Julian Bond: That's Bond, Julian Bond
What do you ask civil rights legend Julian Bond when you have only a few minutes for an interview? Should it be about the recent National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award he received October 23 in Memphis? Or how he's revitalized the NAACP since becoming its chairman in 1998? And what about reparations to descendants of slaves? Or his life as an academic at American University in Washington and UVA, where he teaches a subject that he lived, the popular "History of the Civil Rights Movement"?
We go for the obvious: What was it like to host Saturday Night Live in 1977 when all of the original cast were there except for Chevy Chase?
"It was great. It used to be a comedy show," he replies. And it was an SNL anniversary show and dinner that led to a telling O.J. Simpson encounter.
"We get to the table and there's only one seat left because O.J. Simpson brought Nicole and her mother," he recounts. "Nicole ends up sitting on his lap. And that was the day she bought the gloves from Bloomingdale's." Are we imagining that Bond hums the theme from Twilight Zone?
On the reparations issue, he wants to clarify one thing: He's not talking about payments to individuals. "I'd like to see it done as payments from governments to institutions so Bill Cosby's children are not lining up to get big checks, but Joe Johnson living in Harlem can get an infusion of cash to the schools and community there."
Forty years as an activist, and Bond thinks about retiring from the teaching, not the cause. For now, his wife drives him to Charlottesville every week for his Tuesday through Thursday classes. "She's a better driver than I am," he explains.
Home for the only slightly mellowed militant is Washington, because, he says, "We like not being represented in Congress."
What brought you here? Teaching at UVA
What's worst about living here? There is no worst. We live in D.C. and spend mid-week here. It's like having a city home and a small town home.
Favorite hangout? Wherever my wife is.
Most overrated virtue? Nonpartisanship
What would people be surprised to know about you? My tattoo
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'd develop an interest in sports to please my wife.
What accomplishment are you proudest of? The years I spent with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
What do people find most annoying about you? You'd have to ask them.
Whom do you admire? Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois
Favorite book? This changes. I'm now reading a biography of Lester Young– Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester "Pres" Young by Douglas Henry Daniels that's fantastic.
What subject causes you to rant? How much space do you have? The pathetic, vapid state of journalism, fanatic American religiosity, hypocrisy.
What thrills you about life in the 21st century? It seems much the same to me.
What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? That it seems much the same.
What do you drive? A Volvo station wagon
What's in your car CD player right now? Stevie Wonder's Innervisions
What's your next journey? To Scottsdale, Arizona, on business
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? I wouldn't tell you.
What do you regret? The trouble I got in.
Favorite comfort food? Macaroni and cheese
What's always in your refrigerator? Chocolate sauce
Must-see TV? HBO's The Wire
Favorite cartoon? Boondocks
Describe a perfect day. I awake.
Walter Mitty fantasy? Leader of the original Temptations.
Who'd play you in the movie? When I'm young– Mario Van Peebles; when I'm old– Harry Belafonte.
Most embarrassing moment? Running downstairs naked at my mother's tea party.
Best advice you ever got? It was 1966, and I was faced with a great dilemma involving conscience: whether to repudiate an anti-war statement issued by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which I had already embraced– and thereby win admission to the Georgia legislature– or continue to endorse it, thereby risking expulsion. The Reverend Ralph Abernathy, a close associate of Dr. King, told me, "Just make sure you do something you can live with," and I did. I stuck by my guns and was expelled, but I've never regretted it. After all, we were right.
Favorite bumper sticker? It was passed out at a friend's fourth wedding- "Honk If You've Been Married To ................"