Julian Bond 1940-2015

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Horace Julian Bond, Civil Rights Icon, Politician, Writer, and University Lecturer, succumbed to a brief illness on Saturday night at the age of 75. A founder of the legendary Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committe, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Julian Bond used his life and his activism to blaze a trail of compassionate principle for more than 50 years. Julian MLK

Civil Rights wasn’t a hustle to Julian, but a calling and a way of life. Had Dr. King lived, I believe that his life and work would have had the same selfless contours as Julian Bond’s.

The Black Lives Matter Activists of today would do well to use Julian Bond’s life of activism and his writings as a blueprint for the power that they’re seeking. He understood the implacability of White Supremacy and what it took to force change:

Movements are not built on the helpful motions of a few, but by the determined actions of the mass. The chance at power comes in this country not in seizing a dean, but in seizing a welfare office; from organizing a strike of domestic workers; from beginning the arduous process of transferring strength and power from those who have it to those who do not.

This is not easy work. It is not easy because no one wants to do it. In an era of doing your own thing, no one wants to work with and for those whose thing is simply winning and maintaining the right to live. It means more than just a commitment  of summer soldiers, although any soldiers are welcome in an understaffed army. It will require serious and systemic allocations of time and energy and resources.

It will require that rhetoric be turned into action, that school-book knowledge be applied to street situations, that theories be turned into practice.

It will require that politics comes to mean poeple and their problems, and not just elections and candidates.

It will require that we build a movement strong enough to take over in a peaceful and orderly fashion…

…And it will require that each of us  keep in mind a prophecy written by the late Langston Hughes–that dreams deferred do explode. For if this dream is deferred much longer, then an explosion certainly will come.

Bond put his rhetoric into practice by fighting for and winning a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. The segregationists of the day refused to seat him on the pretext that he opposed the War in Vietnam and was unable to swear an oath to U.S. and Georgia Constitutions. He fought them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won in a unanimous decision.  He eventually served in both Houses of the Georgia Legislature and used his seat to push for maximization of voting rights, majority-minority congressional districts, and state legislative seats that better reflected Georgia’s population.

A full-spectrum progressive, Julian Bond, like Coretta Scott King, believed in full rights for LGBT individuals and that any exclusion of gay individuals from the promise of liberty was discriminatory. As a man of principle, Bond refused to attend the funeral of Mrs. King at Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church because of Bishop Long’s flamboyant and aggressive anti-gay crusades, which later became a bitter joke after lawsuits by young men in the church accused Bishop Long of coercing them into sexual relationships.

Bond is survived by his wife Pamela and his five children from his first marriage, one of whom, Michael, followed his father into public service as a member of the Atlanta City Council.

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Richardson withdraws, historic opportunity at hand

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News broke this afternoon that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his nomination over questions regarding a federal investigation of the state’s $1.5 million dollar financial services contract with a Beverly Hills, California firm, CDR, who’s CEO, David Rubin, donated $110,000 to political committee’s affiliated with Governor Richardson.

 

I am heartsick because I’ve always felt that Richardson’s presence in the cabinet essential to Obama’s success. Nevertheless, as my grandma is fond of saying, “one monkey don’t stop no show.” The vacancy represents an opportunity to do something no president has done and after the Warren fiasco a few weeks back, I’ve come to feel pretty strongly that Barack Obama needs to appoint a “gay American,” as former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy put it, to the cabinet of the United States.

 

When you stop and think about it this is a barrier that Bill Clinton should have shattered years ago, and one Al Gore probably would have if the ignorant tumbleweed that is George W. Bush hadn’t tripped him up. Clinton, after the broken promise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” attempted to buy off the LGBT community with the appointments of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxemburg and Roberta Achtenberg as Deputy Secretary of HUD. The public break with activist David Mixner, a leading LGBT fundraiser and convention delegate for Clinton, damaged Clinton’s relationship with the LGBT community in a big way.

 

Nothing of that magnitude has occurred in this new Administration, but the hue and cry over Rick Warren’s inaugural invocation channels the white-hot righteous indignation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Debate, and Bubba’s craven signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, which were straightforward betrayals. Obama hasn’t gone back on his word to the LGBT community on any significant issue, at least not yet. But he’s black, so I suppose there are some activists who feel the need to put Obama, and the rest of his dark skinned brethren, “in our place,” and psychologically project their legitimate anger for the failure of prop 8 on the most convenient scapegoats in America—black people, who don’t even make up 7% of California’s population.

 

Anyway, y’all, after little investigation, I’ve come up with two outstanding people that I think can send an inclusive message to the country and tamp down some of the fires of faux outrage burning in the blogosphere.

 

JARRETT BARRIOS

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The first person to come to mind is former Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios, the CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts. As CEO, he oversees a $55 million dollar endowment that focuses on expanding health care access and improved delivery to the uninsured and underinsured. Barrios, a Cuban American originally from Tampa, Florida, served for 8 years in both Houses of the Massachusetts legislature. An honors graduate of Harvard University, Barrios also possess a law degree from Georgetown University.

 

In the legislature he made Health Care access and delivery his signature issue and authored legislation requiring Massachusetts hospitals to provide interpreters to non-English speakers. In addition, he authored legislation protecting consumers from unscrupulous predatory lenders and required that lenders abide by Massachusetts laws requiring community reinvestment and he pushed for tax credits to subsidize the construction of more affordable housing.

 

A practicing attorney, Barrios has worked for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and for the law firms DLA Piper and Hill & Barlow.

 

Lastly, as you may have already surmised, Jarrett Barrios is a gay man who led the fight in the Massachusetts Senate to preserve marriage rights for same-sex couples. He is married to Doug Hattaway, a democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton spokesman.

 

The Obama Administration has focused on excellence in its cabinet appointments. I believe that Jarrett Barrios’ academic and professional credentials will stand the test and that he would be an outstanding Secretary of Commerce.

 

SUSAN LEAL

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Because I believe in balance, it is necessary to consider people of both genders and the accomplished Susan Leal, a former businesswoman, health-care executive, Public Utilities Regulator, San Francisco Treasurer and Supervisor, is an even more qualified choice than the first I put forward.

 

Ms. Leal, 59, is a native of San Francisco and a veteran civic leader. She is a first generation daughter of Mexican immigrants and the first Latina to serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. While on the board, Ms. Leal co-authored San Francisco’s landmark domestic partners ordinance.

 

An honors graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Leal has degrees in Economics and Law and has an extensive background as a staffer in both the California General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. While in Washington Ms. Leal served as a staff attorney for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Investigations. Back in California, she served as general counsel to the Assembly Committee on Ways & Means.

 

Elected San Francisco’s Treasurer in 1998, she oversaw a $3 billion dollar portfolio of investments and she was the first treasurer to screen the city’s investments to ensure the city invested with socially responsible companies that respected workers, consumers and the environment.

 

A shrewd and successful businesswoman, Ms. Leal and a few friends created a health care startup that they subsequently took public and later sold at a profit.

 

Finally, Ms. Leal last served the public as a utilities regulator and she tangled with PG&E, the powerful utility made infamous in the movie Erin Brockovich.

 

Ms. Leal would make an excellent Secretary of Commerce, Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or as a Deputy Secretary of Energy or Interior. Both of these individuals are qualified, well-educated, Latino and Gay.  It’s past time that all God’s children are represented in the halls of power.