RACE AND BEYOND: The Enduring Legacy of Julian Bond

Julian Bond was such an omnipresent civil rights figure that I can’t remember the first or last time I saw him in person. During the 1980s and 1990s, at the height of my news reporting days, I had countless interviews with Bond, who seemed to enjoy the company of journalists—especially black ones like me. I appreciated the fact that unlike so many others who lived in the constant glare of the public’s curiosity, he answered questions patiently, often with an insight into the civil rights history that he had played a part in writing.

It seems now, upon hearing news of his death, that I thought he would always be somewhere nearby or just a phone call away. Maybe that’s why I never felt an urgency to celebrate Bond’s frequent comings and goings as they intersected with my own life and work: I assumed he’d be around forever. I’m sad to have been so wrong.

At the end of a charmed life filled with an array of struggles and accomplishments, Bond died last Saturday in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, of complications of vascular disease, his wife Pamela Sue Horowitz toldThe New York Times. He was 75.

Bond was a fixture in the civil rights constellation. He burst into public life in the early 1960s as a preternaturally handsome and youthful Morehouse College student, who dropped out to co-found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, an upstart youth-led organization that challenged racist restrictions on public accommodations and voting rights.

From his early days as a leader and spokesman for SNCC, Bond worked tirelessly both inside and outside the halls of American power, serving in the Georgia legislature and eventually becoming chairman of the NAACP. He was, to use an old-fashioned term, something of a renaissance man. Or as The New York Times’ obituary described him, “a writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer and college teacher, and persistent opponent of the stubborn remnants of white supremacy.”

It’s tempting—and easy—to herald his sad, sudden, and surprising death as the end of something. But what has ended? The traditional civil rights era? Or the 1960s, a decade that was marked by the imposing strategy of sit-in protests? Or perhaps it’s the end of respectability politics—as it’s often derided by the restless youth of today—which seeks to work within existing power structures to bring about social change.

I don’t believe that Bond’s death should be viewed in such a finite way. Instead, his life should serve as a road map for social change—one that can’t easily be folded and put away simply because he is no longer among us to lead the charge.

Much like Bond’s SNCC of half a century ago, a new generation of young, energetic activists have taken to the streets today under the banner of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The similarities are strikingly similar. Black Lives Matter activists have challenged traditional political leaders to include racial justice at the forefront of their platforms. That’s in the style of SNCC, which was far more aggressive and confrontational in demanding the desegregation of lunch counters and the registration of black voters across the South than the more cautious NAACP of its day.

It’s too early to make definitive statements about the success or failure of Black Lives Matter. Perhaps, in time and through struggle, a striking figure in the mold of Julian Bond will emerge from the Black Lives Matter protests. This leader may seek to move from bullhorn agitation to voting compromise and collaboration within the larger political system.

To be sure, nobody in 1961 could have imagined how young, smart, and articulate Julian Bond’s life would unfold. The same may be said of the emerging leadership of Black Lives Matter. Regardless of what ultimately comes of the contemporary movement, however, there is a lesson to be learned, remembered, and taught from Bond’s historic legacy.

In a remarkable 2013 interview with my Center for American Progress colleague Heidi Williamson, Bond explained that he never imagined where his activism would lead, only that he thought it critical to engage in changing the nation for the better:

We didn’t plot it; we didn’t plan it. We didn’t say, “Now let’s work on this issue. Now let’s work on that issue.” The issues seemed to come to us. And we grappled with them and said, “Here is the best way to go about this thing. Here’s poverty. Here’s hunger. Here’s something else. Here’s absence of voting rights. Here’s inability to sit at the lunch counter.” All these things are both separate and connected. And we can easily handle them all if we develop a thoughtful campaign to do so. And we did.

I heard him say similar things many times over the decades. Indeed, what I learned from Bond through years of observation and countless conversations is that the struggle for equality is a never-ending journey. And it assuredly won’t stop with this singularly noble activist’s passing.

Sam Fulwood III is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute. His work with the Center’s Progress 2050project examines the impact of policies on the nation when there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050.

*For more information or to speak with Mr. Fulwood, please contact Tanya S. Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202-741-6258.

“How could you be afraid of a little boy?”


