You fight against injustice, only to have the people you are fighting for, fighting with, level injustice against you. It seems that only now is Bayard Rustin’s story is getting the recognition that it deserves. The great architect of the 1963 March on Washington, pushed aside time and again from leadership and recognition because he was a gay man.
That actually would be a criminal simplification of the issue. Mr. Rustin wasn’t just simply a black gay man, he was outspoken, he was opinionated, he was unflinching, and yes he even made mistakes. We expect our leaders, our heroes to be squeaky clean, their records and actions to be pure, spotless. But leaders are still human and this documentary shows the very human side of not only Bayard Rustin, but also of many in the peace and civil rights movements. Through a mixture of archive footage and interviews we get to met the man that most of us have sadly never heard of.
This is one of my favorite documentaries about the civil rights movement and it’s participants. You get to see Bayard’s thought process, his struggles, his changes, and ultimately it wipes away some of the mysticism of the movement. That’s a good thing; it gives you a feeling that anyone can rise to prominence, drop down the depths, and rise again. It also shows what a life of service looks like. The March on Washington while a major event, was just one of a multitude of examples of Rustin’s dedication to activism and justice. Whether you agree with his methods, his ideology, or not, I think after watching this film that you will agree that this recognition, this appreciation, is much deserved.