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Remembering Julian Bond

Remembering Julian Bond

I’d like to take a minute to remember Julian Bond, who died yesterday at 75 after a life dedicated to social justice and civic action. A founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Bond was a legend of the Civil Rights Movement, a successful politician, a leader of the NAACP, and a pioneering health advocate who helped raise awareness of sickle cell anemia’s impact on the African American community.

On a personal level, I can say that I don’t think I’d be here working for CPEHN today were it not for what I learned from Professor Bond. While I was at the University of Virginia, I had the privilege of taking his course, the History of the Civil Rights Movement. The class was less a traditional lecture and more an oral history. He casually told anecdotes about his time in the movement. While his stories included names that have long been immortalized in history books, he showed the same reverence to the thousands of people who risked everything to stand up to injustice. As he said recently in Wisconsin:

“Most of those who made the movement were not famous, they were the faceless. They were the nameless, the marchers with tired feet, the protesters beat back with fire hoses and billy clubs, and the unknown women and men who risked job and home and life.“

For over five decades, Bond never stopped fighting for the rights of African Americans and other populations, such as the LGTBQ population, working to overcome systemic oppression. In one of his final in-depth interviews, he showcased his frankness and his sense of humor:

“There is no coloration to rights. Everybody has rights. I don’t care who you are, where you come from. You got rights. I got rights. All God’s children got rights. We could make a song out of this. But anyway, I think this discussion is more a diversion than anything else. Because we all have rights. And they are human rights because we are human beings. And that’s just it for me.”

We lost a tremendous champion over the weekend, but Bond’s legacy will live on. We can see it in the young activists and advocates leading the Black Lives Matter movement and the Health for All efforts here in California.

The social justice world can often be disheartening as we are forced to respond to tragedies far too often and success is often incremental and hard-fought. That’s why it’s important to look to those who inspire us and remember how far we’ve come thanks to their efforts. And, as Bond would say, it’s important to look on the bright side:

“I’ve always been an optimist. I always think the good thing will happen. And most of the time, the good thing seems to happen and my worst fears do not come to happen. So I am an optimist. I think 40 years from now, we’ll be living in a much better country. You will be. I might not be. Living in a much better country.”

Thank you for making this a much better country, Professor Bond.

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