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03.18.09

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Road to Freedom

By P. Joseph Potocki


Legendary civil rights leader, social activist and intellectual firebrand Julian Bond comes to Sonoma State University on March 20. Bond has served as chairperson for the NAACP since 1998, but his activism stretches back to 1960, when he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Bond's name first splashed across national headlines in 1965. That year, in the wake of his first victory to elective office, the Georgia House of Representatives voted 184-12 to deny Bond a seat in its body. This denial was ascribed both to Bond's opposition to the Vietnam War and for his supporting draft resistance. Bond filed suit. A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment to the Constitution required the Georgia House to seat Bond. He spent the next 20 years in the Georgia Legislature.

Recently, Bond was himself recast in a freedom-of-speech controversy. Last month, the NAACP held its annual meeting at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. Members stepped forward to condemn the infamous New York Post cartoon depicting a dead chimpanzee some claim was a racist and incendiary reference to President Obama. In response, Michael Meyers, formerly the NAACP's assistant national director, attempted to portray the controversy as a free-speech issue, but Bond told Meyers, "Your views are not welcomed here," and had Meyers' microphone cut off. Bond then directed security to escort Meyers from the ballroom session.

In 1971 Bond became the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and combats hate groups through published exposÚs and legal actions. Though best known for black civil rights efforts, Bond is also a staunch supporter of gay and lesbian rights. He refused to attend Coretta Scott King's funeral when her children chose an anti-gay church for her services, against King's own expressed feelings on the subject.

Media watchers know Bond through his many interviews, his guest appearances on shows like Saturday Night Live, and from his nationally syndicated column, "Viewpoint." Bond hosted America's Black Forum for close to two decades, and is a commentator for NBC's Today Show. His books include A Time to Speak, a Time to Act: The Movement in Politics.

Julian Bond appears on Friday, March 20, at 7:30pm, as part of the Andrea and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series. Evert B. Person Theatre, SSU, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. $10 public; faculty, staff and students, free. 707.664.2382.


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