On Wednesday, Oct. 24, Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, presented an informative and powerful presentation on the state of race in America that invigorated the audience in a packed Wadsworth Auditorium.
Bond's address, part of the Wadsworth Endowed Lecture Series, was titled "An Evening With Julian Bond: 'Civil Rights: In the Day, Today and Tomorrow.'" It covered an extremely sensitive topic, the state of race in America. By giving a history of civil rights in years past and discussing the issue of race in today's society, Bond demonstrated the importance of challenging the way we think and act.
Bond cited prominent figures of the segregation era, such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Individuals such as these, he said, "saw wrong and acted against it. They saw evil and brought it down." It was not only movement leaders, he said, who were responsible for the enactment of change in civil rights. According to Bond, generations born into slavery and the era of segregation were determined to make their way to freedom and a better life. Their demand for freedom and civil rights were representative of democracy's finest hours.
Moving forward from the 1960s Civil Rights era, Bond discussed race in America today. He reminded audience members that it has only been about forty years since segregation ended nationwide, and that to believe in those forty years we have solved the problem of racism "is to believe hope over experience and delusion over common sense."
Hurricane Katrina and the way in which the government and media responded, he said, prove that race is still very much an issue in the present day. According to Bond, both the delay in government aid and the various media images, which cast blacks in a negative light, highlighted the issue of race in connection with class, which in American culture has been normalized to encompass a majority of colored people.
Acknowledging that race is still an issue, Bond concluded his lecture by emphasizing the importance of a common effort to bring an end to racism. He urged the audience to seek change, to demand that the criminal justice system stop being an oxymoron, to ensure quality education in inner city schools, and to work our way to freedom and justice.
To Bond, the promise of freedom lies in a coalition for change as we grow strong together, and the peril, which we must not let happen, lies in letting our foes find ways to separate and divide our efforts for change.
Introducing Bond Wednesday night was Corrin Strong, a member of the Wadsworth family whose endowment made it possible for Bond to speak at Geneseo. Strong, like many Geneseo students in the audience, said he believed Bond's accomplishments, efforts and message were good things worth waiting for.
According to Bond, "History is race." The quality of our future depends on ordinary, everyday acts that challenge the way we think and act.
Student reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Freshman Domonique Clay said he believed Bond was an excellent public speaker, and that the issues he discussed were relevant to society today.
Junior AJ Ferreri agreed with Clay. According to Ferreri, the lecture was inspiring. He believed that Bond touched upon worthwhile points and that hopefully after listening to Bond's words many will, "wake up, recognize race as a prominent issue, and join together to find solutions to racial inequality."