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In Tribute to Julian Bond: A Civil Rights Leader Who Fought for HIV Resources in Black Communities

August 24, 2015

Julian Bond

Julian Bond

On August 15, Julian Bond passed away at the age of 75. Bond, who is survived by his wife Pamela Horowitz and his five children, lived a life of service that touched many communities, including people living with HIV/AIDS and LGBT people. He was well-known not only as one of the early giants of the civil rights movement, but also as a senator, Georgia state representative, organizer of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, chairman of the NAACP, first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and distinguished professor. Bond was also one of the initial advisors to the LGBT-advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Whether one knew him for a brief or extensive time, all agree that Julian Bond was a dynamic force who empowered others to take an active role in the movement for social justice.

In the late 1970s, "Julian was one of the first prominent, nationally known liberals who supported gay and lesbian rights," recalled Sean Strub, executive director of the Sero Project, via email. "I can't claim a friendship with Julian, but he was, more than any other prominent person, responsible for my interest in social justice work," said Strub.

Many counted on Bond for his leadership and his strong moral compass, both of which led him to support Leading for Life, a 1996 campaign and summit on HIV in African-American communities organized by Bond's close friend and colleague, the late Mario Cooper, and Dr. Richard Marlink, executive director of the Harvard AIDS Initiative.

"Since the beginning ..., the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic has really disproportionately affected African Americans and minority communities," Dr. Marlink explained to Leading for Life offered a forum for blunt conversation about HIV among African-American leaders from all walks of life, he explained, recollecting that "Julian Bond unconditionally sign[ed] on at the very beginning and [said,] 'I'm there, whatever you need,' to Mario Cooper."


According to Marlink, Bond's notoriety and the respect he commanded in many communities enabled the other leaders to view Leading with Life as an important and safe place to hold honest conversations. Leading for Life is credited with helping to secure $156 million in government funding for AIDS programming specifically for the African-American community.

"People don't understand ... that these were principled positions for Julian; they don't understand the personal sacrifices that he made for those principles," said Phill Wilson, CEO and president of the Black AIDS Institute to According to Wilson, "He was someone who understood sacrifice....; in various ways, he was always ready to put his entire life on the line."

Wilson recalls fondly that he never had to explain to Bond the importance of the HIV/AIDS agenda: "Many black leaders in the early days of the epidemic did not view the AIDS epidemic as an African-American problem. Julian didn't care if it was an African-American problem; it was somebody's problem, and for him, that made it his problem. He didn't do it because black folks were disproportionally impacted -- he did it because folks were disproportionately impacted."

Bond is widely praised for encouraging everyone to play his or her maximum role working for the greater good without aggrandizing himself. In the words of long-time friend and colleague Morris Dees, co-founder of the SPLC: "He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all."

Elischia Fludd is a journalist, activist and social entrepreneur focused on human rights that intersect with gender justice and poverty within the context of the Millennium Development Goals and a culture of peace. She is a Huffington Post blogger and has published pieces in the New York Times' "Room for Debate," "Mic" and "GenderLinks." Follow her on twitter @EFludd.

Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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