The Ku Klux Klan was active in Northern California circa 1980. Civil rights groups were determined not to let these white supremacists intimidate us so we organized an event in San Francisco and invited Julian Bond to come speak to us.
I remember picking up Julian and his wife in my old green MG and racing from the airport to downtown San Francisco. At our gathering he was eloquent and brave. The civil rights community made it known that the Klan was not welcome. The KKK went away.
Years later, Julian came to SF to help us defeat Prop. 54, yet another ill-advised statewide initiative sponsored by Ward Connerly. I sat with him and Greg Moore from the NAACP in Zuni Café.
Mr. Bond had just been in LA. One of our strongest arguments against Prop 54 was that the inability to collect racial data would harm the health of whites. Julian had spent time delving into this part of our campaign and had learned much about disparities in health outcomes between whites and people of color. He was dedicated to defeating Prop 54, but his political brilliance necessitated his really deeply understanding the issues.
I remember emailing Julian about a young man who I thought might do a great job as head of the NAACP. Julian agreed and Ben Jealous became head of the NAACP leading the organization into an era of great growth. Whenever I reached out to Julian, he was receptive and supportive.
When I learned of his passing Sunday morning, I called my dear friend Jane Moore because Julian is her little brother. Our other friends Jennifer Bell and Shauna Marshall were all quite shocked at this sad news. I saw many tributes to Julian throughout the day.
One photo stuck in my mind. It was a photo of a very little Julian Bond with W.E.B. DuBois. The other little child in the photo is Jane Moore. Jane and Julian grew up in a family of achievers and “race men” — Black folks of high achievement who fought for the rights of Blacks in the South. Jane and Julian spent most of their lives in political struggle. That is in part why we gave an award to Jane and Howard Moore at our Gala last year.
Tears came to my eyes when I learned Julian had passed. He seemed “Forever Young,” in the words of Bob Dylan. He was a famous man who kept fighting when he could have rested. He was quite amazing. He helped form the SNCC. He had to sue to take his seat in the Georgia legislature because he colleagues detested his righteous opposition to the war in Vietnam. He was at the 1963 March on Washington. He was the Chair of the NAACP. President Obama was his friend. He was Jane’s little brother.
What a man. What a life.
Rest in Peace my brother, or as one commentator wrote, Rest in Power.