Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Personal Vision

BOND: Now, how would you describe the vision that guides your life? What is that vision?

BERRY: The vision is that if you — that it is possible to open again what I call windows of opportunity for people who have been dis-served and not given opportunity sufficiently in my opinion. If enough good people would get together and be persuaded to do something and it’s not just a matter of information. You know, I used to think that if people had enough information they would act but that’s not true. It’s how do you inspire people, how do you compel them to do something. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, but that you can.

Right now, for example, I think we’re in a period in which windows of opportunity have been opened for a whole lot of people, but they’ve been closed for a lot of other folks who’ve been sort of left behind and the question is how do you get those who’ve moved on to understand what is necessary and that they ought to do something that makes sense about the people who have not been pulled along and that they don’t make excuses and think up rationales that make it — rationales that make them feel comfortable with not doing the hard things which is where you need to attack, you attack; where you need to confront, you confront; where you need to explain, you explain; you do whatever is necessary but don’t think — don’t blame the victim as it were and say, oh, well, these people — or blame other people, and that’s where we are right now and so the vision is how do you — that you can do it. The problem is figuring out how you can do it.

BOND: Now, has your vision changed over time?


BOND: How so?

BERRY: Lots of ways. As I told you, my vision when Brown was decided was to burrow. The whole world is going to change and all race and equality and every other problem is going to be solved.

BOND: But you were a child. You were a child, so that’s excusable.

BERRY: Right.

BOND: But what would make you change your vision at a later period?

BERRY: And then at a later period I felt very hopeful like a lot of people did at the time the whole civil rights movement and after that, and then I felt despairing as I learned more about how complicated everything was and as I learned the truth of when you overcome some, it’s hard to keep on overcoming. People start feeling comfortable with the overcoming they’ve already done. And that complicates matters, so that’s when I started changing my vision and modifying and saying what else is necessary to make you go the next step. But then I sort of think things do go in cycles. That’s where I am now, that things do go in cycles and you should never feel down when something isn’t working because there’ll be another time when it will.

BOND: So your vision is adaptable?


BOND: What works here may not work here, but there’s always here — a third place?

BERRY: Right.