In an interview with journalist Charlie Rose, Toni Morrison discussed police brutality and violence against African Americans. She asked a series of questions that point to a key issue in America, the criminalization of Black skin and the white supremacist values cloaked in cowardice that leads to the deaths of so many unarmed Black victims.

She asked:

How are you afraid of a man running away from you?

How are you afraid of someone standing in the grocery store, on the phone with a toy gun, that you could buy in the store?

How could you be afraid of a little boy?

And who are these people calling who call 911? Who are they?

You look out the window and you see a kid with a toy gun and you get on the phone?

Her usage of the term “cowardly” speaks volumes in describing how institutionalized the dehumanization of Black people continues to be.  The so called “fear” is based on creating a worldview of African descended people as less human in terms of intellectual prowess and super-human in terms of physical strength (especially when referring to criminality). This animalistic perspective has been at the center of anti-Blackness for centuries. Examples include when “scientists” debated the brain size of Blacks and religious leaders debated whether or not Africans had souls in order to deem slavery justified. It was the central theme of The Birth of A Nation, the 1915 propaganda film that overtly warned white Americans that free negros were a threat to society.

This would explain why someone could believe they have a logical explanation for shooting a person running away from them or gunning down a child and refusing to provide the child with medical attention.

They truly believe this unarmed person is “dangerous.” Officer Darren Wilson even described Mike Brown as a “demon” with the strength of WWF wrestler “Hulk Hogan.” That’s the thought process.




It never changes.

Though Jonathan Capehart imprudently asserts the mantra “hands up don’t shoot” was built on a lie, the premise behind Mike Brown’s death follows the same superhuman negro/must be put down like an animal aggression trajectory. Whether or not his hands were raised, does not alter the key issue behind why Brown’s death was deemed justified. Simply put, he was perceived to be another dangerous negro.

Through this lens:

Mike Brown wasn’t a 17-year teenager. He was a raging gorilla loose on the streets.

Rekia Boyd was not an innocent bystander. Her very presence was violence as a potential threat.

Tamir Rice wasn’t a little boy. He was a roaming gunman looking for a victim.

Aiyana Stanley Jones wasn’t a sleeping little girl. She was a member of a familial mob the required brute force at first encounter.

With each death of an unarmed Black person, especially at the hands of police or people in assumed positions of societal authority, the cowardice and the fear is a reassertion of white supremacist beliefs, even if the victim dies at the hands of a Black police officer. Many members of mainstream media happily overlook this. Just as women can be patriarchal misogynists, Blacks can internalize Black inferiority and white supremacist beliefs.

Police have been given the authority to uphold laws and societal norms. While at the same time, the collective fear of Blackness operates as a U.S. societal norm. Thus the deaths of unarmed Black victims ensues, regardless of the ethnicity of the officer. When this occurs, the officers are then protected by the society that continuously protects and rebirths this norm.

Within the communities of the victims, they are seen as they are…human beings deserving of protection.

Mike was a teenager walking.

Rekia was a teenager standing.

Tamir is a 9-year old playing.

Aiyana was a 7-year old sleeping.

Amongst their communities, these victims are seen through a different lens..the lens of humanity. So when Toni Morrison asks, “How could you be afraid of a little boy?”

This question is very layered and could be interpreted as, “When will you see the little boy that I see?”

When will the lens be corrected?

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com.
To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.


Watch Toni Morrison’s interview below:

Zoe Saldana Nina Simone: A Hypocritical Controversy

zoesaldanaThe controversy from the African American community surrounding Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in the upcoming Biopic is warranted, yet a bit hypocritical. Where was this uproar when Kerry Washington was playing Kay Amin or Jennifer Hudson was playing Winnie Mandela? The way in which Hollywood chooses to portray people of African descent is a real issue. But we must view this problem equally when an African American actress is hired to play roles that disenfranchise the upward mobility of African actresses.



Jessica Ann Mitchell

Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of The National Black Pages & Black Bloggers Connect. She also writes on her personal blog at OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM email her at info@OurLegaci.com.

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BlackBloggersConnect.com Hosting “Blogging For Troy Online Conference” To Highlight Troy Davis Case

Troy Davis

BlackBloggersConnect.com is launching a weekend long blog conference and Twitter forum highlighting the Troy Davis death sentence case. Starting on Friday September 16th – Sunday September 18th, we will feature blogs from all over the world that are blogging about Troy Davis on the BlackBloggersConnect.com homepage. There will be links to online petitions as well.

