Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influence of the Black Church

BOND: I can't remember where I read this about you. I think it was during some ceremony at the Schomburg for Langston Hughes and some libation spilled and you danced. And -- or maybe it was at a church?

BARAKA: No, it was at the Schomburg [Center for Research in Black Culture] --

BOND: No, I'm thinking about something else. And this was at a church and it was an occasion, a memorial for some prominent person, and you said, "If there is a God" and I was struck by that, that you would say that in the church.

BARAKA: Oh, yeah. No, I said that.

BOND: Not that you believe, or don't believe, but I was just struck by that --

BARAKA: Oh, yeah. No, I said that, you know, to them, because that town is so small, everybody in there knows my beliefs about everything. You know. But they also know that I was raised in that church and, you know, there are no ministers walking around in that town that have been in that church longer than I have.

BOND: When you were speaking last night and reciting your poetry, in some ways I was reminded of sermonizing. And I wondered if you took from early experiences in church this call-and-response pattern, this rhythmic back and forth, or --

BARAKA: That's the -- that's the paradigm. I mean, that would be my first and strongest paradigm. You know, not only did we have to go to church every Sunday, as well you did too, I'm sure --

BOND: Yeah.

BARAKA: But we also went to some other services, God knows. Sunday school --

BOND: Yes.

BARAKA: -- BYPU -- Baptist Young People['s Union], all kind of wild stuff. Some weekends we even went to -- some weekdays we even went to prayer meetings. I guess that's where my mother and father were going somewhere and left me in my grandmother's charge. So me and my sister, we had to end up in prayer meetings,too. So that was my reference. That was my reference. And you can tell today, probably more clearly than then, what children go to church, what children -- however they get there. But you can tell the difference it seems to me, you know. Although my adventures in church were kind of mixed, you know.