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Potluck and Film: BROTHER OUTSIDER Monday Feb 26th 2018

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Monday February 26th  
Pot Luck 6:30pm
Film Screening: 7:30pm

Suggested Donation  $7 - $10

Our monthly MOVIES AND MEANING film series has proven to be a very popular offering.   The films in this series are thought provoking and discussions are held following each film.

In November, we added a new feature prior to each film, a Pot Luck Dinner .  Join us at 6:30pm for a community meal and good conversation followed by the film followed by more conversation.

We are exceptionally excited to bring you BROTHER OUTSIDER as this month's film.    As we celebrate African-American History month, the life and work and words of BAYARD RUSTIN are as important as any other in celebrating the history of African-Americans and the valiant leaders of the Civil Rights Era.  This film does a brilliant job of telling his story.

About The Film

"In the struggle for African American dignity, he was perhaps the most critical figure that many people have never heard of. It's worth taking a look at the life and lessons of one Bayard Rustin." 

Long before Martin Luther King, Jr. became a national figure, Bayard Rustin routinely put his body — and his life — on the line as a crusader for racial justice. Rustin's commitment to pacifism and his visionary advocacy of Gandhian nonviolence made him a pioneer in the 1940s, and captured King's imagination in the 1950s. In 1963, with more than 20 years of organizing experience behind him, Rustin brought his unique skills to the crowning glory of his civil rights career: his work organizing the historic March on Washington, the biggest protest America had ever witnessed. 

But Rustin was also seen as a political liability. He was openly gay during the fiercely homophobic era of the 40s and 50s; as a result, he was frequently shunned by the very civil rights movement he helped create. The compelling new film Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin chronicles Rustin's complex life story, a tale of race, prejudice, and idealism at the heart of 20th century America. Though he had to overcome the stereotypes associated with being an illegitimate son, an African American, a gay man and a one-time member of the Communist Party, Rustin — the ultimate outsider — eventually became a public figure and respected political insider. He not only shaped civil rights movement strategy as a longtime advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., but was known and respected by numerous U.S. Presidents and foreign leaders.
"Bayard Rustin was an extraordinary American who's been slighted in the historical record because he was gay," says filmmaker Nancy Kates. "We wanted not only to correct that record but also examine what Rustin's amazing life teaches us about issues of equity and the fight for social justice."

"Bayard had nerve," recalls Dorothy Jackson, his childhood friend and neighbor in Rustin's hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania. In the 1940s, he went to jail as a conscientious objector to World War II, ran training seminars in nonviolence and racial equality, conducted sit-ins in segregated restaurants and theaters, and in 1947 organized the first "freedom ride" through the South, for which he spent 22 days on a chain gang. Rustin was a brilliant acolyte of A.J. Muste's Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), turning the philosophy that "peace is the way" into inventive social demonstrations against the violence of injustice.

Though Rustin was politic enough not to speak publicly about his homosexuality, he was personally open about it. He had an ease with himself as a gay man that paralleled his self-confidence speaking to all audiences, white and black. Then, in 1953, when Rustin was 40, he was arrested as a "suspected sexual pervert" in a highly publicized case in California. The FOR immediately demanded his resignation, for reasons both prejudiced and political, beginning a pattern that would continue throughout his career.

"Brother Outsider illuminates as never before Rustin’s fascinating public career and his equally intriguing private life. It is a film worthy of his valuable legacy."

Clayborne Carson, Stanford University,

 Director, Martin Luther King Papers Project 

"An utterly wonderful documentary. The viewer will be focused and totally absorbed by one of the most fascinating characters of the so-called American Century. First-class documentary filmmaking all the way down. An amazing and wonderful piece of work." 

Kenneth O’Reilly, University of Alaska                        

A lesser man might have been silenced, but not Rustin. He became an important international leader of the nascent anti-nuclear movement, later protesting French A-bomb tests in the Algerian Sahara. When he met the 26-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1956 during the initial stages of the Montgomery bus boycott, Rustin schooled the younger leader in the mechanics of running a nonviolent protest. However, when critics inside and outside the movement made an issue of his "personal problem," he voluntarily left Montgomery.

Similarly, while leading the push for a strong civil rights plank at the 1960 Democratic Party convention, Rustin was attacked by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. as an "immoral element" in the civil rights movement. King withdrew his support for the protest and removed Rustin from his staff. Though angered by Powell's tactics, Rustin resigned for the greater good of the movement.

In 1963, however, Rustin was tapped by A. Philip Randolph to organize the historic March on Washington. Although Rustin remained a controversial figure, movement leaders agreed that he was "the only man who could have pulled off that March," as former civil rights activist Eleanor Holmes Norton — now a U.S. Congresswoman — notes in the film. The civil rights leadership stood by Rustin even though he was attacked by Senator Strom Thurmond on the floor of the United States Senate as a "homosexual, a draft-dodger, and a member of the Communist Party." Rustin's tremendous achievement — the largest demonstration the country had ever seen — stands as one of the great soul-stirring passages in American history. "Most Americans remember Dr. King's magnificent 'I Have a Dream' speech, delivered at the end of the day, without acknowledging Rustin, the man who orchestrated the entire event," notes filmmaker Bennett Singer.

Rustin's later career was complicated by factors beyond his homosexuality. After the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he advocated a shift in strategy from protest to electoral politics — precisely at the moment when a more militant generation was taking to the streets in protest. Rustin was attacked as an "Uncle Tom" and viciously gay-baited by younger black nationalists. He did not publicly speak out against the Vietnam War, perhaps out of loyalty to President Lyndon Johnson, who had done so much to pass civil rights legislation.

Rustin died on August 24, 1987, of a perforated appendix. An obituary in The New York Times reported, "Looking back at his career, Mr. Rustin, a Quaker, once wrote: 'The principal factors which influenced my life are
1) nonviolent tactics;
2) constitutional means;
3) democratic procedures;
4) respect for human personality;
5) a belief that all people are one.' 

On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama announced that he would posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award in the United States. The citation in the press release stated:
Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights

Brother Outsider captures the full extent of Rustin's complex, 60-year career as an activist. The film contains rare archival footage, including impassioned debates between Rustin and Malcolm X as well as Rustin and Stokely Carmichael. In later years, Rustin continued to champion human rights — including gay rights — in campaigns around the globe. As King aide and former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young recalls in the film, "His commitment to justice was always very strong and very consistent. It was easier when he had allies like Martin Luther King and A. Philip Randolph, but when they were gone, he didn't stop."

Brother Outsider relies on Rustin's extensive FBI records as a form of narration, which become chilling commentaries on the government's political surveillance programs. In a 1948 FBI report, for example, American diplomats suggested that "a prominent American Negro should tour India to counteract the unfavorable impression made by Rustin." Whatever the circumstance — beaten, accused, shunned or celebrated — Rustin embraced the struggle with fearless dignity. Brother Outsider is an exuberant film about a passionate and tireless human being.


Our Film Series is Curated by the Good Folks At

Movies and Meaning 

Created to heal our personal and cultural wounds as a diverse community, laugh and cry around the “campfire experience” of great movies, and gain tools for constructive, respectful, and thoughtful dialogue across boundaries.