Human Rights icon, Julian Bond was honored with a star-studded formal gala at the Plaza Hotel on Wednesday, May 2, 2012. The event was a combination Civil Rights reunion, retirement party for Julian, professor at the University of Virginia and fundraising effort to elevate and advance the teaching and interpreting of Civil Rights Studies.
UVA hopes to create the Julian Bond Professorship in Civil Rights and Social Justice. This chair will make it possible to attract outstanding teachers and scholars who can build on Julian’s legacy and make UVA the nation’s leading center on Civil Rights literacy and its continuing impact on the American History narrative.
“It is critically important that students and the public know the history of the Civil Rights Movement so that concerned citizens can recognize any effort to reverse advances in equal opportunity and empowerment for women and minorities,” stated the event’s program.
An endowed professorship is one of the highest honors a faculty member can receive, attesting to a scholar’s standing among peers, both within the university setting and the academic world at large.
Wanda Sykes and Chris Tucker were fun and hilarious as the Gala Emcees. Robin Roberts introduced Whoopi Goldberg and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson reiterated the message: “We must remember the Civil Rights Movement. People need to pay attention to all the achievements that are being eroded today and step in to stop that.”
Jackson moved freely around to everyone’s table and posed for everyone’s camera, as did most of the stars in the house. Robin was among the many stars that enlisted on charitybuzz.com/julianbond. Bid online through May 15. She offered a cup of coffee with her and tour of Good Morning America Studio. The others included Smokey Robinson-2 tickets to his show, The Colbert Report-2 tickets to a taping of the show and many more.
Whoopi said: “I love Julian. I learned how to be cool from him. He reminds me of Yoda. He’s the reason why the ladies on the View are not scared of me.” Spike Lee’s wife Tonya Lewis Lee introduced White South African musician Dave Matthews who reminded everyone about South Africa’s Freedom Day when 100% of his fellow country voted. He said: “My heart aches because so many in Americans choose NOT to vote! Has everyone really forgotten what Julian and the Civil Rights leaders did so everyone could vote?”
A delicious dinner was served. Dinner menu: Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Brulee and Pink Peppercorn Syrup; Grilled Filet of Beef with Potato Rosti, Creamed Leeks and Foie Gras Bernaise; Apple Brioche Dome, with Vanilla Ice Cream, Apple Crisp Tuile and Caramel Ginger Sauce. Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer, California, 2009 and Chardonnay, Canyon Road, California 2009.
After dinner, a ‘Leadership Tribute’ was offered by poet Rita Dove and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Rita, a professor at UVA said: “I see Julian on campus all the time and yes ladies, he’s still fine…” Rita recited an original poem written for the evening’s occasion. Charlayne greeted everyone in a South African language, regaled the audience with Civil Rights stories and updated us on her plans to move back to the states.
Comedian-lesbian-commentator-agitator Kate Clinton jabbed at politicians: “They want small government so that everything can fit into our vaginas.” Clinton spoke of Julian as a champion of gay rights. She introduced vocalist Chrisette Michele who sang ‘God Bless the Child Who’s Got His Own.’ There was also a video from Bill Clinton, Honorary Chair of the evening. Anderson Cooper also appeared on a video calling Julian a champion for gay and lesbian rights way before it was popular.
Harry Belafonte, who recalled young Julian, when he was communications director of SNCC made the ‘Legacy Tribute.’ “When I met Julian, he was just a kid! That’s why I am so pleased to see those young kids over there ‘occupying.’ Young people can change the world. Julian showed us that. Between classes, he got arrested, made bail by evening; he re-joined his comrades that same night to publish their revolutionary newspaper, reporting on what had happened the day before and kept the movement going. We need young people to do more of that today.”
The night wore down with a special presentation of a gift to Julian by Thaderine MacFarlane and Kathy Thornton-Bias, the event Co-Chairs. Julian made humble remarks as he accepted the gift. He and his wife had already been moving around the room, visiting all the tables, greeting everyone personally and posing for photos with everyone.
Gospel legend Bebe Winans and the choir got everyone to their feet, clapping and singing ‘Oh Happy Day!”