Saturday, January 28, 2012

Influence of Bayard Rustin

     When you think of the civil rights Bayard Rustin is obviously not the first name to come to mind. However, Rustin deserves a lot more respect than he is given; few people know that Rustin was actually the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” As a leading member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Rustin put to use the same practices and principles as Mohandas Gandhi in his non-violent movement against British rule in India. Rustin then used his training to advise almost all the major civil rights leaders. If it were not for Bayard Rustin, who met with King to help organize the Montgomery Boycott on transportation, Martin Luther king, Jr. may have never adopted the non-violence tactics that the world has come to know today.
     It’s hard to imagine how such an important figure slipped through the cracks, but one of the main reasons that Rustin never gained the same public recognition as his civil rights counter parts may have been because of his homosexuality. During the civil rights era Rustin not only received criticism from the general public, but even other civil rights leaders.  Groups that wanted to impede the black agenda often used Rustin’s sexuality as a weapon.
     Although Rustin let his homosexuality keep him from the public light, he still did very important work in the background. Rustin’s strategic insight and pacifist values helped unite the black movement behind many black improvement programs, like the 1963 March on Washington, which lead to the1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. Rustin also served as a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and joined American Friends Service Committee to write "Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence" one of the most influential pacifist essays in the country.
     Even after much of the civil rights work had been done, Rustin kept fighting for equality. In his final years he stood as a key advocator for the Gay Rights Bill of New York, and as minority and gay rights gain their ground across the country, Rustin’s pacifist examples continue to shed light on the power of unity through pacifism.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Influence of Malcolm X

     It can be said with confidence, not just today, but even during his era, that Malcolm X was a different kind of man. Not that he held any less importance during the civil rights movement, but that he was in many ways a radical leader. While King was leading peaceful rallies, Malcolm X was redefining the African-American man. With his powerful and intellectual speeches he inspired many African-Americans to fight racism in a new and proactive manner.
     Today, many people don't understand what exactly Malcolm X stood for in terms of civil rights. It is true that Malcolm’s message differed from King’s message of peaceful protest, but he was not literally, a pro-violence advocator. What Malcolm X wanted was for African-American’s not to be defenseless against their oppressors. For African-Americans to understand how they were being attacked, and how many of their African traditions were being stripped from them. It was Malcolm X who pointed out many of the discriminations taking place in America. On multiple occasions he commented on the so called separate, but equal education system, the injustice in the laws “protecting” blacks, and most importantly he did this in the public light, such as television, so that what he was saying was not forgotten.
     Many civil rights leaders at the time feared that Malcolm X would harm the movement, but on the contrary he brought to the table a determination not yet seen. He let the nation know that if African-Americans did not get the equality they deserved, that sooner or later they would not stand idly by. In coordination with MLK, Jr., Malcolm X may have helped the civil right movement move along faster, because it was  both of these leaders that gave the minority struggle the respect it deserved on the national spot light.
     When our founding fathers Keith Nelson, Charles Ransom, Finley Campbell, and Peter Frederick chose the name Malcolm X to symbolize our institution they did so because Malcolm X symbolized several things, contrary to public understanding. For us at the MXI, Malcolm X symbolized, “a choice of activism and nationalism that permeated the era of the late 1960's and 1970's. It also symbolized a refusal to let anyone else select a name for them. African-Americans would no longer allow others to decide how they should be identified.” (MXI History) Malcolm X’s teachings help us to identify ourselves, to defend ourselves when we must, and fight for what we believe in.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Influence of MLK, Jr.

     As Monday, January 16th approaches we find ourselves overwhelmed by classes, flights and goodbyes taking place all over america. Many of us don't get the liberity of having the day off from work or school, but then again some people do. However, instead of just thinking of this holiday as another day to rest, I challenge everyone to consider the significance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
     It's not uncommon for many modern day americans to feel as if MLK, Jr. has had no effect on todays current affairs, or even to think of King as an irrevalent relect of the past. However,  when you really think about it, and you consider the election of Barrack Obama, it seems as if King had almost prophetized the future, a feat that if he had not been assinated, could have possibly lived long enough to see for himself. 

     Today, it is almost impossible to be ignorant to equality for all people. With the development of mainstream media we see cohessive and global protests for all kinds of identities. When MLK, Jr. led the march on Washington it was an unbelievable feat, even for today. If not for King it is safe to say that most minorities would probably still be struggling for the same rights they gained over 40 years ago. Here on Wabash College equally meant the foundation of what would later be the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies, something that not all minorities on other colleges campuses and even here have the privilege of.
     King made it known that he believed in the same principles as Mohandas Ghandi, but it is because of King most people today understand that a peaceful protest can be a succesful one. As we reflect on what King stood for as a civil rights leader we should understand that the war for equality is in no way over, and stand up for what we believe in. That is why although we didn't quite name our organization after the civil rights leader we do live by his beliefs and promote freedom, equality, justice and humanity for all people.