Julian Bond, civil rights activist and former Georgia state senator, stressed the importance of millienals in advocating for continued progress in civil rights.
A distinguished figure in American history, Bond recalled his early involvement in the civil rights movement. He was one of eight students to take a class taught by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Dr. King only taught one time. Only taught one class. Only eight people in the class. I’m one of the eight,” Bond said. “So I’m one of the eight people in the whole world who can say I was a student of Dr. King.”
Bond expressed frustration in regards to a perceived stagnation in the fight for equality.
“[The civil rights movement] demonstrated the mobilization and courage of black people against white supremacy in a way that was unprecedented and has not been seen again,” Bond said.
Bond referenced contemporary anecdotes in explaining the persistence of racism today.
“Obama’s election demonstrated one man’s singular achievement, not racial nirvana around the world,” Bond said. “The task ahead is enormous — equal to, if not greater than, the job already done.”
Evan Garza, assistant curator of modern and contemporary art at the Blanton Museum, said Bond reminded listeners they are in a new era for civil rights.
“In the 1960s, civil rights activists were fighting for fundamental rights,” Garza said. “Now, the fight is for social equity and equality on very real terms.”
Bond discussed issues such as police shootings and the racial gap in health care and jobs. He said blacks are 33 percent less likely to have health care, and, in the past 25 years, the wealth gap between blacks and whites has nearly tripled.
Jay Ellinger, intern for state Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), said 92 percent of 2013 arrests involved black people in Ferguson, Missouri, where riots broke out in 2014 after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man.
“The only justification for these numbers is the system is inferior, or the system works against black people,” Ellinger said.
According to Bond, race relations have improved, but present-day issues demand more action. Everyone should fight for police fairness and engage in the civic duty of voting, Bond said. He encouraged millennials to continue to unite and press for change.
Monica Rashed, international relations and global studies freshman, said she realized the importance of being a millennial.
“We’re the last generation to know people from the civil rights movement,” Rashed said. “We have to absorb their accounts, learn from them and build our own legacy.”