March 07, 2011
Photo by David Noe
“In spite of the impressive increases in equality and gains of individual liberties achieved during the past 45 years, Americans are facing more difficult problems now than ever,” proclaimed Civil Rights champion Julian Bond to a capacity audience in Tiedtke Concert Hall on Thursday, March 3. “The growing gap between the “have mores,” “haves” and “have-nots” and lack of educational quality and equality pose great threats to our nation.”
Presented by the Winter Park Institute, Visiting Scholar Julian Bond captivated the Rollins community with his eloquence, humor and strikingly forthright social commentary. In two engaging events, Bond described his long career challenging racial inequality and outlined barriers that have yet to be overcome.
“In addition to whatever job I have had throughout my life, I have always been engaged in Civil Rights activity,” commented Bond. As a leader of the movement against white supremacy, Bond confessed that his life-long crusade to increase personal, social and economic freedoms for Black Americans remains unresolved. “It is time for us to put our shoulders to the wheel and recognize the social issues that get worse in this country every day. Jim Crow may be dead but racism in this country is alive and well.”
The evening event titled Civil Rights Then and Now had the electric atmosphere of a revival meeting. In addition to receiving numerous standing ovations, Bond’s discussion of the significance of the Obama presidency, as well as the racist undertones of the Tea Party, instigated audible affirmations from the audience.
In a more intimate presentation earlier that day, Bond urged students to get involved. “It is time for all believers in democracy to join in the renewal of this movement to restore and safeguard civil liberty. The most important thing young people can do is to find and join an organization that aligns with their personal values.” Additionally, Bond asked young people to stay informed and contribute to the Civil Rights discussion. “We’ll never get past race unless we talk about it.”
Members of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) found both presentations to be extremely relevant and rewarding. “Because today’s students only know a very brief narrative of Civil Rights history, it’s so important to learn from living leaders of the movement so they can continue it,” said Director of Multicultural Affairs Mahjabeen Rafiuddin. Students were given the opportunity to have candid conversations with Bond during a meet and greet prior to the afternoon event. Bailey Robb (Class of 2011), an active member of OMA, commented that she will be using Bond’s words and advice to help educate her peers during an upcoming “Week of Action” that she has been instrumental in planning with OMA.
Bond concluded his presentation by encouraging the audience not to be afraid. Professing that the journey will not be without obstacles, he assured that through hard work freedom can be obtained.
“Our only real fears should be that those in power will divide us and turn us against each other. The class divisions prevalent in the United States are extreme and are being perpetuated by plutocratic Republicans. Our greatest power lies in our ability to vote.” Bond then asked audience members to promise him that they would not only vote but also motivate their neighbors to vote as well. A feeling of personal call to action was palpable among those in attendance.
Once again, Winter Park Institute programming has provided the Rollins Community with modern day thought leaders espousing intellectual dialogue. For more information on the remainder of Winter Park Institute events this season, please visit www.rollins.edu/wpi/events-calendar.
By Justin Braun (Class of 2011MBA)
Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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