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Remembering Bayard Rustin, An Unsung Civil Rights Activist

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  In remembering that historic event, the first name that comes to mind to most people is Reverend Martin Luther King and his I Have a Dream Speech.  But few know that the person responsible for a large part of the organization of that march and also for motivating King to his non violent method of activism was another civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin. The primary reason that Rustin not only did not receive the recognition he deserved, but was jailed and physically abused, is due to the fact that he lived his life as an openly gay man.

St. Louis audiences will have an opportunity to learn about the life of this unsung civil rights and human rights activist on Monday, June 24 with a series of events at the Missouri History Museum.  Assistant Director of Community Education and Events explained to Cityscape host Steve Potter the rationale for the evening. “This year the Missouri History Museum is focused on Avenues of Activism and really identifying the ways that individual citizens can make an impact on their community.  And to much personal sacrifice, Bayard Rustin was that person and is a great role model.”

The documentary film, Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin will be screened at 7:00 p.m. Following the screening, Rustin’s surviving partner Walter Naegle will engage in a question answer session with local activist and That Uppity Theatre Company Artistic Director Joan Lipkin.  The evening will conclude with a brief theater piece commissioned by Lipkin, OUT FROM THE SHADOWS, A Tribute to Bayard Taylor Rustin, as performed by A Call to Conscience and directed by Fannie Belle Lebby.

Lebby had this observation about the relevance of Rustin’s story today. “Once you view the documentary and listen to the discussion and see the little vignette that we present, you’ll see that some of the same issues that he was talking about then are some of the same issues that we are facing in 2013.”

Alex Detrick, Fannie Belle Lebby and Joan Lipkin were Steve Potter's guests on Cityscape to discuss the life and work of Bayard Rustin and the Missouri History Museum's screening of Brother Outsider and the dialogue and theater piece that follow it.

Potter concluded the conversation by asking Lipkin where the civil rights movement would be without Bayard Rustin.“I can’t even imagine. But I also want to say that he was a model for what it means to be not just an African American citizen and an LGBT citizen, but also a global citizen.  He worked on behalf of Soviet Jewry, refugees in Thailand and Cambodia, nuclear disarmament. The man understood what it meant to pay his rent on the planet.”

Related Event

Missouri History Museum Presents "Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin"
Monday, June 24, 2013
Reception, 6:00 p.m.
Screening, 7:00 p.m.
Followed by Q and A with Walter Naegle and Joan Lipkin and A Call to Conscience's "Out From the Shadows: A Tribute to Bayard Taylor Rustin"

Missouri History Museum's Lee Auditorium
Missouri History Museum Website

Mary Edwards came to St. Louis Public Radio in 1974, just after finishing her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served the station in a number of capacities over the years. From 1988-2014 she also taught an undergraduate class in radio production at Webster University. Mary was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation Media Hall of Fame in April, 2017 and received the Gateway Media Literacy Partners' Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award in 2012. Mary retired from St. Louis Public Radio in 2018, but still serves the station as a St. Louis Symphony Producer.
Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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