|Vol. 10 No. 17
AUGUST 20, 2015
It was with a lot of shock and sadness that I heard that Julian Bond passed away on August 15th at the age of 75. In my personal timeline of
the civil rights movement, Julian Bond had always been. And now he is gone.
Julian had always been a hero of mine, an oracle who epitomized the phrase “Truth to Power.” Julian didn’t put his finger up in the air to gauge
the winds of political popularity when he took a stand. Julian looked at truth and applied it to whatever issue was at hand, no matter what the
consequences. When the Bush Administration brought the power of the IRS to bear on the NAACP when Julian was telling truth to power about
the impact of the Bush Administration’s policies on the poor and people of color, Julian was unrelenting.
And even within the African American community, Julian stood up for the rights of all, including those of LGBTQ individuals, Julian didn’t take
a public opinion poll on whatever people felt.
“There is no coloration to rights,” Julian said about same-sex marriage. “Everybody has rights. I don't care who you are, where you come
from. You got rights. I got rights. All God's children got rights. We could make a song out of this. But anyway, I think this discussion is more a
diversion than anything else because we all have rights. And they are human rights because we are human beings. And that's just it for me.”
I had the privilege of being the treasurer for the NAACP-Madison Branch back in the late 1990s. And I was fortunate that my tenure coincided
with part of Julian Bond’s tenure as chairman of the NAACP. The NAACP National Conventions were always informative and inspiring. The
official kick-off was the Public Mass Meeting, held, in part, to give respect to the mass meetings that were held by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
and others involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was a way to provide updates to members of the movement and to keep the boycotters’
spirits up in the face of the brutal oppression that they faced.
The highlight, to me, for the Public Mass Meeting and indeed the whole convention, was Chairman Julian Bond’s speech. I was able to follow
it for years after I stepped down as treasurer because his speech was always posted on the NAACP website. Julian’s speech was always
inspiring. It seemed to link the past, present and future of the civil rights movement together, providing a clear vision for those in attendance.
It was a natural high.
Julian was one of the finest orators I had ever heard, right up there neck to neck with President Barack Obama. Julian was a poet, a lover of
words and the English language, who could say in a sentence what it would take others several sentences to express. He said the following
at Edgewood College last spring. Thank you to Andy Witt and Edgewood College for letting us experience Julian one more time before his
“Violence is Black children going to school for 12 years and receiving six years' worth of education.”
How much more concise can you get to express such a profound thought?
When the attack against affirmative action was at its greatest, using the civil rights amendments to the U.S. Constitution and civil rights
legislation as weapons against the civil rights movement, saying that affirmative action was reverse discrimination and that everyone was on
an equal footing now. Julian stuck a pike right through the heart of their arguments.
Julian equated the current situation to a football game. The score is 42-0. The team that is winning owns the football stadium, the referees and
everything. It has better paid players. And then people declare that the teams have an equal chance to win.
Julian’s comments pointed out the ludicrousness of thinking that America had reached the point of equal opportunity, that suddenly after 400
years of slavery and segregation, it would take only 40 years to change society.
Julian Bond has always been a civil rights icon for me, ever since a Wisconsinite nominated him to be the vice presidential nominee for the
Democratic Party when he was only 28. He quickly declined because he was not constitutionally qualified.
He had been on the front lines of the civil rights movement with the Southern Poverty Law Center that tracked America’s hate groups to his
time as an elected representative in the Georgia legislature to his term as chairman of the NAACP. Julian believed in the promise of America
and its people and he kept America’s feet to the fire to fulfill that promise. He was of, by and for the PEOPLE.
“Most of those who made the movement were not famous, they were the faceless,” Bond said. “They were the nameless, the marchers with
tired feet, the protesters beat back with fire hoses and billy clubs, and the unknown women and men who risked job and home and life.”
Julian was truth to power and there will never be another like him. Rest in peace Julian Bond. You have been a warrior for the civil rights
movement and the nameless people of America. Look over us as we continue to navigate perilous times. We need your clear vision now
more than ever.
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