Leaving a Legacy for Us to Carry On
by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
It’s taken me a few days to deal with the passing of Julian Bond. What a great brother! What a great Black Man! What a Fine Black Man! What a legend! Julian definitely was a chip off the old Bond block, many would say.
SUAVE AS EVER, THE LATE GREAT JULIAN BOND AT THE NAACP 106TH NATIONAL CONVENTION JULY 2015
Julian Bond discussing the newly published book: BLACK LEADERS ON LEADERSHIP
He definitely had his dad’s DNA for activism, leadership; making a critical difference in the world was his mantra. And what a difference he made.
I guess it would be easy to look up his record in Google – but I’m going to ask that you also check him out among the many Black writers and activists who had the honor and pleasure of working with this great Black man – and not get your history third hand.
Julian Bond and Gloria Dulan-Wilson at NAACP 106 Convention in Philadelphia, PA July 2015
There’s far to much about Julian Bond of a personal and personable nature to be captured in an internet piece – or via a remote obituary. There are people who worked side by side with this great brother who “could tell you stories about how he” stood up to racists, oppression, rumor, insinuation – and faced life threatening situations head on.
By the time I actually met the great Julian Bond in the flesh, he was already a legend among the Black Power and Civil Rights Activists. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was exceptionally handsome, articulate, knowledgeable, and charismatic. It was all part of his legend, and charm.
But the fact that he was down to earth, cordial, generous, courageous – the stuff that heroes are made of, those are things that, if you’re lucky and blessed, you have to experience for yourself. And thanks be to God, I was blessed to do so.
I had peeked at Julian Bond at NAACP rallies, but didn’t dare to get any closer than that. He was a celebrity, surrounded by folks who hang with celebrities. He was on an important mission, so I, who was still wet behind the ears, didn’t have enough of significance to contribute to a conversation with him.
It wasn’t until I had graduated from Lincoln University, where his Dad, the great Horace Mann Bond, had once been president; and was Director of Student Activities at City University of NY, that I actually first met Julian. He was taping an interview with Ellis Haislip on WNET Chanel 13 – the first in a series of Black History programs. I had found out he was taping, and had been invited by friend/producer, Marlayna Franklin, to “sit quietly and watch.” Which I did. But I also brought my daughter, Kira, who at the time was two years old, so she could be exposed to Black History in the making. And she was dutifully quiet as well.
After the taping, I got to shake his hand, tell him how much I admired him – I must have babbled on like a teenager – but this was my hero, Julian Bond – in the flesh!!! (By the way, if I forgot to say it, “Thank you Marlayna!” I am forever grateful). He couldn’t help but notice that Kira had been there the entire time, but had not disrupted the taping, and complimented her for being so smart. (Kira never remembers this, though I’ve told this story a million times). He picked her up and gave her a hug. As we were leaving the studios to head back to Harlem, he offered us a ride in the car that had been hired to pick him up, and dropped us off at my apartment on Morningside Ave., and 122nd Street.
We talked about Black history, and it was then that he told me that he had been a Lincoln brat; that his nickname was “Stinky,” and that he used to get into all kinds of fracas on the campus. He expressed the fact that Lincoln would always be his home, even though his Dad moved to another university. He complimented me on being one of the first coeds – and asked how I liked being surrounded by all those men. The year was 1968. I had graduated from Lincoln University in 1967.
It was a memorable conversation – at least to me. I don’t know how much of it he retained, considering the full life he’s led since then.
My second encounter was while serving as counselor of the SEEK Program at Brooklyn College, in 1971. Julian had been invited to speak at Brooklyn College, however, not by the African American students of the SEEK program, but by the administration – which happened to have been hostile to the Black students on the campus. An issue of which I sure he was unaware. They were trying to feign solidarity without actually practicing it. In fact, none of the SEEK students were invited to hear him speak. So I politely brought about 30 of them into the auditorium. The administration could not eject them in front of Bond, so they let them stay. After his speech, when they thought they were going to surround him, I managed to let it be known that I was in the audience, and he invited me to join them at the reception. Of course they were none too pleased – especially since I rode in the limo with Julian, instead of taking a taxi and meeting them there. I don’t think they ever forgave me. Oh well!
Those are the two stories upon which I hinge my friendship and reverence for Julian Bond. Of course, from that point on, he rose in the ranks of the NAACP, and in the hearts and minds of millions of Black people world wide. We ran in concentric circles. There was always a warm greeting, and once in a while, an opportunity to catch up on events and issues.
When the NAACP celebrated it’s 100th Anniversary in New York City, he engaged me in a conversation about how remarkable it was to be here to see this come to pass. He looked younger than ever, and was as energetic as he had been Black in the day. He was concerned, as always, about the participation of the youth in the future of the organization. I was dazzled by the fact that he remembered me; as much as I was by the fact that he was still so vibrant and active.
Our most recent, and last, encounter was just a scant 30 days ago at the NAACP’s 106th Convention, in Philadelphia, PA. I was so happy to see him – and, as always, he was energetic, debonair, handsome. I mentioned that we had known each other off and on for nearly fifty years, but I had never had a photo taken with him. I was always taking photos of him. He actually asked about my daughter – you could have knocked me over with a feather that he even remembered I had a daughter. I responded that she was well, happily married with two handsome sons, living in Virginia. I also told him she remembered nothing of his picking her up – but then, she was only two at the time.
I mentioned that the Alumni Association of Lincoln University was considering a crowd fundraiser to renovate the Bond house and dedicate it as a welcome center in the name of his father, Horace Mann Bond. He was so enthusiastic he asked me to keep him in the loop about the progress.