We are also holding a Twitter Forum on Sunday September 18th from 7pm – 8 pm EST that will be an in-depth discussion about Troy Davis’ case. Use hashtag #ForTroy in your tweets to participate.
If your website would like to become an official partner of the Blogging For Troy Online Conference and Twitter forum please email us at info@BlackBloggersConnect.com.

Background Information:

Troy Davis was convicted of killing a police officer in 1991. However, he has always proclaimed his innocence. There is few if any evidence connecting Davis to the crime. Furthermore, seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimonies and submitted sworn affidavits stating that they were pressured by police to blame Davis for the murder. Additionally, evidence is emerging suggesting that someone else possibly committed the crime. There is too much reasonable doubt in this case for Troy Davis to face execution. However, the state of Georgia has insisted on this death sentence despite the overwhelming reasonable doubt.


Jessica Ann Mitchell
Black Bloggers Connect

Learn more about the case:

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Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem and African Liberation: Don’t Agonize, Organize

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem and African Liberation: Don’t Agonize, Organize
May 25 every year is dedicated to the commemoration of the struggle for liberation from colonial rule in Africa. Last year at the celebration of African Liberation Day in Accra, Ghana, I came face to face with some living legends of African liberation and heard their narratives of the sacrifices they had paid for Africa’s political freedom. One of these heroes, Kenneth Kaunda – the nonagenarian veteran of Zambian independence and author of the book, Zambia Shall Be Free – was very forthright in capturing the challenges and accomplishments of the decolonization movement. He also illuminated the many contemporary problems which impede the complete emancipation of the continent. The ultimate goal of the decolonization was self determination, dignity and wellbeing of Africans. But more than five decades after the end of colonial rule in most African countries, many problems still militate against these goals.

Across the continent, people are plagued by high rate of unemployment, inadequate access to quality health care and education, over-dependence on foreign aid, low life expectancy rate, brutal dictatorship and pseudo-democratic leaders, gender inequality, and all sorts of threat to the future of the African child. One may even want to question the meaning of African liberation as the continent still does not have enough bargaining power to negotiate a global agreement against the disproportionate threat of global warming to the survival of the continent – a threat so grave that there are concerns that the emission level agreed upon by the powerful states would, as noted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “condemn Africa to incineration.” Against this backdrop, some people ask whether African Liberation Day is worth celebrating.

However, after my experience at the African Liberation Day in Ghana, I gained some clarity that informed my opinion: we must not trivialize the labor of the past heroes of Africa’s liberation struggle; we must celebrate the gains that have been made, while taking inspiration from the old struggles to confront contemporary challenges. This clarity was taken to a higher level after my familiarity with the writings of Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem.

In our quest for inspiration, we should not only focus on the achievements of the African liberation heroes of the 20th century. We need to draw on the life and deeds of 21st century Pan Africanists. A symbol of this new brand of Pan Africanists was Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, who demonstrated that the younger generation should not agonize about the current state of the continent but stand for what is right and organize to complete the African liberation process.

Dr. Tanjudeen Abdul-Raheem (1961- May 25, 2009)

Dr. Tajudeen was born in Nigeria on January 6, 1961. He was steadfast in his commitment to speaking truth to power and standing for the ordinary people. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Nigeria with first class honors, he studied politics at Oxford University in the UK as a Rhodes Scholar. When he was interviewing for the Rhodes Scholarship, Tajudeen asked the interview committee to explain to him why they thought someone like him would want to be associated with an imperialist such as Cecil Rhodes who committed racist crimes against Africans. This question, however, did not get in his way to becoming a Rhodes Scholar.

He dedicated his life to organizing for Africa’s transformation. He was secretary general of the 7th Pan African Congress held in Kampala, Uganda in 1994. He led the organization Justice Africa (which he helped found in 1999) to engage the African Union on issues that concern the wellbeing of the ordinary African. He was one of those at the forefront of pro-democracy struggle that delegitimized military rule and enthroned democracy in Nigeria. A co-founder of the reputable Center for Democracy and Development in Nigeria, Tajudeen was also the general secretary of the Global Pan-African Movement. He was Deputy Director of UN Millennium Campaign for Africa, and also gained a reputation as was a critical commentator and writer who drew attention to what should be the core of African liberation in the 21st century.

