Julian Bond by Eduardo Montes-Bradley.

Photo of Julian Bond by Eduardo Montes-Bradley 

I had the great fortune to have had Julian Bond as a colleague at American University.

On a number of occasions, I sat in on his lectures or talks. These were mostly small, intimate gatherings away from cameras and the media. That is when Julian Bond the agitator became Julian Bond the educator, effortlessly mesmerizing young minds eager for his knowledge and experience.

Bond left his fingerprints on pretty much every major civil rights organization and issue of the last five decades. From the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to the Southern Poverty Law Center to the NAACP, he fiercely fought to defend the goals and aspirations of many millions who wanted human rights and social justice.

Many students saw his wisdom but often missed the path by which it came. Fifty-plus years ago, Bond was their age, grappling with the urgent issues of his time. He was the son of renowned educator Horace Bond, and from his childhood he grew into a lifetime of service.

While many activists view themselves as symbolic students of Martin Luther King, Bond was actually a student of his at Morehouse College in 1962. King taught his class using a syllabus that included readings from Socrates, Rousseau and Karl Marx. He discussed the aftermath of the Montgomery boycott, not only sharing the lessons of that campaign but also marching with the students as they protested.

Yet, even then the tide was turning toward a more militant and uncompromising effort that Bond and other young people would lead. Leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee came out against the Vietnam War publicly years before King, who did oppose the conflict but privately and to only a few before his iconic 1967 “Beyond Vietnam/Time to Break Silence” speech.

Like Muhammad Ali, Bond did not back down from his anti-war position despite the risks he faced. In 1966, his unyielding stance gave apoplexy to conservatives in the Georgia House of Representatives, and they refused to seat the newly elected Bond. It would take a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision, Bond v. Ford, for him to finally be allowed to serve.

Bond exemplified the precept that the fight for social justice is a lifelong endeavor. He supported marriage equality before it was popular, a position contrary to some civil rights-era activists who united with conservatives on this issue. In 2013, he was arrested at the White House, home to his friend Barack Obama, while protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.

Bond was disappointed that King’s legacy of radicalism has been washed away by a more pliant and moderate version. In a 50-year retrospective on King, Bond identified him as a “critic of capitalism” and himself spoke of income inequality in recent years as a crucial issue.

Bond moved seamlessly between being a lawmaker, activist, educator, and commentator. In each role, he maintained a sincere, courageous, reflective and honorable fealty to social and racial justice. That is the Bond I saw on campus. This is the Bond who entered and stayed in our national consciousness beginning more than five decades ago, and it is this Bond we honor in his passing.

 

Clarence Lusane is a professor of political science and international relations at American University. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Surely, there were many human rights activists in the 20th century, but Julian Bond stands out. He will be remembered as an inspirational figure who fought for the rights of people who did not even realize they needed liberation. There is an inspirational quote for work : Human rights are not worthy of that name if they do not protect the people we do not like as well as those we do like. The quote is a summary of how Bond lived his life.

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"You want to screw up your economy? Screw up your government."

And Walker claimed he didn't want an "activist judge."

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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