By Pastor Rasheed Z Baaith
“For rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the Grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” (2 Corinthians 1:12)
The passing of Julian Bond is well worth noting. His determination to end segregation and racism in America and his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement are legendary. For those who may have forgotten, it is time to remember what they were and for those who never knew, it is time to learn of them.
Like most of those who birthed the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, Bond began his involvement while a student. Bond was at Morehouse when his activism became compelling and he left there in 1960 to help establish the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC); although it was Ella Baker from Shaw University who organized the first meeting. Ella Baker was one of the most pivotal figures in the Civil Rights Movement but is rarely recognized as such. No Ella Baker, no SNCC. Others who became Civil Rights icons who were part of SNCC included John Lewis, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Stokely Carmichael, Kathleen Cleaver and H. Rap Brown who later renamed the organization. I’m sure the list is incomplete.
SNCC’s major role was in organizing and leading sit ins, freedom rides and voter registration projects all over the South but especially in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama. Bond served as Chair, was a known theoretician and intellectual who bent his mind with his great writing skills to confront racism wherever it was. SNCC under Bond’s Chairmanship was an undeniable and insistent force during the Civil Rights era. Much of what was accomplished politically, legally and socially for our people was due to the labors of Bond and SNCC.
Bond wrote: “A final SNCC legacy is the destruction of the psychological shackles which had kept back black southerners in physical and mental bondage; SNCC helped break those chains forever. It demonstrated ordinary women and men, young and old, could perform extraordinary tasks.”
Bond went on from SNCC to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1966. His fellow representatives refused to seat him because of Bond supporting SNCC’s position opposing the involvement of the American government in Viet Nam. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court where the court ruled in Bond’s favor, stating Bond’s right to freedom of speech had been violated. Bond went on to serve four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and six terms in the Georgia Senate.
In 1968 at the Democratic National Convention, Bond became the first African-American to be nominated by a major party for the office of Vice President of the United States.
In his last election attempt in 1986, he lost to John Lewis in what is still remembered as one of the bitterest campaigns in the history of Black politics anywhere. Lewis accused Bond of drug use, urging him to take a drug test. Bond refused, saying such a move would “trivialize” the horrors of drugs and drug tests. The drug use accusations would follow him for years.
Still Bond never stopped contributing. He helped co-found the Southern Poverty Law Center with Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin Jr., in 1971. He was a journalist of the first rank, hosting “America’s Black Forum” on television, “Byline” on radio and writing a newspaper column entitled “Viewpoint.”
The child of educators, Bond taught at Drexel, Harvard and the University of Virginia and several other universities. He was a class mate of internationally known journalist Charlayne Hunter Gault at the University of Georgia when the two of them became the first African-American students to enroll and attend school there.
We will not see the leadership character of Julian Bond again. We do not seem to be producing leaders with the genres of courage, sacrifice, selflessness, commitment and dedication Bond and those of his generation had. The future of our people will be the worse for it.