Using Bayard Rustin’s intersectional story to foster bridge-building, inclusion, and belonging
At many workplaces, a Rustin DEI event has marked the first time that the company’s African American and LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have co-sponsored a joint program. Participants have consistently reported that the intersectionality that Rustin embodied provides a rare and remarkable springboard for African American employees, LGBTQ+ employees, and others to build bridges, find common ground, and come together for honest and constructive conversations about leadership, allyship, social change, and solidarity — and about the power that comes from bringing one’s authentic self to work.
Andrew Skiba, Vice President at Northern Trust, shared these thoughts following a DEI event that was co-hosted by the bank’s Black Business Resource Council and its Pride Business Resource Council:
“Showcasing Brother Outsider gave us a perfect opportunity to reach across some of the silos we find ourselves in when we look at diversity within our workplace. On a personal note, Rustin inspired me to think outside the box and to be braver in being true to myself. This was a man who was unabashedly gay at a time when ‘sexual pervert’ was one of the few terms used to identify us. There was no LGBTQ community, no non-discrimination policies that included sexual orientation or gender identity, and no executive sponsorship of a council at a corporation such as ours. The film taught me how it came to be that I can feel free to be who I am — in my personal and professional lives. It was immensely illuminating.”
Following a session at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Kelly Smith, the firm’s former Manager of Diversity Programs, offered this feedback:
“We showed the amazing film Brother Outsider as part of our Sullivan & Cromwell Celebrates Diversity Series. More than 75 attorneys and staff attended, and the response has been incredibly positive! Rustin’s story is truly compelling and resonates with so many contemporary issues while exposing employees to a largely unknown but extremely important and uplifting chapter in American history. It was a wonderfully eye-opening and powerful presentation — and the impact of the film was deepened enormously through the post-screening discussion with Walter Naegle and Bennett Singer. Attendees had more questions than we could accommodate in the Q&A period! This event completely exceeded our expectations and will be a hard act to follow as we develop programing in the future.”