Julian Bond, 1940-2015
I was sad to hear that we lost a great hero and an important man last weekend when I learned that Julian Bond died. There is so much we should all know about Julian Bond. I am not going to write any of it here. We should all take the time to learn more than whatever we already know about him, and about what he did throughout his life.
As a young person I watched and listened to Julian Bond on television and in newspapers, as I watched the black civil rights movement unfold with great admiration and interest. I lived in Chicago and I watched him with great interest at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the convention that turned bloody and violent and that later made a mockery of justice, in my own city. He was young too, and I think I completely understood that he was not so much older than I was and that he was a model, not just because he was principled, but because he was a young person who was so brilliant and willing to act and to speak up– a young person of great courage and principle who had a significant voice in a world of older adults. I think his courage and principle as young black man spoke to me as a young person and it spoke to me as a female trying to find a voice in a world of male voices.
One day about nine years ago, I walked into a very small Starbucks, here in Washington, DC and there, at the counter, facing the street, was Julian Bond. I hesitated for a bit, argued with myself, but I wanted so badly to speak to him. I was scared and embarrassed, and perhaps I started to leave, but I thought better of it. I walked over to him and I said, Are you Julian Bond? He looked up from his coffee and said, yes, in a slow, low voice, wondering, I think, what he was about to be in for, given that he was just out for a cup of coffee by himself on a Sunday morning. He did not seem to welcome the conversation I was starting, and I think I understood why that would be so, and I was mindful. But after a split second’s consideration of his privacy vs. what I wanted to say, I persisted. I told him that I had known who he was since I was a very young girl. I told him that he was my hero and role model as a young girl and that I had watched everything I could about what he had done– on tv and in newspapers. I told him that I now had (then) a five-year-old daughter. And that one of my biggest hopes for her was that she would grow up with people as brave and as smart as he was, and that she would have these people to look to for inspiration as she grew. He considered this for just a moment and said, in the most matter-of-fact way, she will have brave people to inspire her. And then he looked back down at his newspaper. I said thank you, and I left.