Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Meeting Amiri Baraka and Other Poets

BOND: In addition to these people who are your neighbors and friends and living in the building and across the street, you're also meeting poets. You're meeting this New York City group of people who are sort of in the Bohemian life, Baraka and others. What about them?

GIOVANNI: Well, we weren't -- I, of course -- and speaking of older than me -- see, we invited Baraka when he was LeRoi Jones, to Fisk, right? He was grown when we were -- I'm always teasing him like, "You were an old man then -- " He said, "I was not an old man." We have become warmer as the years have gone by because there are fewer of us and because life lessens some of the tensions of the dreams, I suppose. And of course Amina is a wonderful person. Amina and I came together because of a nervous breakdown of a wonderful poet named Carolyn Rodgers, and we were both -- we liked her as a human being and so we were -- we worked together to try to see if we could be of any service. That's kind of what bonded Amina Baraka and me. Of course I knew Ishmael, I mean -- but I was not a Bohemian. And my forays into the Village was pretty much limited to the cheese shop. I'd ride my bike down and --

BOND: But these -- but these figures were around, were they not?

GIOVANNI: But not for me, Julian, to be honest. I mean I threw a party once and they came. I was glad because I had invited a bunch of people. I lived on 83rd, and it was nice to see them, but I didn't hang out with them, and I don't think that if you talked to anyone they would say anything -- there was no antagonism. It was just not what I did.

BOND: You're not in the same world? Is that it?

GIOVANNI: See, this would start an argument. See, to me they just didn't work hard enough. And I didn't see where they had the time. I mean, I remember there was a place -- I think it was called the Lion's Head, the Lion's Den, or something. I didn't see where they had the time to sit there. First of all, I'm not a beer drinker. I only started drinking wine since I came to Virginia Tech. I mean, that's -- my father was an alcoholic. I don't know. If you grow up with an alcoholic, you avoid liquor. I was fifty-three years old before I took a drink. So people have other ideas about you, but I've always been a workaholic, and I just never did see -- I mean, Steve Cannon and them, and I love Steve, you know, I really do. But I just didn't see where they had the time to hang out -- how you could get anything done.