Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Race Consciousness, Race Transcendence

BOND: This may lead us into the next question. How does race consciousness affect your work? Do you see yourself as a leader who advances issues of race or society or both? Is there a distinction and is there such a thing as a race-transcending leader?

DOVE: Hmmm — Those are lots of questions.

BOND: Many questions.

DOVE: So, being conscious of race is a natural part of my DNA and I have looked at society as an African American woman, an African American poet, and seen how race gets sidelined and my race gets sidelined, and so naturally I've taken an interest in that kind of rub against, let's say, history with a capital "H," history with a small "h," which formed the basis for Thomas and Beulah, for the story about an African American couple as their interior lives as it's reflected against the larger backdrop of American history in the 20th century. It also meant that when I was working on my next, one of my books, Sonata Mulattica, my last book. When I saw a movie about Beethoven and saw a black violinist in this movie, I'm like who is this man, because he spoke to me there. He was in classical music, something that I love but he's also black -- at times Beethoven -- so that formed the basis for looking for his story. George Bridgetower who in fact Beethoven had composed a sonata for and the fact that his story got lost spoke to me as a musician but also as a black person, so race consciousness forms a part absolutely of my work. I would hope that as people read the work that they would also, it would open some eyes to what happens racially in this country in terms of people's perceptions and also open their eyes to how we're all connected rather than being separate. If, however, you would ask me or insist that there were a leader that transcended race at this time, I would say that it's something I always hope and I'm proven wrong and that I think Obama was elected in an incredible wave of race transcendency, let's say, and he in fact conducts the Office of the Presidency that way. I think it's exceedingly important but the actions of Congress and the Tea Party and these groups show that we have not transcended race, that there are forces which are just as virulent. I think that personally as a poet I at times think that my work and my example has transcended race and then I'm brought up short and reminded to some of the cockeyed reactions to this anthology that, no, we haven't transcended race, not yet.