Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Reaching Different Groups

BOND: Do you have a different style of leadership when you deal with groups that are all black, that are mixed black/white, or all white?

CANADA: I have something different for each one of those groups and one of the things I find with all black groups is that we have our own shorthand and I don’t have to explain a lot of what I’m talking about. Sometimes I can say, so you all know how it is and they know how it is and I’m talking about my grandmother or often I’m talking about — here’s an issue that we get into sometimes — corporal punishment, getting spanked, right, so I talk about how my mother, you know, if we messed up, she spanked us and my grandmother, she’d give us a whooping and we knew the difference between the two because we didn’t mess with Grandma, you know, and I’m talking to a black audience. Almost everybody has somebody they’re relating that story to that's in their own family and so I don’t have to spend as much time.

I think that in mixed audiences, you tend to have people often get it, get a comfort level if I’m talking about something by looking and seeing how another African American — so that’s okay. They’re laughing, they’re having a good time. I shouldn’t be nervous about it, because I can be very loose with my conversation and stories. I think that in white audiences, I think you have to spend a little bit more time connecting with them and saying I’m all right, you’re all right, and I want you to know I think you’re all right. I don’t want you to worry that I don’t think you’re all right and so that takes to me a little bit of making sure that there’s a connection that happens that’s not shorthand, that you’re not just jumping to a conclusion that I know who you are, what your experience has been or who’s in the room.