Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Living Differently

BOND: You said a moment ago that you'd realized that you looked at things differently, or you looked at things in a different way. And I think that's what makes your poetry so interesting, is you take things that everybody looks at and look at them in a different way. But I'm curious -- when did you understand that you looked at things in a different way? That your schoolmates -- ? Or before then or how did you understand that?

GIOVANNI: You always kind of knew you were a little different. I'm sure you did the same thing because you -- I saw pictures of you, Julian, the other day, and your pants were short, because I'm teaching this civil rights course, and you were in Selma --

BOND: Birmingham.

GIOVANNI: No, you were in Selma.

BOND: Selma.

GIOVANNI: It was in Selma. You're cute as a button; I was looking. But you know how many people did that at your age? How many people would walk away from Morehouse to do that? You know, you see what I'm saying? And so you always sort of say to yourself, "I'm different." Then you say to yourself, "And it's all right." I think that that's a -- that's the key. "And it's all right."

I am different. But it's -- you know, I just never wanted what -- what I kept seeing. It just -- I just recently bought a car. I've been so proud of myself. It's so true, I never had an interest -- I only bought a house because Tom, my son, because Thomas was going to college and, don't laugh -- but when you have a kid and you try to say to yourself, you got kids going to college, and you sort of do some not heavy research, just basic research, and what does a kid need? A place to bring friends, an automobile, an [allowance] -- so you go through all of that. I thought, "Oh my God, we don't have a house." You know, I was living in a little studio apartment which suited me. I thought oh. So I said to Thomas, it's okay, because he said to me, "What address should I use to apply to college?"

It was like "Oh my God. My son doesn't have a home." So I bought a house and I'm glad. It's a nice house, and I have a little pond and I've got a koi in it. So I'm domesticating myself. I have a dog, and she's really nice. I have a car now. But these were all things that when I was growing up just never interested me. And I think it was important I didn't make myself not -- I just wasn't interested. I had friends, of course, who liked to dress. You have to dress because you're not allowed to run around without clothes. And so you realize, "Well, okay if you buy a pair of pants of Italian silk they'll last for five years. They look good and you put a velvet jacket on, and you paid a lot of money for it but then you don't have to buy it again, right. And all you need are a couple of white shirts and you're fine. So that everything I had until I had Thomas actually fit into one suitcase and a Volkswagen. And it was wonderful because you're free. So if you say, "I'm going to California," put all in the Volkswagen. It's not until you have a kid that you finally have to say, "Oh, I need an address," and so you get an apartment or something.