Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Being a Single Parent

GIOVANNI: I -- for the first two years I was in New York I was, I was just taking care of myself. But then after I had Thomas, I had responsibilities, right? And I didn't have a job and didn't want a job, wasn't looking for a job, which meant that I had to earn a living from my poetry. I had to pay rent. I had to pay utilities. I had to buy diapers. And for the first time in my life, I had to buy food for somebody. So you work. I used to see you. I'd be on the road, I don't know forty-eight weeks out of fifty, fifty-two? If I didn't work like that -- because you don't -- that's hard, finish your sentence, Nikki -- the hardest part about being an old road warrior, which essentially is what I am, is that you have to keep saying "Yes," because you never know when they'll quit asking.

BOND: When the question won't come. Yeah.

GIOVANNI: So Thomas, of course, was nomadic. He just ended up -- I mean I'm sure to some degree he felt like life was more on an airplane than anyplace else because I took him with me until he was able to go to school. And then when he started school I added another mouth to feed, as it were, because I had to have a nanny. Because somebody had to be there. I ended up hiring a really wonderful young woman named Debbie Russell. And Debbie traveled with us forever and ever, until we went to Cincinnati one summer and she kept Thomas, and I was going to Africa. And she met Bill, fell in love, and then she got married. I said "You can't get married!" She said, "Yeah, I have to get married." So she got married.

By then, though, Thomas was able to again travel with me or -- you know, we kind of got it worked out. But if you got a nanny and an apartment and a kid and a dog -- because every kid has to have a dog -- that was, when I had a son I knew I had to get a dog because it just didn't seem fair. You know, you read the books. Everybody grows up with a dog. So I thought, "Okay. Got to get a dog." You're just out there trying to earn a living. So I just -- I never saw the Bohemian scene. I never -- I don't think that they put out the work that they could have put out. I think Ish has done a really good job. He's moved back to Berkeley, and he does a thing with the, you know, Before Columbus Foundation, I don't mean -- and I know Steve does -- I mean they do good work, but you really wish that you could have taken some of that casualness away, because there were still ideas -- the community of which we are a part still is without a voice. Of course, Jimmy Baldwin is such a light. I mean, he's such a beacon. So if you're going to be in the Village -- I mean, if I had been a Village person, I definitely would have said, "Okay, and what did Jimmy do?" Because he -- again, he just worked all the time. The output of Baldwin resulted.