Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Arts.Advocacy+Wellness: "Cornelius Loves the Legacy of Bayard Rustin""

In Love with the Life and Legacy
Bayard Rustin
It was the summer of 2004, and I was searching for a monologue to add to my audition
repertoire. For inspiration, my acting coach at the time, suggested I watch the 2001 film Boycott, starring Jeffrey Rush who portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Like any diligent student I rushed to TLA Video (formerly located in NYC's West Village on 8th St). At TLA, from what I can remember, there was one copy remaining. Later that evening, sitting in my Harlem East apartment, I popped the DVD into my bulky DVD player, and pressed play as I gazed at the television screen for the perfect monologue. Little did I know the experience would be more than just finding a monologue and reliving the civil rights story. The experience taught me something completely new. Boycott briefly introduced me to the life of Bayard Rustin. Erik Todd Dellums who fearlessly and regally portrayed Rustin in Boycott, gave a performance that engulfed my soul and peeked my curiosity to know more about this powerful figure whom was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

Looking back, I never used a monologue from Boycott at my auditions, instead, I was inspired to learn about the life of Bayard Rustin and purchased Mr. Rustin's book of personal essays Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin.

Influenced by people such as Mahatman Ghandi, W. E. B. DuBois, and A. Phillip Randolph Bayard Rustin was an African-American civil rights activist, peace activist, and gay rights activist. He counseled Martin Luther King, Jr. on the techniques of nonviolent resistance. Later in his career, when he became an advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes, his homosexuality, unfortunately, was the reason for attacks from many governmental as well as interest groups.

It's amazing how life just comes full circle. Recently, I was a guest panelist at New York University's screening and discussion of the documentary Brother Outsider - The Life of Bayard Rustin. I shared the panel with Mr. Walter Naegle (Director, Bayard Rustin Fund and surviving partner of the late Bayard Rustin) and Mr. Bennett Singer (filmaker of Brother Outsider - The Life of Bayard Rustin). I appreciate what Mr. Naegle and Mr. Singer are doing to preserve the life and legacy of Mr. Rustin through media education and philanthropic efforts.

I invite you to visit: to learn more about Bayard Rustin and the film Brother Outsider - The Life of Bayard Rustin. Let's continue to educate our communities and our youth of Rustin and the roads he paved for many of us.

Additionally tune into National Public Radio's broadcast of "Who Is This Man?", part of the second season of "State of the Reunion." The program includes interviews with friends and colleagues of Bayard, as well as with historian John D'Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life of Bayard Rustin.

In the New York City area it will be airing on February 10th at 8 pm on WNYC (93.9). Public radio stations in other parts of the country may be airing it at other times, so check your local station's schedule.

You can also visit the website for the program to listen at any time:

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