His wife graciously took several shots of us together. And since I didn’t look any better than the first shot, and he was looking more and more youthful, I thanked her for being so gracious. He invited me to a workshop he was holding at the exhibit hall, and a video that was being shown later that evening on Julius Rosenwald. Of course I said “yes” to both, and then politely left him to his fan club that was beginning to line up behind me.
Julian had participated in an impromptu panel discussion in the exhibit hall during the NAACP convention with two other panelists – most convention goers weren’t even aware it was taking place. It was so information rich, it should have been presented to a much wider audience; however it was a privilege to have been invited and involved.
The following is an excerpt from the last time I had the privilege of covering the great Julian Bond – it took place at the NAACP 106th National Convention, in Philadelphia, PA July 12, 2015 – 5:30PM:
Frankie Darcel of WDAS-FM hosted the event, which featured two authors, Jean Love Kush, who wrote “ENDAGERED;” and Erick Boyle, Esq, who wrote “HOW TO DEAL WITH THE POLICE: A BLACK MAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE,” along with Julian and Phyllis Loeffler, who co-wrote a book entitled, “BLACKS IN LEADERSHIP.” And I’m sad to say that I didn’t get an autographed copy.
Phyllis Loeffler and Julian Bond were co-directors of a 15 year project at the University of Virginia, where they invited distinguished African American leaders to the University; conducted video taped aural interviews with them, and the book, BLACK LEADERS ON LEADERSHIP is a compilation of the 51 interviews.
Julian stated, “The book really tells how these people became the people they are. I know you’ve often seen some one that you admire, some figure that you think is great, someone you’d like to emulate; and you wonder how did this person – Johnny or Mary, or Susie or Frank, how did they get to be the person they are. Well, we had the rare chance that few people have, to make these people sit down before a camera and answer our question: “HOW DID YOU BECOME THE PERSON THAT YOU ARE TODAY?” And many of them opened up. Many of them told things about themselves I think they probably wouldn’t have told in other circumstances. If you buy the book, you get a chance through electronic technology to find the things that they told us, to find out how they became the person they are,” he concluded.
On the subject of Black Lives Matter, Frankie Darcel asked, if they matter so much, why don’t they matter to Black people. To which Julian responded, “This was brought up yesterday, the issue of Black on Black crime in America; if we’re killing ourselves, what right do we have to complain about other people killing us. And I think she’s absolutely right – that this is a condition that we need to take a hold of. And I don’t think we do as much about it as we ought to do, or could do; because we certainly — I was reading about a person who was part of the gun lobby – she was a Black female. But I was surprised to learn about it – when we actually need to have hundreds and hundreds lobbying to get guns out of our community. Why am I surprised that she’s doing it? And I’m not sure I have an answer to that.”
In response to the use of the “N” word a as an indication of systemic self hatred on the part of Blacks, and whether or not education and parental training would modify that behavior, Julian responded: “It seems to me that what we’re really talking about is individual responsibility for behavior. And if we don’t adopt some individual responsibility for behavior and the language – but the behavior primarily; I don’t think we’re going to get anyplace. We’re not going to progress.”
Frankie Darcel really voiced what so many of us felt, when she stated in reference to Julian: “And clearly, with the contributions that have lived a lifetime, and that have led the fight for all of us to be here, even today, thank you for being with us today, we applaud you for all of your commitments, leadership, civil rights, and what you’ve given us not only professionally, but what you’ve given us personally as well, please welcome, as he gives his closing comments, NAACP Chairman Emeritus, Mr. Julian Bond. Please give him a warm welcome to be here. Just the legacy of what you have accomplished – Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! And our children’s children’s children thank you!”
Julian responded, “There are a couple of things I want to say. I want to repeat what Phyllis said, that she has produced, and that I created, the interviews that are in the book; she created a guide that anyone can read, and find out what Joe, what Sue, what Sally, what Frank, what Billy – people whose names re more familiar than these, and find out why these people succeeded the way they did. And there may be some models you can follow yourself; maybe some things you can learn yourself, how others behave, and how you can do the same. I want to mention something to you that really may not seem to have much interest to people who are talking about how Black lives matter – tomorrow night, in this building, at 8:00PM, in the Convention Center, in room 108, there will be a movie shown, called ROSENWALD. How many of you know who Julius Rosenwald was? (of course yours truly was one of six who raised her hand – that’s because I posted an article on him in my blog in 2014). How many of you know that Julius Rosenwald built 5,320 schools for Black children? If you don’t want to find out why a white man (actually he was Jewish) would build 5,000 schools for Black children, don’t come to the movie. I know you want to know now; you want to learn about it now, you’re curious; so tomorrow night, eight o’clock, room 108 A & B; come see the movie. You’ll be crying, you’ll be laughing; you’ll have a good time.”
Subsequent to the panel, I spoke with Julian and informed him that I had done an article on Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald – and, on his request, sent him a personalized copy of the Blog Post.
The absolute last time I saw him was at the screening of ROSENWALD. He thanked me for the post, and for coming to review the video. And I, of course, thanked him for continuing to be the great man and the guiding light he’s always been. Of course you know I got my parting hugs.
I would say rest well Julian, but this is a brother who is as tireless with the ancestors as he was with us, and he’s probably coordinating things with his fellow Ancestor/Angels even as we speak.
My condolences to his wife Pamela, his brother James “Zeke” Bond, and his sister Jane, and his children; as well as to all who had the pleasure and privilege of serving and working with him through his illustrious career as a leader, activist, educator.
Stay Blessed &
bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com