Bayard Rustin Fellowship

Bayard Rustin Democracy Fellowship Program

"If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end. If we desire a society in which men are brothers, then we must act towards one another with brotherhood. If we can build such a society, then we would have achieved the ultimate goal of human freedom." Bayard Rustin

Now Accepting 2021 Fellowship Applications. All Mentoring Will Take Place Virtually Until Further Notice

We are currently accepting applications for the 2021 mentee cohort. Applications for mentorship are also welcome at any time—anyone interested in applying is encouraged to do so. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all mentoring sessions are virtual until further notice. Anyone interested in providing or receiving mentorship can apply here.

We hope that all are staying safe during these uncertain times. We recognize that all are not impacted equally in this moment of crisis. Our work of fighting for a fair and just democracy is more critical than ever. We will continue to press on through the uncertainty we are facing in the coming months as a collective. Be kind to each other, practice social distancing and stay inside as much as possible.

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Brilliant strategist. Masterful tactician. Tireless activist. Fearless organizer. These phrases all describe Bayard Rustin, the legendary civil rights activist who fought tirelessly to move America towards a robust democracy. As an openly gay, Black man who is revered as the organizer of the civil rights movement, Rustin lived the intersectional values he fought to have realized for all people.

Named in his honor, the Bayard Rustin Democracy Fellowship Program is a one-year fellowship designed to create a pathway to leadership for POC and LGBTQ+ folks in the movement facing the same obstacles to leadership that Rustin faced. He envisioned a world where democracy was not just the end goal, but also the pathway to change.

The Democracy Initiative Education Fund is building toward his dream by working to diversify the demographics of individual leaders and organizations working in this new democracy movement. By intentionally lifting the level of race, gender identity, class, and cultural consciousness on a practical level within white-led and dominated organizations, we will transform the movement. To expand the scope of the movement to address all facets of our democracy structures, scale up the mobilization needed for progress, and sustain the movement over time, we need to take deliberate and practical action to foster, engage and retain emerging leaders of color in these issues.

This program will create pathways to leadership for staffers and activists that come from marginalized communitieswho in many ways suffer the most in this current democracythat are critical to reaching the scale of power we need for effective educational campaigns, whether national, state or local. Participants will intentionally be placed within partner organizations for one year. Placements will be divided between Washington DC and battleground states where our partners currently have campaigns.

We will know we have won when our movement leaders reflect the communities most impacted by systems of oppression.

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To be considered for mentorship or a Fellowship placement, apply here.

To receive more information, please email the Program Coordinator Brittny Baxter at