William Way Honors Bayard Rustin

Two upcoming events pay tribute to the gay civil rights activist

Bayard Rustin once said that “to be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true.” As the right-hand man to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the height of the modern-day civil rights movement in the 1960s, the West Chester native became instrumental in changing the course of history for both African-Americans and gay people in this country. As an openly gay man himself, daring to live honestly during a time of fierce homophobia and racism in U.S. history, Rustin has become an LGBT rights hero in recent years.

This month, the William Way, along with the Heritage Philadelphia Program of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, is honoring Rustin who would be turning 100 years old this year.

Rustin is perhaps best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States. Thanks to that historic event and many others throughout the tumultuous decade, he helped shape King’s message into that of an international statement about peace and nonviolence.

Both events are free and open to the public.

The first is a screening of Brother Outsider, a documentary about Rustin, that will be followed by a reception and concert with A Voice 4 All People, on May 11 (6 p.m.) at The African-American Museum of Philadelphia (701 Arch Street).

Here’s a preview of the feature-length film:

There will also be a training in non-violent direct action on May 12 (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.) at the center (1315 Spruce Street). The workshop, co-sponsored by Training for Change and led by ACT-UP member Kaytee Riek, RAGE Co-Chair Max Ray and Occupy Philadelphia organizer Matthew Armstead, uses storytelling, personal experience and discussion to explore effective ways of making change.

“We will also encourage participants to identify current issues impacting their communities,” says Paul Blore, the center’s executive assistant, “network with others to build more collaboration and support, and envision next steps for using direct action in the context of their own goals.”

Space is limited for both events, so the center is asking those interested to email [email protected] or call 215-732-2220 in advance.