This is What Courage Looks Like

Bayard Rustin: This is What Courage Looks Like

Let me introduce (or reintroduce) you to Bayard Rustin. Part one of my This is What Courage Looks Like series.


Souls are pre-programmed to learn from one another.

Thousands of years ago, a child born into the tribe would look to those of a similar soul-type for knowledge, guidance, and inspiration.

Creator soul type children looked up to older and more experienced creator types to learn how to make pots or create jewelry. Hunter soul type children would learn rugged outdoor pursuits from older hunters.

In recent times, this trait that once allowed us to learn from other members of the tribe has been corrupted.

Instead of using heroes to learn a trade or to develop skills like leadership or empathy, we look instead to celebrities—ones from whom we may learn very little of real substance.

Since we naturally seek to learn from others, how different would it be if we focused our attention, not so much on those who stand out for being famous, but on those who stand out for their courage and integrity.

Take Bayard Rustin (1912-87) for example.

If courage and integrity were the qualities that made someone famous, Bayard Rustin would be a household name.

Rustin was one of the most influential civil rights leaders the US has ever known. 

Despite continual threats to his freedom (he was imprisoned for refusing to go to war, for violating the racist Jim Crow laws, and for his homosexuality), he spent his life fighting for social justice.

After a visit to India in 1948, he returned to the US and introduced Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent protest to Martin Luther King.

He organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And in his later years, he became an advocate for gay rights. Rustin, an old soul, summed up his beliefs in the following way:

“The principal factors which influenced my life are 1) nonviolent tactics; 2) constitutional means; 3) democratic procedures; 4) respect for human personality; 5) a belief that all people are one.”

Bayard Ruskin risked his life and liberty for his ideals.

And though his legacy and influence has been enormous, most people have never heard of him.

Imagine how much greater his legacy might be if, instead of putting the spotlight on those who are famous for being famous, the media chose to focus on those from whom we can learn the most.

I encourage you to let courageous souls like Bayard Ruskin (or anyone else whose example resonates with you) inspire you into taking action to stand up for the things you feel passionately about!

Please feel free to share below.


8 replies
  1. Mary Campagna
    Mary Campagna says:

    Ainslie – This is absolutely true! Last evening I watched a news story on mainstream media about the recipients of the American Presidential Medal of Freedom which is ‘The Nation’s highest civilian honor’. A few of the recipients mentioned were in CELEBRITIES!! This is a testament to your important story! I wanted to Thank YOU for this and ALL your wisdom. I really enjoy reading your insightful stories and lessons. With Sincere Gratitude, Mary Campagna 🙂

  2. Deb
    Deb says:

    I see people in my own neighborhood who are unsung heroes. With the media set on proving to us that this is a dangerous and bad world, I see the good in people that I encounter each and every day. Decent people who get up each morning, go to work, take care of their children and live in harmony. Most are young souls, I agree, but they are, none the less, good people.

  3. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Thank you, Ainslie. Though I had heard of him, I had no idea of the contribution Bayard Rustin made to our civil rights! So much to relearn of our own history, and all the individuals that shape a movement.
    Plus, with that haircut, he would have made a great jazz musician or beat poet! ?

  4. carol carlson
    carol carlson says:

    What??! I, too, can’t believe we haven’t all been taught about this gorgeous human being! I am so curious to learn more about his India trip, just at that dynamic time. I’m so glad “east met west” just then, through him! I feel like sharing about him on Facebook. Thank you, as always, Ainslie.


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