes his story more compelling. The documentary gives good insight on his activism, his roles in them, and even his personal relationships by interviewing his former partners.
Rustin had a fight on two fronts, civil rights and gay rights, both he cared deeply about. He was not just fighting for black people because he was black or for the gay community because he was gay. He fought for the betterment of all people not just for the ones that directly affected him.
Rustin’s most noticeable work was planning the March on Washington in 1963. All by himself with a black sheet of paper and a watch. The march was intended for A. Philip Randolph, but it was cancelled by Randolph.
All of Rustin’s demonstration were all nonviolent and peaceful, but eventually Rustin would have to step away from the civil rights movement after being blackmailed because of his sexuality.
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., democratic congressman, threatened Martin Luther King, Jr. saying he would tell the press that he and Rustin were having an affair if they did not cancel their protest at his democratic convention.
Rustin would later return to the movement shortly before King’s assassination. For the last years of his life he would lead more peaceful, nonviolent gay rights protests in London.
“Bayard was a courageous man, that had no fear, and was willing to risk his life for others,” said Rustin’s partner, Walter Naegle.