The South End's longtime State Representative, Byron Rushing, will be at the library on Tuesday, March 27 at 6:30 PM to reflect about his years as a Massachusetts legislator for the Ninth Suffolk District in a talk titled, My Life and Debt in the Massachusetts State House. He will be introduced by his colleague, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz. When Rushing gave the lecture at the 30th W.E.B DuBois Address in the Community Church of Boston a few years ago, it was pointed out that "the earliest African American elected public officials in the United States were from districts in New England" and the legislator will "reflect on his political career in the context of the definitions of race and slavery and inclusion from the 'beginnings' until the current realities of electoral representative democratic politics." Rushing, currently the Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts State House, has represented the Ninth Suffolk district since 1983, succeeding the influential South End social justice activist, Mel King, who spoke at the South End library last year.
In 2010, Rushing was appointed a trustee of the Boston Public Library by Mayor Thomas Menino, who was under fire at the time over his unfortunate attempt to close up to a third of the BPL branches. His appointment was seen by library advocates as a signal that, as long as Rushing was a BPL trustee, no libraries would be closed in Boston, which is roughly what happened. (One branch library in South Boston was closed as part of the demolition of the Old Colony housing project where it had been located, and two other branches, in East Boston, were also shuttered, but replaced within a few years with a splendid new and very popular East Boston library.)
In his illustrative legislative career focused on social justice, Rushing sponsored the law to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public schools, as well as the original gay rights bill in Massachusetts. He also led the effort for Massachusetts state pension funds to invest in the development of poor communities in the state.
From 1972 to 1985, Rushing was president of the Museum of Afro-American History, when it purchased and began the restoration of the African Meeting House, the oldest black church building in the United States. In 1979, Rushing oversaw the lobbying effort in Congress to establish the Boston African American National Historical Site, a component of the National Park Service. Byron led the Museum in the study of the history of Roxbury for which the Museum conducted the archaeological investigation of the Southwest Corridor for the MBTA. As a legislator he sponsored the creation of Roxbury Heritage State Park and occasionally leads walking tours of African American and working class neighborhoods in Boston and Roxbury.
A graduate of Harvard College and MIT, Rushing is an elected deputy to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church; a 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. His priorities are and have been human and civil rights and liberties; local human, economic and housing development; environmental justice and health care.