Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Generational Issues

BOND: Do you find some resistance between people -- I hate to put you in a generation -- between people of your generation -- which is my generation, although you're much younger -- and this younger generation? I read a critique of these slams in Black Issues' Poetry Month issue. Among the things -- one of the people, I wish I could remember who said the craft was not good. So I'm interested to hear you say it is good. And you think it is good?

GIOVANNI: But see I'm story-driven. So the people who are going to be driven by the meter, or the rhyme, or something like that, I think that they're going to miss a lot. And I'm also ancestor -- ancestral I guess is the term -- driven. When I look at rap, let me put it there, or that hip-hop nation, I see a train, Julian, and the train goes all the way back to 1619 to those first people that stepped off that ship in Jamestown being traded for food and water from a Dutch man-of-war to the British.

So -- and I'm saying that because they had to have a voice. And the kids today have to have a voice. I'm amazed that they found it. I remember Sugarhill Gang with Sylvia, you know: "Uptown, downtown, the Holiday Inn." You know, things like that. Then, of course, I remember the explosion of Tupac Shakur. Losing Tupac was a great loss for this generation. I have a tattoo -- it says "Thug Life" -- because I wanted to mourn with this generation. I don't see how people can knock the kids -- paying so little attention, you know. I had deep regrets -- and I know Rosa Parks, you know, we don't hang out, but I know her -- I so regretted that she lent her name to be used against Outkast, because Rosa Parks is a wonderful -- it's a wonderful tune. And they were giving her props. If people don't -- if the younger generation doesn't sing the praises of the older generation, they get forgotten.

I was totally -- am totally upset and dismayed that Lena Horne withdrew from the Janet Jackson project. I can't imagine anybody better than Janet Jackson to play Lena Horne. And for somebody to say, "Well, Janet and Jason Timberlake -- " who is an extremely talented kid -- you know, because she exposed her tit at the Super Bowl, you know. I mean, talk about drives you crazy, Super Bowl -- steroid-driven testosterone?

BOND: It's a celebration of vulgarity.

GIOVANNI: Well, it is. It's a celebration of violence. I mean, the idea is you line up and you line up, and you do hup, hup, hup, and you throw the ball, and one line tries to break through the other, with any luck as the quarterback is throwing the ball, break his ribs or somehow hurt him. And people were writing in Roanoke where I live, you know, saying things like, "I thought I was getting family entertainment." When was that kind of violence -- the best thing that happened at the Super Bowl was Janet's tit because at least it was nourishing, at least it offered some hope of life. And I resent that because this is America, we use women to sell cars and toothpaste and bread and anything else we want to sell. And then because this kid is there, all of a sudden, it's like, "Oh my God, Janet ruined the Super Bowl!" Well, the Super Bowl was ruined, when when it ended up being Carolina and New England, because who gave a damn?