His name is Bond. Julian Bond. His mission: changing the course of history. The beneficiaries of his larger-than-life efforts: African Americans and history itself.
From his student days to his current Chairmanship of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Bond is a longtime participant in the movements for civil rights and economic justice. As an activist who faced jail for his beliefs, as a veteran of more than 20 years of service in the Georgia General Assembly, as a university professor and writer, this man is a leader who has been on the cutting edge of social change since 1960. When the virus became part of the tapestry of our lives, dealing with the pandemic naturally became part of the tireless activist’s work.
“I had a very close friend who died of AIDS,” says Bond, “and I am aware of the enormous toll it’s taken on African Americans and people worldwide, especially before new drugs were introduced. The scientific community is going to come up with cures, but meanwhile, we have to keep hoping and taking action.”
For Bond, action means using his platform with the NAACP to support prevention efforts and advocacy of programs promoting safe sex and needle exchanges.
It’s particularly important for Black people to overcome the ignorance and homophobia that afflict our community,” he notes, and pulls no punches when it comes to confronting the issues. When asked about the barriers keeping Blacks from opening up their hearts and minds, he states emphatically: “We need to get over the idea that people can choose to be gay, then choose not to be gay. We need to help Christians overcome literalism. You take a look at Leviticus in the Bible, where it says man shall not lie with man as man lies with women. That’s either a prohibition of homosexuality or endorsement of lesbianism.”
Bond follows this riddle with laughter but understands the consequences are no joke.
“Our inability to talk about sex, and more specifically homosexuality, is the single greatest barrier to the prevention of HIV transmission in our community. Intolerance has driven our gay friends and neighbors into the shadows. Men leading double lives—on the “down low”—put our women at extreme risk.”
Julian Bond is no stranger to scaling great heights. In 1960, while a student at Morehouse College, he was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. As SNCC’s communications director, Bond was active in protests and voter registration campaigns throughout the South.
Elected in 1965 to the Georgia House of Representatives, Bond was prevented from taking his seat by members who objected to his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was re-elected to his own vacant seat and un-seated again, and seated only after a third election and a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court.
Bond was also co-chair of a challenge delegation from Georgia to the 1968 Democratic Convention. The challengers were successful in unseating Georgia’s establishment Democrats, and Bond was nominated for Vice-President, but had to decline because he was too young. In the Georgia Senate, he became the first Black chair of the Fulton County Delegation, the largest and most diverse delegation in the upper house, and chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee. During his legislative tenure, he was sponsor or co-sponsor of more than 60 bills which became law.
He is also a commentator on America’s Black Forum, the oldest Black-owned show in television syndication. His poetry and articles have appeared in numerous publications. He has narrated numerous documentaries, including the Academy Award-winning A Time For Justice and the prize-winning and critically acclaimed series Eyes On The Prize.
In addition, he has served since 1998 as Chairman of the Board of the NAACP, the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States. The holder of twenty-one honorary degrees, he is a Distinguished Professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and a professor in history at the University of Virginia.
While others might be content to rest on the laurels of such an exhausting resumé, Bond possesses the attitude of a soldier who never quits. At the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, he joined with other Black leaders in encouraging the Black community to accept responsibility for extinguishing the disease.
“For Black America, the time to deliver is now. We’re calling on leaders to lead. The AIDS story in the United States is partly one of a failure to lead. Prominent Blacks—from traditional ministers and civil rights leaders to hip-hop artists and Hollywood celebrities—must immediately join this national call to action to end the AIDS epidemic in Black America.”
As a leader who leads by example, Bond backs up his words with action.
“We must build a new sense of urgency in Black America, so that no one accepts the idea that the presence of HIV and AIDS is inevitable. We’re calling on Black Americans to get screened and find out their HIV status. I have—it took 20 minutes and was bloodless and painless. Knowing your HIV status and the status of your partner can save your life. We need a massive effort that addresses the disproportionate impact this epidemic has on Black youth, women, drug users and men who have sex with men. We must heed Martin Luther King Jr.’s warning, originally meant for others but right for us now: ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity’.”