Monday, August 17, 2015

Remembering Julian Bond, 1940-2015: "Tireless Champion for Civil and Human Rights"


Above: An iconic image that anyone who has ever found themselves marginalized and/or denounced because of their commitment to justice and peace could relate to. It shows members of the Georgia House of Representatives voting to deny the newly-elected Julian Bond (center) his seat in 1966. The representatives voted 184-12 not to seat Bond because he had publicly endorsed opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court overturned their vote and Bond took his rightful place in the legislature. From 1967 to 1975, Bond was elected to four terms in the Georgia House, where he organized the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

I don't know if you can possibly measure his imprint. It’s extraordinary. . . . You can use the term 'giant,' 'champion,' 'trail blazer' – there's just not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the life and career of Julian Bond.

I was saddened to hear the news yesterday of the death of Julian Bond, the iconic civil rights pioneer and founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization for which he served as chairman for ten years. Bond was also a co-founder and the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971, and the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1998 to 2010. At the time of his death, Bond was 75. He died after a short illness resulting from complications of vascular disease.

The following statement by Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), provides a powerful testimony to Bond's life and legacy, with Dees noting that with Julian's passing "the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice."

We've lost a champion.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond, SPLC's first president. He was 75 years old and died last evening, August 15, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

From his days as the co-founder and communications director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s to his chairmanship of the NAACP in the 21st century, Julian was a visionary and tireless champion for civil and human rights. He served as the SPLC's president from our founding in 1971 to 1979, and later as a member of its board of directors.

With Julian's passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice. He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.

Julian is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney, and his five children.

Not only has the country lost a hero today, we've lost a great friend.

Julian Bond was a strong and tireless advocate for LGBT rights. Just weeks before his death, he emphatically declared in an interview with Anderson Cooper that "gay rights are civil rights."

In October of 2009, on the eve of the National Equality March in Washington, DC, Bond shared in a Miami Herald op-ed why he was committed to being part of this march for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. At the time, I highlighted Bond's op-ed at The Wild Reed, as I was heartened and grateful for his words. I still am, of course. Indeed, Bond's whole life of service, activism, and visionary inclusion will continue to inspire me. Thank you, Julian.

It clearly inspires other gay people too. Washington Post correspondent Danielle Paquette writes that as Pamela Horowitz, Bond's wife of 24 years, was leaving the intensive care unit just after her husband's passing, a nurse stopped her to offer condolences.

Recalls Horowitz: "She told me, 'I want you to know it was a privilege to take care of him. As a gay American, I thought he was a hero.' And for her to say that, for her to be the last person who was with him, I thought it was a nice way to end."

Following is an excerpt from Julian Bond's October 2009 op-ed, "Rights Still Need to Be Won."

The civil rights struggle for legal equality in America today is no less necessary, nor worthy, than a similar struggle fought by blacks several decades ago. Now, as then, Americans are denied rights simply because of who they are. When lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans gather in Washington Sunday for the National Equality March, they will invoke the unfulfilled promise in our Constitution that they, too, are due equal protection under the law.

I will join them in their march because I believe in their equality and believe in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that promises to protect it. I will join them because the humanity of all people is diminished when any class of people is denied privileges granted to others. I will join them because I know that when heterosexuals stand up and call for justice alongside their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters, the sooner justice will come.

In the ugly days of racial segregation, we had a dream. In August 1963 we came to Washington and declared that dream to the nation. Among us that day were LGBT Americans such as Bayard Rustin, the chief organizer of the ’63 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His homosexuality caused discomfort among some leaders of the day, and they played down his role in the march. But his heroic work has served as a model for civil rights organizers ever since.

We can no longer pretend that civil rights do not include rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Flimsy justifications for anti-LGBT bias are giving way to evidence that society is strengthened, not weakened, when LGBT people are given equal protection under the law. Where they are free to marry those they love, the sky has not fallen. Where they cannot be denied employment and housing simply because of who they are, the sky has not fallen. Where they serve nobly in the military without the burden of secrecy, the sky has not fallen. Rather, when all people are free to live up to their full potential, all of society benefits. Yet the United States still permits all these forms of discrimination. And this is why we must march. [Thankfully, Bond lived to see two of these forms of discrimination overturned in the US: the federal bans on gays serving openly in the military and on civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.]