Dr. Tajudeen was blunt but nuanced in his critique of African leaders who were once part of the liberation movement but derailed from the goal of emancipation in the course of perpetuating themselves in power. While space will not allow me to analyze all his writings, the titles of many of them were reflective of their theses, and they include: “Corrupt Leaders are Mass Murderers;” “Respect Term Limits for Democratic Change;” “Rule of Law or Law of the Rulers?”; and “Mu’ammer Gaddafi: The Brother Leader is Wrong on Revolutionaries in Power Not Retiring.” The others include: “Zimbabwe: As Good a Place as Any to Draw the Line;” “Justice for Zimbabwe Regardless of the West;” “Does Meles (Zenawi) Think He’s Africa’s George Bush?”; “Africa: The Many Challenges to Human Rights in Africa;” and “Presidency in Perpetuity.”

Tajudeen’s commitment to the emancipation and wellbeing of ordinary people in Africa was nonnegotiable. He displayed this in his encounter President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Museveni once sent Ugandan intelligence operatives to Nigeria to help Tajudeen escape from jail, where he was detained by then Nigeria’s brutal military ruler Gen. Sani Abacha for opposing his military dictatorship. Despite this help, when Museveni manipulated Ugandan laws to perpetuate himself in office, Dr. Tajudeen was the first to lash out against him. The issue of responsible leadership raised by Dr. Tajudeen some years ago has resurfaced today in the midst of growing discontent towards African leaders by their people.

Dr. Tajudeen was also preoccupied with issues affecting women. He wrote about “Ending Violence Against Women;” and affirmed that “Mothers Should Not Die Giving Life.” Recognizing the burden of liberation and transformation borne by women, Dr. Tajudeen wrote that “Everyday Should be a Woman’s Day.” He worked for African Unity and wrote: “Why We Must Struggle Against Xenophobia!” He also wrote about “The Demand for Common Citizenship;” and about “Taking Pan-Africanism to the People.” Dr. Tajudeen mobilized people to “Stand Up Against Poverty,” and cautioned against aid dependency, noting: “Live Aid 2: ‘It’s Like Trying to Shave Someone’s Head in Their Absence.’” He backed up his activism with fervent grassroots mobilization and asked others to do same.

Don’t Agonize, Organize

We lost Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, though not his ideas. In 2009 on Africa Liberation Day, Dr. Tajudeen died in a car accident in Kenya on his way to launch a maternal health campaign in Rwanda. While he was alive, Dr. Tajudeen made us to understand that the struggle for Africa’s liberation continues. He clarified that we must appreciate the sacrifices and achievements of the past and that we must be conscious of the challenges of today. We must never agonize about the problems. We must speak truth to power and organize to confront the challenges. The inherent power of his dictum, “don’t agonize, organize,” is being displayed in Egypt, where people have mobilized to put the society on a new path.

I would recommend that young Africans and aspiring leaders, who seek to put their passion for better society and human dignity above everything else in Africa, read Dr. Tajudeen’s work and seek inspiration from his thoughts on African liberation. His writings have been compiled in a compendium, titled Speaking Truth to Power: Selected Pan-African Postcards.

On this 2011 African Liberation Day, we remember Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem as one Pan Africanist and humanist who made a mark by helping us with ideas about the central focus of African liberation and Pan Africanism in the 21st century: the restoration of the human dignity and wellbeing of all Africans from the stranglehold of corrupt and despotic leaders and their foreign accomplices. Yes the celebration of African Liberation Day is still very relevant. Don’t agonize, Organize!
Wilson Idahosa Aiwuyor is a researcher. A graduate of International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, he is also a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University. He could be reached at aiwudaho@gmail.com.

All Of Us: Documentary Examines Power & HIV in Relationships

Our Legaci Response:

This documentary highlights vital information for understanding the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Black and African Women. Sometimes, power roles in relationships, vulnerability and past experiences of abuse can make women predisposed to catching HIV/AIDS. “All Of Us” shows the lives of young women fighting HIV and telling their stories. It is an absolute must see documentary for all people of African descent that are concerned about how the HIV/AIDS epidemic is affecting our communities.