Political activist Julian Bond has waged a 50-year civil rights battle, and has fought alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as served as a Georgia senator for 20 years.
Bond’s stirring and humorous keynote speech for UVU’s 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration was held on Jan.19 in the Grande Ballroom at the Student Center. His speech was entitled “How I got into the movement” –a phrase which he claims to have “borrowed” from King himself.
“I’m one of eight people in the world who can say I was a student of King,” Bond said, displaying a graphic image of a class roll, taught by King, enrolled with eight students, one of which was Bond. Equally impressive were the photos of Bond with everyone from King, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to Will Smith and Tyra Banks.
Bond, whose great grandparents were both slaves, was a key figure in the 1960’s civil rights movement. In 1969 he was arrested in Atlanta during the non-violent protests, or sit-ins, which were occurring in Birmingham, Greensboro and numerous other places for peaceful protest against segregation laws. The idea was to use any and all legal and nonviolent means to secure the civil rights of the African American. Bond also co-founded the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, which stands nation-wide as an organization in universities with students dedicated to nonviolent social change. The trademark symbol is a white hand shaking a black hand.
William W. Cobb Jr., Ph.D., a UVU professor of history said, “We invited him as well because of his national leadership of the NAACP, one of the preeminent civil rights organizations of the last 100 years in the United States.”
Witty and full of surprises, Bond said that he was a referee for one of Mohammed Ali’s matches. He was there for the legendary Birmingham bombings and he was there for the immortal “I Have a Dream” speech. He was even nominated for Vice President of the United States.
“I was only 28, I was too young to be vice president,” Bond said. “And the FBI likes to watch my every move.”
Bond suggested that students realize their fears of mixing with other cultures. He suggested having a “mix-it-up” day, where students boldly sit down next to the students of other ethnicities and eat lunch with them. There may be language barriers, but the results will be good, especially if more than one person is involved in the endeavor.
“A small group of committed people can create great change if they are willing to risk and risk and risk,” Bond said.
When asked what he thought should be done to improve the status of the average black American, his answer was three-fold. First, he believes better housing must be as available to African Americans as it is to white Americans. Second is the percentage of black people imprisoned, usually for drug-related crimes.
“We need to seriously rethink the war on drugs. Drug addiction is a medical condition. It doesn’t make sense to lock someone up because they have a medical condition,” Bond said.
His third point was a boldly-stated political view that the reelection of Obama is imperative to the fate of this nation. According to Bond, Obama has a high record of doing beneficial things for the nation, and a low record of explaining to the nation the good he has done.
Lindsey Nelson – News Writer