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Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin presents a complex portrait of a complex man. The personal life and 60-year career of the unwavering activist unfolds through the use of archival footage, interviews and documents, including posters, FBI files and Rustin’s writings. The film reveals who Rustin was, what he fought for (equality, dignity, civil and gay rights) and why he was the “brother outsider.”
Who is Bayard Rustin?
Long before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rose to national prominence, Bayard Rustin was putting his life on the line in pursuit of racial equality. His advocacy of pacifism and Gandhian nonviolence made him a pioneer in the 1940s and, a decade later, an inspiration to King. But he was also a political liability because he dared to live as an openly gay man during the fiercely homophobic 1940s to 1960s.
In 1963, civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph appointed Rustin to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a call for civil and economic rights for African Americans. One of the largest political demonstrations in U.S. history, the March was a success and achievement for the movement and Rustin. Civil rights activists, including now Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton agreed, that he was “the only man who could have pulled off that March.” Though Bayard Rustin and his lengthy contributions to the civil rights movement has not been previously recognized, filmmakers Kates and Singer are correcting the record and sharing a piece of social justice history with Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin.
On August, 8th 2013, President Barack Obama named Bayard Rustin a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”