My friend Coretta Scott King said in 2000: “Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender or ethnic discrimination.” That is why the NAACP resolved several years ago that “we shall pursue all legal and constitutional means to support non-discriminatory policies and practices against persons based on race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or cultural background.”

– Julian Bond
October 2009

Above: A young Julian Bond with the great American singer, actor and social activist Paul Robeson. (Photographer unknown)

Above: Julian Bond in 1957 when his family moved from Pennsylvania to Georgia. (Family photo)

To contribute to the Kickstarter campaign to help finance filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley's documentary Julian Bond: Reflections from the Civil Rights Movement, click here.

Above: Julian Bond and Martin Luther King cast their ballots to fill Bond's vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in Atlanta on February 23, 1966. Bond was refused his seat because of his endorsement of a statement that charged the U.S. with committing aggression in Vietnam. A subsequent ruling of the Supreme ensured that Bond took his seat in the Georgia legislature. (Photo: AP)

Above: Georgia State Rep. Julian Bond on the streets of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn on September 15, 1968.(Photo: AP)

Above: In this photograph by Vernon Merritt III, the Getty Images website identifies the man with whom Julian Bond (center left) is shaking hands at the 1968 Democratic National Convention as Bayard Rustin (1912-1987). I think this is incorrect. I believe Rustin is actually standing at far left behind Bond. Years later, Bond would note that Rustin's homosexuality "caused discomfort among some [civil rights] leaders . . . and they played down his role" in the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Yet Bond was always adamant in saying that Rustin's "heroic work has served as a model for civil rights organizers ever since."

At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Bond became the first African American nominated for U.S. vice president by a major political party. But he had to withdraw his name because he was just 28 years old — seven years too young to hold the second-highest elected office.

Above: Julian Bond at the Civil Rights Symposium in December, 1972. (Photo: LBJ Library)

Says Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Birmingham who helped Bond when he brought students to Alabama to visit civil rights sites: "I don't know if you can possibly measure his imprint. It’s extraordinary. It stretches his entire career and life in so many ways. That was, I think, his real calling in his later years was to make sure that history stayed alive so that people could understand the connection between 50 years ago and today. You can use the term giant, champion, trail blazer — there's just not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the life and career of Julian Bond.

Above: Julian Bond speaks at the "Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement" panel at a summit in Austin, Texas in 2014. (Photo: Jack Plunkett/AP)

Writes Danielle Paquette of The Washington Post: "He strove to vanquish discrimination against anyone who knew oppression, his friends and family said, recently advocating for gay couples who wished to marry. He’d snap pictures with anyone on the street. He talked to the president.

Related Off-site Links:
Civil Rights Activist Julian Bond Dies at Age 75 After Brief Illness – Associated Press via The Guardian (August 16, 2015).
'Giant, Champion, Trail-Blazer': Civil Rights Icon Julian Bond Dies at 75 – Deirdre Fulton (Common Dreams, August 16, 2015).
Family, Friends and Obama Remember Julian Bond – Danielle Paquette (The Washington Post, August 16, 2015).
Julian Bond's Life in PhotosTime (August 16, 2015).
The Courage of Julian Bond – Garrett Epps (The Atlantic, August 17, 2015).
Julian Bond (1940-2015): Remembering Civil Rights Freedom Fighter Who Chaired NAACP, Co-founded SNCCDemocracy Now! (August 17, 2015).
9 Powerful, Thought-Provoking Julian Bond Quotes – Kenrya Rankin Naasel (Color Lines, August 17, 2015).
Julian Bond: Gay Rights Are Civil RightsThe Daily Kos (July 22, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond Will Be Marching Tomorrow For Gay Rights
The Same Premise
Separate is Not Equal
Quote of the Day – August 10, 2013
Marv Davidov, 1931-2012

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