RUSTIN – a must-see movie!
By Nicole Murray Ramirez
This past Monday, I flew to San Francisco for a special pre-screening of the film, “RUSTIN,” about the life of civil rights icon Bayard Rustin. Every American, especially members of the African-American and LGBTQA+ communities, should see this movie.
I believe this is a movie that will bring out many emotions: pride, joy, tears and sadness, and laughter, and it will leave its mark in the history of films like “Milk” and “Philadelphia” did, educating the world that the man behind the March on Washington, its organizer and director, was a proud Black gay American.
Every aspect of Rustin’s life was covered, including his entrapment/arrest in Pasadena, California, which State Senator Scott Weiner, San Diego-based Assemblymember (and now Secretary of State) Shirley Weber and I worked together to petition Gov. Newsom, requesting that he pardon Rustin, which the governor did.
This film also tells of the deep friendship between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rustin, who was a mentor to King.
As President Barack Obama states at the beginning of the film, “There would not have been a March on Washington without Bayard Rustin.”
I was actually introduced to Rustin at the 1987 March on Washington and it was San Diego’s own Carolina Ramos who turned me on to this film.
Actor Colman Domingo, who portrays Rustin, absolutely becomes a front-runner for an Oscar, as he delivers a Best Actor-worthy performance that I don’t think anyone will be able to beat. In fact, there are many outstanding performances in this outstanding ensemble that could be up for Best Supporting nominations.
I thought that actor Aml Ameen’s role as Martin Luther King, Jr. was on point and comedian Chris Rock gave a solid and serious performance as the head of the NAACP. But in this film, actor Domingo is Rustin. Writer Dustin Lance Black (who also wrote “Milk”) may well be on his way to winning another Oscar.
For those of us who lived in the 1960s when homosexuality was illegal and we were considered “deviants,” seeing Rustin’s life portrayed during this time will bring back memories of those difficult times. This film is blunt and direct, especially when telling the story of Rustin and his fellow Black civil rights leaders, many who wanted him out of his positions because he was a homosexual.
The late U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, a bigoted homophobe, called Rustin a “communist” and “deviant” on the floor of the U.S. Senate. At the end of the film, I was so happy to see Rustin and his partner Walter Naegle’s relationship acknowledged. Naegle has devoted his life to Rustin’s legacy.
Most Americans — and yes, even many Black and LGBTQ people — do not know or have ever heard of Rustin. With this film, now the world will know about this great man and I am proud to announce that producer Bruce Cohen will be one of the honorees at the annual Bayard Rustin Honors that will be held at our San Diego City Hall as it was this past February. Stay tuned for more information.
–Nicole Murray Ramirez is a lifelong Latino and LGBT activist and advocate, a longtime city commissioner, and is the Queen Mother of the International Imperial Court of the Americas. He can be reached at [email protected].
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