Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Brothers’ Influence

BOND: Back to your family. What about your siblings? What influence, if any, did they have on you?

CANADA: I had three brothers and my oldest brother, Dan, was just the most — he now is a manager in a nuclear facility in South Carolina but he was one of them I said that the teachers told him that he wasn’t going to be prepared for college and I remember how hard academics were for my brother because they had convinced him that he was not bright. They just said, ehh, he’s really on the dull side and it wasn’t until he went away to college that he found out he was smarter than almost everybody and so Dan was a nature lover and he taught me to love nature in the Bronx. We had chickens. Oh, I don’t know how the neighbors stood us. We had a snake which got away and an alligator and he just loved nature and he always made sure that I was — he was two years older than me — that I was involved in nature and those kinds of things.

My second brother John was just a phenomenal athlete and he taught me something about talent which I believe — that everybody has potential but it’s not easy for everybody to realize what their talent is and their talent might be very different. John was an absolutely phenomenal athlete and started playing with the older kids, the seventeen-, eighteen-year-olds, when he was nine and ten. I could barely play with the eight- and nine-year-olds and he was playing with kids who were almost grown and was a star and he was talented. He worked hard at it. He loved it. He died when I was a sophomore. He was in the Air Force and died and it wasn’t war-related. He died of an overdose and he didn’t really even use drugs. He took some barbiturates and drank and he just passed out in his sleep and died, but he did teach me something about talent and he had it and I understood that all of us have talent and you have to really figure out what your talent is.

BOND: And your next sibling?

CANADA: My youngest brother, Reuben, is just an absolute genius with his mind and hands and can put together anything and take apart anything and he was the first one to actually teach me anything about math because we used to learn these mathematical formulas that were totally meaningless, numbers that ran on and on and Reuben started working in radar and defense and all of those numbers meant something to them. They were really using I think tools which had such specificity that you had to measure things. So he brought math alive to me and I think allowed all of us to understand why I think these subjects really were important because if you didn’t learn them, it cut off these careers for you and I actually have never had to figure out, you know, the third side of a triangle or how many degrees were in an obtuse triangle. I’ve never had to use any of that stuff. He used that stuff every day and so he could have a career. I had to learn it and then forget it but he actually used it and helped us understand and appreciate math.