Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP) was the special guest on Friday, June 12 of the NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch and the California African American Museum.
Looking dapper and sporting a distinguished head of silver gray hair, Bond is on a cross country tour to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NAACP and the book NAACP 100: Celebrating a Century of 100 Years in Pictures.
Like the esteemed civil rights association, the civil rights leader, who has served as chairman of the board of the NAACP since 1998, said he is still fighting racial discrimination and social injustice.
Many admirers turned out to see Bond, who scanned the crowd filled with friends and well-wishers and spotted Beverly Hills/Hollywood first vice president Willis Edwards who is also on the national board of the NAACP. “Willis never works for us, we work for Willis,” chuckled Bond.
“On paper, we are the first among equals. But I know they have a higher power, and it’s Willis Edwards.”
California Assemblyman Mike Davis, one of the notables who introduced Bond for the evening, observed, “I think that the NAACP is the organization that makes this country stand up to its creed that all men are created equal.”
Ron Hassan, president of NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch, said “Julian Bond is here to talk about the past so that we can move into the future.”
Noting the significant milestone of the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, Bond reflected on the unprecedented symbolism of Barack Obama’s presidency.
“It is important to state the significance of Barack Obama’s 44th presidency of the United States. We feel the NAACP played a major role to make his election victory possible because we have struggled for equal rights for the past 100 years. It is fitting that during the inauguration Obama rode a 1930s Pullman car. He was sworn in as president at the National Mall that once was a slave market. He launched his candidacy at the steps of the Lincoln Capitol. These sites play a historic significance in this country’s history.”
Despite the diligent efforts of the NAACP to eradicate racism, Bond stated that it still exists.
“There is still racial scapegoating,” he acknowledged. “We helped to end racial profiling in the media. We convinced some newspapers to drop racial designations in the newspapers. We helped to strike down racial restrictions. In 1920, we joined organized labor. We joined A. Philip Randolph in his fight for Pullman porters in 1941 and we helped to create a Fair Practices Commission.”
He mentioned numerous people and events that helped to quell the tide of racism and intolerance in the country that eventually turned into a tidal wave for justice.
“These small acts of passive resistance to American apartheid spurred a people’s movement that helped stare down Jim Crow. Jim Crow is dead, but racism is still alive and well.”
Bond said that African Americans are still faced with racism in housing and jobs. He pointed to recent discriminatory actions by two banks. “They engaged in systematic discrimination against minorities,” adding that the NAACP filed a lawsuit against both institutions. Nonetheless, Bond stated that he remained hopeful about the future. “For Black Americans, much of the news is good. But Black joblessness is still twice as high as Whites,” he noted.
The chairman said he was proud of the NAACP’s illustrious reputation and history. “We are the largest grassroots organization in the United States. The NAACP had the highest favorability rating with 94%, said Bond, who will become the 94th recipient of the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor.
The usually distinguished and reserved Bond, who is also a professor of history at the University of Virginia, suddenly revealed his lighter side. Actress and activist Denise Nicholas, who conducted the question and answer period with Bond, asked, “I heard you were a model for Royal Crown Cola?”
“Yes, I did pose for Royal Crown Cola,” Bond admitted. “I have also made a few movies. How many of you saw ‘Ray’? Did you see me in a scene where Ray Charles gets an award from the Georgia Legislature? That was me,” Bond chuckled.
Bond reported that he was also in the movie Greased Lightening, about the first Black race car driver portrayed by comedian Richard Pryor. “I was dancing with Pam Grier who was my girlfriend. Richard Pryor tapped her on the shoulder. I never saw Pam again.”
Asked if he ever yearned for another career besides public service, Bond nodded. “As a teen, I wanted to be a movie director and direct black and white crime movies. Then in my early 20s, I wanted to be a singer and have a group called ‘Julian Bond and the Hot Pants.’ I would have three comely young women behind me dancing in hot pants. I thought that would be fabulous.”