Julian Bond Speaks

By Katherine Wilk
kwilk@radford.edu

The voices rose smoothly, echoing off the auditorium walls and attendees rose to their feet, clapping with the beat.

The harmonious sounds of the William Fleming High School Choir quickly set the tone for Radford University’s tribute to the man who acted against inequality, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,” the choir sang out.

The Road to the Dream gave attendees a look into the impact of Civil Rights spokesperson, King and drew attention to great actions including leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a non-violent take on improving the rights of everyone as well as receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

The tribute began at 7 p.m. in the Bondurant Auditorium Wednesday night and was later followed by a candlelight march in celebration of Kings life and accomplishments. Many of RU’s recognizable names took the podium with a different take on King’s life.

RU’s President Penelope Kyle shared with the audience many facts about the university’s long history with desegregation and the acceptance of men as well as women.

“I’m amazed at just how far Radford University has come,” Kyle said. “We are continuing with the theme of giving of ourselves in dedication to others.”

Kyle went on to describe the changes within RU since the school’s founding in 1910. From the first African American to graduate from Radford College, Elsie Claytor White, to the university’s first African American President, Dr. Douglas Covington the school has a rich history of diversity and acceptance.

Member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Le Marke Patterson encouraged everyone to remember the work of King. He spoke of the impact on Radford, encouraging students and faculty to work together and be accepting.

“Has Kings illustrious dream been reached?” Patterson asked. “We are close; we are not far from fulfilling King’s dream. It is not the individual organization. The organization is only as good as the men and women in it.”

Keynote Speaker Julian Bond took the stage with some comedy and an important message to share. He was an important figure in the fight for equality and has held many positions in civil rights organizations. Bond has served as Chairman of the Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1998 and helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. His involvement in civil rights spans universities, publications and documentaries.

“We should remember this was a people’s movement.” Bond said. “It didn’t wait. It saw wrong and it acted against it.”

Bond spoke on the state of America today, sharing the overall imbalance between the rich and poor, the 54% growth in hate groups and stated that the election of an African American man into the Presidency has far from finished his work.

“We’ve been rocked by an economy,” Bond said. “We’re still cleaning up the mess we’ve made and we will for some time and it’s foolhardy to argue that since Barack Obama we can now dismantle the movement.”

His experience his lifetime had given him has provided Bond with a realistic approach to looking ahead. Bond continues to reinforce King’s message: “When we work together we can overcome.”

“We’ve never wished our way to freedom,” Bond said. “We’ve only worked our way.”

Many in attendance looked toward Bond as an influential factor in their daily lives. They looked at his impact and vowed to continue the fight for equality and acceptance.

“Now it is time to give back,” Sheree Spencer, President of RU’s NAACP said. “Thank you for showing us how to give back.”

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