the days,” Julian Bond said, as I handed him a copy of my novel, A MESSAGE IN
on the murder trial I covered as a reporter in Atlanta back in the 1980s,” I
explained. He remembered the trial and
the Klan march I wrote about in the novel.
felt fortunate to have reconnected with him. I wanted granddaughter Cody to meet
a fearless and cool civil rights activist and listen to him speak at the Destin
Library in Destin, Florida.
that was a year ago, it seems like yesterday. I can’t believe he’s no longer
We have lost a
hero and a powerful voice for justice.
I first saw
Julian on television at the Democratic National Convention. He was nominated
for Vice President of the United States, leading up to the 1968 election. He was only 28 and had to decline, due to a
constitutional age requirement of 35.
was ahead of his time. He began his activism at 17. He helped lead the sit-in movement to fight
segregation in Atlanta, and bravely spoke out with a deep and resonant voice for
those with no voice in the Jim Crow South.
He was one
of the Freedom Riders with Martin Luther King, Jr. and later helped start the
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
1965, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representative. (The Civil Rights
Act and Voting Rights Act had given blacks the opportunity to vote).
was lawfully elected to serve, the Georgia House refused to seat him, because
he had endorsed SNCC’s policy opposing the Vietnam War.
refused to back down. He fought for his rightful seat in the House. He took his
case all the way to the United States Supreme Count. The high court ruled (Bond
v. Floyd) in his favor, stating the Georgia House of Representatives couldn’t
deny his freedom of speech. He went on to serve four terms in the Georgia House
and six terms in the Georgia Senate.
remember meeting him face to face for the first time at a Jefferson-Jackson Day
dinner in Atlanta. We kept running into each other while talking to the same
people. We laughed at this coincidence and he said, “Must be in the stars.”
speaking of stars, he was a bright and shining beacon of hope, who spoke out for what he thought was right. For decades he's been saying black lives matter, women’s rights matter, gay rights
matter, human rights matter, and he never gave up the fight.
“If you don’t
like gay marriage, don’t get gay married,” he has said. He was born African
American, just as some people were born gay, he said.
to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Julian co-founded with Morris Dees, the
Klan lost its vicious bite. SPLC sought
justice on behalf of victims. These lawsuits helped to break the Klan financially.
could go on and on about Julian Bond’s accomplishments. Not only was he a civil
rights activist, commentator, eloquent speaker, professor, author, poet, Saturday
Night Live host and occasional actor, he was also a husband, father and grandfather.
not just for African-Americans but for every group, every person subject to
oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us
all,” Morris Dees has articulately said.
I say amen
to that, as I bid farewell to a great man.