Five years ago, Anna Bergman began her quest to spread the word on the work of the late Bayard Rustin. As time has gone by, her support for the Civil Rights and Labor strategist has only grown.
A symposium on the legacy of Rustin is scheduled for Saturday at the Joseph Room of the JFK Library in Vallejo. The ASL-interpreted event will feature discussion on the Journey of Reconciliation with the 1947 interracial bus rides challenging segregation organized by Rustin.
The event, which begins at noon, is loaded with advocates on the subject. For the third straight year, Robin Washington will appear, as will Theodore Dorsette III, representing National Black Deaf Advocates. Dr. Kerby Lynch will speak on “The Complex Case for Equity: How Bayard Rustin Predicted the Reparations Policy Crisis.”
A screening of the film “You don’t have to ride Jim Crow” will be presented after the speakers’ presentations. A question-and-answer period is also scheduled.
“What I want to do is make this a current event as if Bayard Rustin was coming to it,” Bergman said. “I think if he saw a bunch of people just sitting around and talking about him he would have told us to ‘get up and get to work.’”
Besides helping organize the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947, Rustin was an African-American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. He worked with A. Philip Randolph on the March on Washington Movement, in 1941, to press for an end to racial discrimination in employment.
Rustin later organized Freedom Rides, supporting the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership teachings on nonviolence.
Lynch, the co-owner of LaDells Shoes on Georgia Street, is thrilled to be involved more at the symposium this year. She says she has built a strong relationship with Bergman since they first met a few months ago.
“I first learned about Rustin during a freshman Gender Studies class at UC Berkeley,” Lynch said. “It was a big interest to me immediately and I was immediately engaged with who he was. I want to discuss and bring his life back into discussions. My main thing is he was such a big advisor on economic justice. At the time he was not yet an outed man and he was struggling with his own sexuality. But couldn’t get into that due to the politics at the time. In my keynote speech, I want to talk about his views on restoration.”
Lynch said Rustin was huge with actual economic opportunity, more access to education, affordable housing and Black business development.
“I’ve known about this event for a while, but it’s nice to be back in Vallejo and more involved personally,” Lynch said. “The great Anna Bergman invited me to be part of the event and I’m glad to contribute. It feels good to be involved and I think more people can benefit from more dialogue about Rustin.”
The event will be in person as well as live on YouTube rustinsymposium.
This content was originally published here.