I became a public servant because of my frustration with our nation’s justice system. The disparate treatment of African-Americans, who often find they are dealing with weighted scales, remains a driving force in my commitment to social change. Yet, when I think of the storied fight for racial and civil rights in America, certain names are cemented in the historic precursor battles that underscore the belief that Black Lives have always mattered.
One such name is Julian Bond.
Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “Word is bond”, which conveys the sentiment that “I will do what I say”, or that “I speak the truth”. Julian Bond epitomized, in both words and deeds, an impassioned truth for the need to create a fair justice system. Like many, he became a grassroots organizer and activist early in life, co-founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the tumultuous 1960’s. SNCC, led by college students, was a key player in the fight for civil rights. Participating in sit-ins, freedom rides, and notable events like the 1963 March on Washington, Bond is quoted as saying “A final SNCC legacy is the destruction of the psychological shackles which had kept black southerners in physical and mental peonage; SNCC helped break those chains forever. It demonstrated that ordinary women and men, young and old, could perform extraordinary tasks.
Julian Bond was extraordinary.
A gifted orator, writer, and academically talented, Julian Bond could have chosen many paths. However, he decided on a life of public service. Trained as an attorney, he served in both the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate for a combined 20 years. Bond, along with Morris Dees, co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which in 1987 successfully sued the Ku Klux Klan and financially crippled the hate group.
As an attorney, I am in awe of the legal strategy employed by Bond and SPLC to win a $7 million judgement against the United Klans of America, for the lynching of an African-American teenager, Michael Donald. The Klan was forced to sell their National Headquarters as a means to pay the judgement. As a young college student at the time Donald was lynched, I understood that the road to justice was paved with problems. It will take years of education, confrontation, and application of every letter of the law, to help bring about change.
To that end, Bond taught at various universities to include Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. He was the National Chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), from 1998 – 2010. Bond also hosted the nationally syndicated television program America’s Black Forum and was a commentator for Byline and for The Today Show (NBC). He authored the nationally syndicated column Viewpoint and narrated the acclaimed series Eyes on the Prize (PBS) in 1987 and 1990. Through his work, he afforded a voice to the ignored, visibility to unfair treatment, and achieved victories in raising awareness about the plight of marginalized communities and their need for equal protection under the law.
Fervent in his belief in equal rights, Bond also advocated for the LGBTQ community. So ardent in his support of gay and lesbian rights, Julian Bond would not attend Coretta Scott King’s funeral, stating that her children had chosen an anti-gay church — which stood in conflict with their mother’s longstanding support of the LGBTQ community.
In 2012, Bond was on the front lines of protests and joined Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton at a rally to voice support of same-sex marriage. As recently as 2013, at the age of 73, he was arrested at the White House while opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.
Julian Bond recently died at the age of 75.
In his passing, Bond leaves each of us an opportunity to continue his legacy and life’s work. He taught us that the fight for justice is not a spectator sport, but a deliberate choice to be a part of the change this nation so desperately needed. He used his talents to the benefits of others and for this; I believe Julian Bond was the “real deal”.
Julian Bond lives in me.
I have always believed that we each have a responsibility to contribute to the betterment of our communities and society. I share Julian Bond’s commitment to be engaged in the efforts to create a balanced and fair justice system. I appreciate the examples he left for me. I am not sure where the road to public service will take me, but much like Mr. Bond, I will fight and want what is best for my community until I take my last breath. Rest in peace, Julian Bond.