Bayard Rustin's Story Will Be at the Center of Upcoming Feature-Length + Short Projects (Revisit Previous Films on His Life)
Photo Credit: Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin's Story Will Be at the Center of Upcoming Feature-Length + Short Projects (Revisit Previous Films on His Life)

Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin

I’ve made note of what seems to be some renewed interest in telling Bayard Rustin’s story on film in the last couple of years; Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategic advisor, Rustin – who was open about his homosexuality which he was persecuted for, all while continuing to fight for equality – was an expert organizer who met the young civil rights leader King in the 1950s and began working with King as a strategist in 1955. He assisted King with the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956. But most famously, Rustin was a key figure in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which King delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963.

Combining non-violent resistance with organizational skills, Rustin was a key adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. During his 60-year career as an activist, Rustin formulated many of the strategies that propelled the American civil rights movement. But his open homosexuality forced him to remain in the background, marking him again and again as a “brother outsider.”

On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama named Bayard Rustin a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.





The most significant work on Rustin’s life that currently exists is PBS’ POV documentary “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin,” which premiered in January 2003 and is currently available on various home video formats.

You might recall a short film published on this blog over a year ago, which was part of PBS’ 2015 Online Film Festival lineup, titled “Counter,” from director Nicholas Bouier, which was written by Q. Terah Jackson.

“Counter,” a Project Involve short film, centers on a younger Rustin, conducting a solo sit-in at a diner in 1942 Indianapolis. The 11-minute short film is embedded at the bottom of this post if you missed it.

In addition, Q. Terah Jackson is also working on a feature length script on Rustin’s life, titled simply “Rustin,” which was a 2015 Film Independent Screenwriting Lab participant – an intensive 4-week program designed to help writers take their current scripts to the next level in a nurturing and challenging creative environment.

Lab Fellows participate in individualized sessions, are advised on the craft and business of screenwriting, and are also introduced to established screenwriters, producers and film professionals who serve as guest speakers and creative advisors.

“Rustin’s” logline reads: Working in the political shadows of a young Dr. King, Bayard Rustin endures personal and public attacks for being gay in order to orchestrate the March on Washington of 1963.

Jackson’s “Rustin” was also a 2014 WGA Feature Access Project honoree, so this is a project that’s off to a strong start, and is one to certainly look out for in another couple of years. It’s on its way with a solid pedigree, but much still has to happen, most importantly, talent needs to become attached, and it has to be financed.

Scheduled to premiere much sooner, next month, at the Sundance Film Festival, is another short film on Rustin titled “Bayard & Me” directed by Matt Wolf.

Its synopsis reads: Bayard Rustin was the organizer of the March on Washington and one of the leaders of the civil rights movement. In the 1980s Bayard adopted his younger boyfriend Walter Naegle to obtain the legal protections of marriage. In this intimate love story, Walter remembers Bayard and a time when gay marriage was inconceivable. He reflects on the little known phenomena of intergenerational gay adoption and its connection to the civil rights movement.

The short film is adapted from a radio documentary for Storycorps and NPR Weekend Edition, produced by Nadia Reiman and Matt Wolf.

Super Deluxe with C41 Media are producers of the film.

Next, you can listen to the Storycorps/NPR Weekend Edition piece that the Sundance Film Festival-bound short film is based on; and underneath it, watch Q. Terah Jackson’s “Counter,” the short that centers on a younger Rustin, conducting a solo sit-in at a diner in 1942 Indianapolis. The 11-minute short film is embedded below.




Check out “Counter” below:

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