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Bond Exhorts Gallaudet Crowd to Push for Change

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/27/2013, 10:31 a.m.

Two weeks ago, Julian Bond was one of 49 people arrested in front of the White House as they sought to push President Barack Obama to take greater action against climate change.

Bond is not content to rest on his laurels after a lifetime of activism and told an audience at Gallaudet University on Feb. 21 that those seeking social change have to continue to fight against the status quo.

"We have to hope that our fellow Americans feel the sense of outrage," he said. "Someone needs to make some noise, make some things happen."

Bond, 73, has been making things happen since he was a student at Morehouse University in Atlanta, Ga. In 1968, Bond was a founding member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), became the first African American put forward as a major party candidate for vice president and he was the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bond served on the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1998-2008. He is the recipient of 25 honorary degrees.

While the changes in society since the 1960s have been impressive, Bond continues to actively engage in issues of economic justice, civil rights and peace and remains an unabashed voice for the disenfranchised.

In each constituency, he said, African Americans and members of the deaf community share common experiences which are a part of their collective identities.

"There are differences in means but your goals are group-based and your futures linked," Bond said. "In the civil rights movement, we always thought that we were engaged in a larger and even more important struggle, engaged in a struggle for human rights which envelops every human being everywhere on the planet."

Almost 50 years ago, said Bond, Bayard Rustin - an advisor to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and organizer of the March on Washington - wrote that the movement was evolving from a protest movement into a full-fledged social movement.

"It was an evolution calling its very name into question. It is now concerned not merely with removing the barriers to full opportunity but achieving the fact of equality," Rustin wrote. "From sit-ins and freedom rides, we've moved into rent strikes, boycotts, community organizing and political action. And as King began to call for a more equitable distribution and railed against the Vietnam War, the movement continued to move beyond its original intent."

During the lecture, Bond laid out the context that led to the development of the modern civil rights movement and tied the movement to Gallaudet's Deaf President Now (DPN) movement.

Gallaudet is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the DPN movement this March. The protests on campus led to the appointment of a deaf president, I. King Jordan, for the first time at that point in Gallaudet's history. Bond, Angela Davis and other civil and human rights icons have lectured at the university to mark the milestone.

Bond discussed the impact of DPN on the lives of deaf people in the United States and the world, compared it to the arc of the civil rights movement and spotlighted a number of the transformative changes each has brought the United States. And while he describes himself as an eternal optimist, Bond acknowledged that a good deal of work remains.