Longtime activist Bond
to deliver King Week keynote
Former Georgia state legislator and longtime civil rights activist Julian
Bond will deliver the keynote address for this year's King Week celebration
at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24, in Glenn Auditorium.
Bond, a distinguished scholar-in-residence at American University in
Washington and also a faculty member at the University of Virginia, will
speak on "Martin Luther King: The Man and the Movement." The speech,
Bond said, will examine the scope of the 20th century struggle for equal
rights, specifically the role Martin Luther King Jr. played-and the role
he did not play.
"We have come to deify King and to give him responsibility for events
and activities in which he played no part," Bond said. "I want
to argue that the civil rights movement was a democratic movement involving
many, many people and many leadership figures. King was the most important
of these, but he was not the only one."
This is not to diminish King's legacy, Bond continued, but rather to
point out the "paralytic" effect it can have on the continuing
struggle for American equality. "It's true with charismatic leadership
generally," Bond said. "If you imbue some figure with responsibility
for your well-being, you deny yourself that responsibility. That happened
during King's lifetime, and in a way it's happened since he died because
we keep saying, 'Well, gee, if only Dr. King were here' or 'If only we had
another figure like Dr. King.' It's far from the only thing, but it's one
of the things that makes it more difficult to operate.
"I travel to college campuses a lot, and it's rare that I don't
hear someone say, 'Mr. Bond, some awful racial incident happened here a
month ago; I wish the NAACP would come over here and fix it.' Well, why
does the NAACP have to fix it? Why can't you fix it? We have to take responsibility
for improving our own circumstances."
Bond has taken more than his share of initiative since enrolling at Morehouse
College nearly 40 years ago. A founding member of the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee in 1960, Bond organized several demonstrations and
sit-ins in Atlanta during the following years. In 1965 he was elected to
the Georgia Legislature, but the body refused to seat him because of his
condemnation of the war in Vietnam. Bond was reelected twice, and in 1967
the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to honor his election.
Bond served in the state House of Representatives from 1967 to 1975 and
in the state Senate from 1975 to 1987. He lost a U.S. congressional bid
to John Lewis in 1986. Bond also has served as president of the Southern
Poverty Law Center and regional president for the Atlanta NAACP office.
Today, in addition to his teaching and other duties, Bond chairs the board
of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis, the oldest continually published African-American
magazine in the country.
Though almost 30 years have passed since King's assassination, Bond said
the issues confronting the struggle for equality in America-economic inequality
and white supremacy-"have not changed one bit," even though much
progress has been made.
"I'm a college teacher, and when I was the age of my students, I
lived in Atlanta in a segregated world," Bond said. "My students
live in a very different world. It's not a perfect world, by any means,
but it's a very, very different one. So there's undeniable progress; it
just hasn't been enough."
Events like the King holiday and King week can help make further progress,
especially if they help not only to celebrate the man to whom they are dedicated
but also if they prompt the kind of action to which King dedicated his life.
While celebrations honoring King are all well and good, Bond would like
to see community involvement projects held in honor of the holiday as well.
"I've always thought it ought to be a day when you try to do something
the way [King] might have done," Bond said, "and I don't think
he would have spent the day in an auditorium listening to speeches."
to January 20, 1998 Contents Page