Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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                                                                  Julian Bond 
                                                                             Photo by Malcolm Ali 


An Evening with Julian Bond


Community residents, elected officials and Hollywood luminaries were present to hear directly from an icon of the Civil Rights Era, about the journey of the past and the road ahead.


It was an evening that hundreds of Angelenos, elected officials, business people and entertainers came to the California African American Museum (CAAM) to listen to Julian Bond as he related his experiences from his days in the Civil Rights Movement, his stewardship of the NAACP and his plans for the nation's oldest civil rights organization that was celebrating its 100 year anniversary.

After the guests had mingled and socialized with each other, Charmaine Jefferson, director of CAAM welcomed everyone from the podium and relayed to them the significance of the museum and the fact that it's free to them at all times. She made reference to Artis Lane, who did the painting of Bond that graced the cover of the evening's program booklet, mentioning further that Lane had recently presented a bronze sculpture of Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama. Jefferson also acknowledged the presence of Councilman Bernard Parks in the audience and introduced the next speaker, Ron Hasson, president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood (BHH) NAACP, the co-host of the evening's event.

After acknowledging the work of Willis Edwards, a former president of the NAACP BHH branch, and a current member of its national board, Hasson continued to let the audience know who from the entertainment world were in their midst. Present among the guests were Judy Pace, Loretta Devine, Nichelle Nichols, Freda Payne and Thelma Houston. Also among the guests were Attallah Shabazz (eldest daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz), Charisse Bremond (president and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade) and Gwen Moore (former assembly-woman).

When his introductions were over, Hasson called up Assemblyman Mike Davis who referred to Bond as "a man who made immeasurable change in the fight for justice as a civil rights advocate, as a politician and as the current leader of the NAACP." Davis continued, "I think that the NAACP is the organization that makes America stand up to its creed that all men are created equal." He went on to equate the nation's progress with Speaker Karen Bass as the nation's first African American woman assembly speaker. "And who would have dreamt a year ago that we'd be here saying President Barack Obama," Davis exhorted to the crowd. He closed out by wishing the NAACP a "Happy Birthday."

Next came news correspondent Bill Whitaker who outlined many of Bond's accomplishments and introduced the guest of honor, Chairman Bond.

As he came up to the podium, Bond thanked him and said, "That was a fine introduction, Bill, I have to speak somewhere next week, could we keep it going." The crowd roared.

Once again, Edwards' name was front and center, as Bond said, "After Amos Brown, the person on the NAACP board that I've known the longest is Willis Edwards and I cannot remember when I met him sometime in the 60s here in Los Angeles. He's such a remarkable person and as someone said Willis next works for us, we work for him. And I want to thank Willis Edwards for putting this event together."

Getting warmed up to the crowd, Bond paid homage to his wife who was in the audience and explained how they met when he was speaking at a college campus. He then described another remarkable woman who had known for years as a colleague in the civil rights struggle, "a wonderful actress and a writer, Denise Nicholas. Stand up, Denise," he said, and the crowd applauded.

"The more of you join us, the stronger we all are," Bond continued, "And the more able we are to do the work we've been doing for the past 100 years. It's almost impossible to overstate the significance of Barack Obama's election as the 44th president of the United States. We believe that this organization, in its 100-year history played a major role in making his election victory possible."

Bond went on to outline the chronological order of events in the NAACP's history that bear significant historical and philosophical relationship to Obama's election from his announcement at the Old Lincoln Statehouse in Springfield to his traveling to Washington on a train leading up to the inauguration.

"A hundred years is a grand old time for a person," he said, "But it's only a fraction of a moment in the life of a nation. We are a young nation just recently removed from slavery that only my father's generation stands between Julian Bond and human bondage. Like many, I am the grandson of a slave."

Listing the statistics of the NAACP relative to national studies, Bond claimed the effectiveness of the organization in proportion to the progress of the majority of the people whom it represents. That the NAACP was viewed favorable by most Blacks was no accident. Their quality of life, justice and equality are all components of the whole of the NAACP's work.

"We believe that colored people come in all colors," he said, "Anybody who shares our values are more than welcome. Small acts of passive resistance to American apartheid and the accumulative acts of tens of thousands more, help create a people's movement that eliminated legal segregation in less than a decade.

"The stormy road we traveled have taken us from Bull Connor to Ward Connerly; from the KKK to the CCC; from Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney to Shepherd, Gaiter and Byrd; from Thurgood Marshall to Clarence Thomas; from Brown vs Board to Shaw vs Reno; from benign neglect to compassionate conservatism; and too many of us have left the back of the bus for the front of the unemployment line."

In concluding his speech with a poetic quote, Bond stated, "Langston Hughes wrote that Black Americans 'What so proudly we hailed at twilight's last gleaming.' We want, 'My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.' We want everything we've heard about in those 4th of July speeches. 'Shadow beneath thy hand, May we to understand. True to our God, True to our native land.'"

After his speech, Bond and Nicholas engaged in a one-on-one conversational question-and-answer segment. At the end of the evening, Speaker Bass presented Bond with a proclamation from the State of California.

Category: National


 

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