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Bond credits God for rise from Kinloch to success

Msgr. Charles Forst played key role in businesswoman’s education

Belinda Bond was the first African-American woman to manufacture, import and wholesale a line of jewelry featuring millionaire Madame CJ Walker for JC Penney. She earlier had a career as an auditor with Southwestern Bell. Now the owner of a consulting firm, she's known as a dynamic, charismatic speaker with an unlimited source of energy and exciting visions for the future.

But before that, she was a girl growing up in the 1960s in what she describes was an impoverished family of 13 children in a single-parent household in Kinloch. A bright, inquisitive child who excelled academically, she attended public school and quickly grew weary of an environment that wasn't conducive to learning.

Bond's home life was chaotic, growing up for a time in an illegal gambling house. Bond sold hungry gamblers hamburgers and homemade chocolate chip cookies. She witnessed drunkenness and violence.

She attended church with neighborhood friends, even playing the piano at church functions. And she understood that education was the key to her future. She had good grades and teachers who cared for her but realized the public school wouldn't help her reach her goals. One day after students began throwing books at each other, she was hit in the head. She stormed into the principal's office and asked to go to "a white kids' school."

The principal introduced her to Msgr. Charles J. Forst, pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Kinloch from 1962-69. Noted for his outreach in the community, he met with Bond and her mother. The result was a four-year scholarship to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florissant. For Bond, the priest's intervention also landed her a lifetime mentor and friend.

Msgr. Forst "changed my life," she said.

"I always loved my books," Bond said. "My mother, when asked what was different about Belinda, said: 'She loves her books and her religion.'"

She later paid the school back for the scholarship. She attended a Baptist church originally but became a Catholic because the community was "giving and loving," Bond said. "They didn't try to pressure me. They're nonjudgmental. They help anyone. They didn't care what religion you were. That just tripped me over with their kindness."

At age 16, Bond began working at a National Food Store in Ferguson. She was first cashier of African descent hired for the store, she said. She earned Spirit of St. Louis, AKA, Rev. Cleophus Robinson scholarships to St. Louis University and later transferred to Benedictine College, earning a degree in 1976 in business administration. While in school, she worked for IBM. She then began a career at Southwestern Bell before going into business for herself.

Bond now is the principal partner and founder of The Belinda Bond Connection LLC — a consulting firm specializing in opening doors and gaining traction to high-level corporate executives and key decision-makers within Fortune 500 companies.

Shawn Buchanan, who played baseball in the Chicago White Sox system who now is president and CEO of All American Meats Inc. in Omaha, Neb., wrote that "even as a professional baseball player with the Chicago White Sox, I had not met one of the owners, Bill Farley, until Belinda created the introduction."

Robert Coleman credits her for helping Wittnauer Watches in its partnership with Daymond John and between Wittnauer and Fubu to produce the Fubu Watch.

Bond speaks on "Character: Choices and Consequences." In the St. Louis area, she is booked to speak in the Jennings, Ladue, Ferguson-Florissant school districts and Roosevelt High School in St. Louis.

"I tell kids all the time, 'You are enough. Run your own race. You don't have to be Beyonce, Jay-Z, Lebron James or Kevin Durant. Just be you,'" she said.

She's working on her life story. In it, she said, "I want to give God the glory. The Holy Spirit has guided me in everything I've done."

Her life hasn't been "all peaches and cream," she said, noting that she learned "the journey of recovery" by attending Al-Anon for co-dependency over a relative's alcoholism.

Bond and her husband, Tony, married in 1983 at St. Francis Xavier (College Church) in Midtown St. Louis with Msgr. Edward Sudekum and Msgr. Forst celebrating the wedding. Bond's son, a businessman, lives in Chicago and her daughter, a professional makeup artist, lives in Atlanta. She lives in Chicago, where she's a member of Old St. Patrick's Church and in St. Louis where she attends St. Joseph Parish in St. Louis.

Msgr. Sudekum was Bond's guidance counselor at Aquinas High School. "She's amazing. Nothing stops her," he said.

It's good to see that she is using her people skills for a good purpose, he added. 

>> Mildred Smith

Belinda Bond's mother, Mildred Smith, joined Holy Angels of Kinloch as a school mother. It was there that she transformed her life as a woman of faith, gave her life and had a great appreciation for the Catholic religion. She felt that Catholicism awoke in her the necessity for daily religious involvement. Daily she would seek to understand more deeply that God is in control, no matter what appears to be taking place in life. She did her best to "do unto others as one would have them do unto you." She always said prayer changes things. She helped by spearheading a number of charities and getting others to donate gifts to the church.

Smith received a pro-life award from then-Archbishop Justin Regali in 1994 while a member at Holy Angels Parish. She was honored also by Birthright encouraging and participating with pro-life advocacy and meetings. She volunteered untold hours with pro-life causes and planted and maintained all the flowers for more than 15 years at Holy Angels Parish.

Lucy Jochens, longtime secretary for the archdiocese's Respect Life Office, said, "Mildred was a leader in the African-American community. She was a reliable person who was fearless in sharing the truth about abortion. Mildred was a great help in organizing the churches and community to address this threat to life."

Bond said she admired her mother for her pro-life work and her grandfather, a municipal judge and janitor, for his honor and humility. 

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