The who’s who of Black entertainment, leadership, business, and education gathered last night for the Celebration Gala at The Plaza Hotel in New York to honorhuman rights icon Julian Bond (pictured second from right).
After 20 years of teaching courses on the Civil Rights Movement at the University of Virginia, Professor Bond, as many of us are accustomed to referring to him, retired this week. To help recognize his contributions and achievements, an impeccable roster of folks came out to share their memories and thoughts.
Wanda Sykes and Chris Tucker emceed the event with their comedic humor. They were suitable hosts given a not-too-known fact that Prof. Bond has a comedic side; he hosted a “Saturday Night Live” show in 1977. A tribute to his life, leadership and legacy were also shared by actress Whoopi Goldberg, musician Dave Matthews; poet Rita Dove, journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and fellow civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Harry Belafonte.
Of course, with any celebration, there must be music, so Matthews, Chrisette Michele, and BeBe Winans brought the audience to their feet.
Julian Bond’s grandfather was born a slave and insisted on having an education for himself and his future generations. For the Bond family, it began a legacy of education. Bond’s father was the first African-American president of Lincoln University.
Ensuring the work and education of the Civil Rights Movement continues, the gala also served as the primary fund-raiser for the creation of the Julian Bond Professorship in Civil Rights and Social Justice at the University of Virginia. Of the movement, Bond added, “The Civil Rights Movement was ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
The professorship will create a powerful synergy among the many faculty and students who are working to shed new light on the Civil Rights Movement and the African-American experience.