Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Goals for New African American Leaders

BOND: In a book called Challenging the Civil Rights Establishment, the authors quote William Allen and he writes “of a danger in continually thinking in terms of race or gender.” He says, “until we learn once again to use the language of American freedom in an appropriate way that embraces all of us, we’re going to continue to harm this society.” Is there a danger of divisiveness when we focus on black leadership?

SELLERS: There is a danger. I do think that African American leadership, they must advance an agenda, and my agenda is the agenda of the have-nots. But what you'll realize is that classification of have-nots encompasses the African American community as a whole, but not solely the African American community and a lot of times, especially in my district. I concur with that and I think that is a dangerous step to take and I think that it’s time that we have transformative leaders that look towards the future and I think a lot of times in my generation with Alisha Thomas Morgan and with Andrew Gillum and even with Michael Julian Bond, I mean, you have a leaders that look to be societal leaders who are not quite as their fathers were or grandfathers were and they’re not quite as the leaders were who are the reason that they’re here now. But that is the same with every generation, and with every generation within a movement, you have to change focus. You have to switch. If you don’t, then you’ll lose.

BOND: Do you agree with the characterization of you by Gwen Ifill in her book, Breakthrough, that you are a part of a breakthrough generation?

SELLERS: Yes. I think that we are a breakthrough generation, but I don’t want that to be misconstrued as we’re a generation that stands on our own. We’re a generation that stands on the shoulders of those that come before us, but we’re a breakthrough in terms of the thought. It’s a different — our goal is to change, for example, just the black and white goal. My goal is not to end segregation and Jim Crow. My goal is so that every person, no matter their race, creed or color, has access to quality education because now we have blacks and whites, thanks to Brown, who go to the same school but the school is still poor and struggling, so my goal is to uplift that school as a whole.