Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Connecting with Different Racial Audiences

BOND: Anyway, some try to make it ready. Do you have a different leadership style when you talk to groups that are black, mixed race, or all white? Are you a different person before these different groups?

JONES: Hmmm — Yes, I am. I am. I don't have occasion to speak to all black groups a lot. I go to universities like the University of Virginia here. It's a great honor to meet you, but is there a Black Students Association?

BOND: Yes.

JONES: Have I met them?


JONES: And why is that? Because I come in through one particular group of people, Beth Turner, George Sampson, the people who brought me in. Their focus is the cultural sphere and they're trying to do a certain thing over here. I have to work to be on the radar of the young black students.

BOND: These places are very segregated, not by race as much as by discipline, so that the people in department A may not know people in department B or C and it's one of the tragedies I think of the modern university. It's a discussion we don't need to go into right now.

JONES: Yeah, but you ask it, though, and so, yes, when I'm working on "Fela!" and the cast is primarily black people and we're working with black artists, there is a certain kind of language, unspoken things are expressed. When I'm working with my company that is multiracial but working in the idiom of modern dance which, whatever you want to think about it, I think it's still seen as white dance.

There is another kind of way that one must speak and there's nothing like being invited to talk about Lincoln at the New York Historical Society and that room, when I looked at "A Good Man" the other night and I hope you have a chance to see this and this room is full of — I'll say it — Republicans, you know, and they were just doing — Somebody twisted their arms or they were doing some politically correct thing to have me up there, but there was — The "spirit" was not in the room. There was an iciness, but it makes me do what?

First of all, there is the — This is one which means I have no weapon, you know, how black men have to learn how to do that or there is a smile that this is designed to disarm you. No, I'm not angry at you and what's more, I am actually — I'm not going to embarrass you, right? And as a matter of fact, I will even flatter you that you've been so kind as to invite me. This is all kind of painful parody of --you talk about the different ways that you speak. I guess the middle one is supposed to be world that I came from. That was the world of the multiracial alienated artist class and we can all speak from our dissatisfaction, our locations of dissatisfaction and we can all skirt the issues like race and so on, maybe not gender anymore, because we're on another level of discourse about meaning.