Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Developing Future Leaders

BOND: Now, some people would say that we don’t have either the opportunity to develop leadership as the kind of opportunity you just described, or -- nor do we have people who aspire to leadership in the same sort of way. If that’s so, and I’m guessing it’s so, how can we create the opportunity to see that somebody comes up after us, somebody else develops the way you’ve developed, somebody -- circumstances are so different. Nobody’s growing up in a segregated world now, nurtured by teachers in the same way, I don’t think, as you were, and nurtured by a community in the same way you and I were. How do we, what do we replace that with? Or can we replace it with anything?

FUTRELL: I guess I would answer that by saying, "How do we pass on traditions to our children?"

BOND: Yes.

FUTRELL: How do we make sure that they know and understand the legacy from which they come? How? And you do that through the way you teach them, the way you raise them, the things to which you expose them. You teach them by giving them opportunities, by taking them along and involving them and not leaving them at home looking at TV. I went to the rally that they had in Washington in August, and I’m going to tell you two things that pleased me. One, I was pleased with the turnout. There were a lot of people there, a lot of faces. I would have liked to have had the march because I think the freedom singing, and the freedom songs, and being part of that helps. You know, as opposed to just gathering you there. But I was also very impressed with the new leaders who were there. A lot of them I’d -- had not really followed but I was impressed with who was there and what they had to say, and the fact that there were new leaders and that the young people are trying to carry on. Was it as massive as it was thirty years ago? No. But at least it’s still alive. And so I think what you have to do is you have to nurture and bring along. If you don’t, it dies.

BOND: Well, is it being nurtured? Is it being kept alive? Is that happening?

FUTRELL: Not as broad spread as we have in the past because, I think a lot of people feel that we’ve arrived. We don't have to --

BOND: Now I don’t -- I don’t mean to interrupt.

FUTRELL: It’s okay.

BOND: But I don’t think that anybody said to Martin Luther King as he was coming up, "You know, we’re doing things that are going to make you into a great leader." And I’m not even sure that if people of his time and place, many thought about it -- I’m not sure if there was the same kind of concern as today about where leaders are coming from and so on. Why this concern now, when I don’t believe, we had it at the same level, say thirty, forty, fifty years ago?

FUTRELL: Well, and you probably know the answer to this better than I do, I think at forty, fifty years ago, we had issues so critical, that they in themselves were galvanizing.

BOND: And so, in your face?

FUTRELL: And in your face. You know, what was it like not to be able to go in the front door? What was it like to not be able to make more than a dollar and you worked all day long. What was it like not to be able to ride the bus even though you got on the bus and you were there? What was it like to go to desegregated schools? What was it like, you know, not to be able to go in certain areas? I mean, I remember all these things. What was it like? The kids today don’t have those same experiences. But I think it’s still there, but it’s more subtle. It’s still there. We see it, we see it a lot of times, for example, in the way kids are taught and the way things are happening in the schools. You still see it a lot in the job market. You see it a lot where people live. You know, look at all the gated communities we have now. And those gated communities to me, in many ways, say, "Hands off. This is closed." And not just to minorities but to certain socio-economic groups. You know, so I think that what we had then was more in your face, and we lived with it. We knew what it was to deal with it. And it was very overt, it was very up front. Now, it’s more difficult. But it’s there.

BOND: Now, we can’t go back.


BOND: We’re not going back to that "in your face."

FUTRELL: No, no.

BOND: But we need leaders just as badly.


BOND: What do we have to substitute, if anything, for that "in your face"? What experience does a youngster, college student, high school student, somebody out looking -- what experience do they have that duplicates or replicates this "in your face" experience that you and I had?

FUTRELL: Well, I think a lot of it now is class. Race is still there but I think class is very quickly moving to the front of the line. And what you’re seeing is a lot of poor kids not getting opportunities, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re black or white or Hispanic or who they are, they’re being left behind. And the opportunities are not available for them, so instead of racism you’ve got classism that's smacking them in the face. They don’t have access to this, they don’t have access to that, they can’t get jobs, they can’t get in, you know. So I think that’s -- that’s the issue that’s really going to probably be more of a galvanizing force in the future.

BOND: Well, on that note, thank you very much.