In the keynote address of the 23rd Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond told the large crowd assembled in Hill Auditorium that while Obama’s election is a major victory for the Civil Rights Movement, it is not the end.
“We know one man climbing to the top of the mountain does not mean the end of the climb for everyone else,” he said to murmurs of approval. “The NAACP is not the National Association for the Advancement of one Colored Person.”
Throughout his speech, Bond, a civil rights leader and founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, emphasized the challenges that remain for the African American community. He pointed specifically to high rates of poverty, incarceration and homicide among African Americans.
Bond, a former Georgia Democratic state legislator, repeatedly criticized the Republican Party for ignoring issues that are important to minorities.
“The Republican Party has focused almost entirely on its base and marginalized the rest of the country,” he said. “As long as they do not look like or respond to minority voters, the Republicans will remain a minority party.”
He was also vocal about the fight for affirmative action.
“For most of us the idea that race should not be considered in remedying racial injustice is ludicrous,” he said. “There are no non-racial remedies for remedying racial discrimination.
Bond made particular reference to the University, which was a focal point in the debate over affirmative action earlier this decade.
“This school — and not this school alone, but particularly this school — stood up for justice and equality when affirmative action was challenged,” he said.
Encouraging the audience to continue working for social justice, Bond said that King did not win civil rights victories on his own.
“We must not forget that Dr. King stood before, and with, thousands,” Bond said. “This movement made Martin, Martin did not make the movement.”
Amie Snapke, an Ann Arbor elementary school teacher who was at the event, said she plans to use some of Bond’s ideas to teach civil rights history to her students. She said students are more interested in civil rights after Obama’s election.
“The kids are super-excited. It’s great to see the kids excited,” she said.
LSA senior Vanessa Andre said she was glad Bond pushed people to keep fighting for civil rights.
“He was saying that we’re not done yet,” she said. “I think that’s probably the most important part of the whole speech, and we’ve got to keep saying that.”
Bond ended his speech by echoing Obama’s campaign slogan.
“Now we know we can, if only we will.”
— John A. Weiss, Jr. contributed to this report