Byron Rushing

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Byron Rushing
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Byron Rushing is a pro socialist member of the Massachusetts State Legislature. Byron Rushing was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1982. He represents the South End, the Fenway, and Lower Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston.[1]

He serves in his office with an understanding of the history of poor and working class people and with a belief in democratic citizen control.
In the Legislature, Rushing's priorities are human and civil rights and liberties; local human, economic and housing development; environmental justice and health care for all.

Political achievements

Representative Rushing was an original sponsor of the gay rights bill and the chief sponsor of the law to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public schools. He is a spokesman against the restoration of the death penalty in Massachusetts and for a moratorium on executions in the nation. He leads the effort for size acceptance and anti-discrimination on the basis of height and weight. He led the Commonwealth's anti-apartheid efforts and is the chief sponsor of the Massachusetts Burma law. He was the chief sponsor of the health reform law ending pre-existing condition refusals by insurance companies. He is a chief sponsor of legislation for needle exchange programs and over-the-counter sale of sterile needles. He supports the freedom of religious worship and practices.[1]

Early life

Byron Douglas Rushing was born in New York City on July 29, 1942. His father, William Rushing worked as a janitor in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. His mother, Jamaican native Linda Turpin, migrated to New York City working as a seamstress. The family moved to Syracuse, New York where Rushing attended Madison Junior High. He was praised for his public speaking, and entered various oratorical contests. He also attended a youth summer camp, under the direction of the Universalist Unitarian Church, which taught world peace and cultural understanding by bringing various racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious groups together. Rushing attended this camp throughout high school.[2]

Early activism

In 1960, Rushing graduated from Syracuse Central High School. Members of the Quaker church whom he met at his summer youth camp invited him to participate in another youth summer program operated by the American Friends Service Committee. Rushing was able to travel through Eastern and Western Europe. In the fall of 1960, Rushing attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the end of his junior year, Rushing decided to postpone his studies and fully dedicate his efforts to the Civil Rights Movement. He returned to Syracuse to work with the local chapter of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) tackling issues of employment integration and police brutality.[2]

From 1972 to 1985, he was President of the Museum of Afro-American History. Under his direction, the Museum of Afro-American History purchased and began the restoration of the African Meeting House, the oldest extant black church building in the United States.[1]

Boston

Rushing moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1964 to work for the Northern Student Movement. He operated programs of youth tutoring, and voter education and registration. During this time, Rushing volunteered for various programs involving the Episcopalian church, his religious faith. He was hired by St. Johns Church to set up a community information center. The Massachusetts Council for Churches then hired Rushing to establish a community organizing project called Roxbury Associates. It was at Roxbury Associates where Rushing met his first wife, Andrea Benton.

From 1967 to 1969, Rushing worked as an orderly at Rochester General Hospital. In 1969, Rushing returned to Boston as the Director of the Urban Change Program for the Urban League. Between 1972 and 1985, he worked as President of the Museum of Afro-American History. As President, he helped raise money for the purchase and restoration of what was cited as the oldest African American church building in the United States - the African Meeting House.[2]

Church positions

Rushing is an elected deputy to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church; founding member of the Episcopal Urban Caucus; and serves on the boards of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice.[2]

Political career

In 1982, Rushing was elected as a representative of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He has been the chief sponsor of the law to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public schools, and an original sponsor of the gay rights bill in Massachusetts. Rushing also lead the Massachusetts state pension fund to launch community development investment of poor communities of Massachusetts.[2]

Democratic Socialists of America

1995 DSA award

Boston Democratic Socialists of America's annual Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Dinner was held on June 1 1995, at the Dante Aligheri Center in Cambridge. 1995's honorees were Byron Rushing, a longtime civil rights activist who represents Boston's South End in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and Carin Schiewe, the direct or of the Commonwealth Coalition, a grassroots alliance working to elect progressive candidates to the State House.

A special Michael Harrington Award was given to Lewis Coser, the distinguished sociologist who was a founding member of DSA and a founding editor of Dissent magazine.[3]

DSA Faith-based Initiatives forum

On August 18, 2001 the Boston Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America held a forum to discuss the future of Democratic Socialists of America, both nationally and locally; whether to endorse various candidates and referenda; and the Bush Administration’s Faith-based Initiatives. The forum, moderated by Judith Deutsch (member of the Religious Socialism Commission), included The Rev. Alexander Hurt, pastor of Kingdom Church in Brockton, MA; the Honorable Byron Rushing, Massachusetts Legislature, , a civil rights activist of the 1960s, is now involved in struggles from East Boston (opposing Logan Airport expansion) to Haiti (exposing U.S. “structural adjustment” policies); Rev. Eugene Rivers,founder of the Ten Point Coalition and the Ella Baker House in Dorchester; and the Rev. Norm Faramelli, an editor of Religious Socialism. Afterwards a barbecue party was held in the in the Cambridge backyard of Executive Board member Allen Graubard.[4][5]

Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Awards Reception

On June 13, 2002 Boston Democratic Socialists of America presented its 25th Annual Debs–Thomas–Bernstein Awards to "leaders who fight for democracy, here at home and around the world". State Representatives Pat Jehlen and Anne Paulsen, Co-Chairs of the Progressive Legislators Group received the award. Ellen Feingold, the earliest known recipient (1979) spoke on the history of the organization. David Knuttunen and Susan Davidoff were benefactors of the reception. Byron Rushing was a patron of the reception.[6]

DSA awards committee

Boston Democratic Socialists of America presents awards annually in memory of Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas, Julius Bernstein and Michael Harrington.

The Awards Committee in 2002 consisted of:

Barbara Ackerman, Doug Butler, Kathy Casavant, DSA Executive Board, Harris Gruman, Julie Johnson, Eleanor LeCain, Rep. Jim Marzilli, Judy Meredith, Marcia Peters, Ald. Denise Provost, Rep. Byron Rushing, Rep. Frank I. Smizik, Jim St. George[7]

Trade agreement hearings

After NAFTA gave corporations the right to sue governments, "they are attacking environmental laws and collecting millions of dollars in “anticipated lost profits.”" In 2001 Rep. Byron Rushing asked the Massachusetts state legislature to set up a commission and study the effect of trade agreements on state laws and sovereignty. Global activists are setting up hearings on the Globalization Impact Bill in as many legislative districts as possible. Contacts for setting up local hearings included Eric Weltman at CPPAX and Dave Lewit at the Alliance for Democracy. [8]

Fighting free trade

In 2002, Brit Eckhart, a legislative aide to Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston), wrote an article for Boston Democratic Socialists of America newsletter The Yankee Radical (June edition) "WTO Comes to Massachusetts". bemoaning the impact of international trade agreements.[9]

In response to these developments, the Massachusetts Globalization Impact Bill H.2119, sponsored by Rep. Byron Rushing and written by David Lewit of the Boston-Cambridge Alliance for Democracy, addresses the impact of globalization on state lawmaking powers. It would set up a Commission of 3 Representatives, 2 Senators, the Attorney General, the Treasurer, and 2 appointees of the Governor’s, to study the impact of these trade agreements on our state’s municipalities and regulatory framework. Early sponsors include Rep. Pat Jehlen, Rep. Paul Demakis and Sen. Dianne Wilkerson. The bill is currently lodged in the House Ways & Means Committee, chaired by Rep. John Rogers of Norwood; as of May there is legislative support from just over a dozen members in the House. A minimum of 80 votes will be needed to pass this legislation.

References