Celebrating Black History Month 2017

We celebrate Bayard Rustin as our spiritual hero this week.

Bayard Rustin (1910-1987)

“We are all one. And if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.”

Bayard Rustin was the chief organizer for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the 1963 civil rights march on Washington. Rustin’s expertise in nonviolent direct action assisted King in shaping the African-American Civil Rights movement. Bayard Rustin was raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania by Quaker grandparents who espoused pacifism. Although he was arrested 23 times for nonviolent protest, he never lost his conviction that equality should be pursued through nonviolent means.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Rustin organized nonviolent groups that became the foundation of the African-American Civil Rights movement, including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1947, he coordinated the Journey of Reconciliation, an event that became the model for the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s. In 1955, Rustin was instrumental in organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

As an expert in Gandhian nonviolent tactics, Bayard Rustin fostered nonviolence in the African-American civil rights movement.  A superb strategist, Bayard Rustin experienced prejudice because of his sexual orientation and his controversial political positions. He was often relegated to a behind-the-scenes role.

Shortly before he died 1987, Rustin said at a gay rights rally: “Twenty-five, thirty years ago, the barometer of human rights in the United States were black people. That is no longer true. The barometer for judging the character of people in regard to human rights is now those who consider themselves gay, homosexual, [or] lesbian.”

Celebrating Black History Month 2017

We celebrate Alice Walker as a spiritual hero this week.

Alice Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia. She worked as a social worker, teacher and lecturer, and took part in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Walker won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her 1982 novel, The Color Purple, and is also an acclaimed poet and essayist. She coined the term “Womanist” in her 1974 book “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens” to describe black feminists. Walker has been an activist all of her adult life, and believes that learning to extend the range of our compassion is activity and work available to all. She is a staunch defender not only of human rights, but of the rights of all living beings. She is one of the world’s most prolific writers, yet continues to travel the world to literally stand on the side of the poor, and the economically, spiritually and politically oppressed. She also stands, however, on the side of the revolutionaries, teachers and leaders who seek change and transformation of the world.

You may read more about her, along with recent blog posts, and find a full list of her published writings on her website.

Celebrating Black History Month

James Baldwin is our spiritual hero this week.

James Baldwin (1924-1987)

James Baldwin was an African-American writer whose novels and essays captured the conflicted spirit of late 20th century America. James Baldwin, to whom many doors were closed by virtue of his poverty, his race, and his sexuality, was a prophet and truth-teller whose writing searingly delineates the soul and image of 20th century America. In 1953, the publication of “Go Tell it on the Mountain” heralded the debut of a major literary voice.

As a gay African-American, Baldwin struggled with his identity in a racist and homophobic society. His disgust with the racial climate in the post-World War II United States impelled him to move to Europe, where he wrote Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953) and his other early major works. His second novel, “Giovanni’s Room” (1956), was published at a time when few other writers dared to publish gay-themed works. “In The Fire Next Time” (1963), Baldwin declared that blacks and whites must find ways to come to terms with the past and make a future together or face destruction. You can read more about him here.

He wrote A Letter to My Nephew for The Progressive in 1962. It served as one inspiration for Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me, which Coates wrote as a letter to his own son.

A new documentary film has just been released about Baldwin. Filmmaker Raoul Peck worked for over ten years on it. It has been nominated for an Oscar.