Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

How Do You Let Race Go?

BOND: What about race, to what extent do you mine race? That is, to what extent does race inform both who you are and what you do and how you write?

GIOVANNI: Well, you know, I read a book recently, I forget the name of it right now, it was a black girl that works for the New York Times and she's right wing and so I think the right wing, you know, I think snot comes out of their nose or something. And she said, you know, it's time, I think it's called “The End of Race” or something. She said, you know it's really time that we put race aside and I wrote a really lovely poem called “The Song of the Feet” because Oprah Winfrey's magazine was the doing the body, and so I wanted the feet. And I came in and, you know, "I shoulder the body and what the body chooses to bear." And the last line said, “I am a black woman,” right? Which is what the black woman -- what did Zora Neale Hurston say? That the black woman is the nigger of the earth, right? And so it was very interesting, I didn't want to deal with what Zora said in that way, but I wanted to deal with the fact that when it all comes down to it, this is the black woman because everybody stands on our shoulders, right? And she was bitching and moaning like, "Nikki ought to let race go." How do you let race go? And why not celebrate that aspect because it's a wonderful thing. I mean, when your feet hurt, your whole body's in bad shape.

BOND: Of course some people would say if you concentrate on your feet alone or your feet to the exclusion of the rest of the your body, you may ignore that your knees, your waist, your pelvis, your shoulders, your head -- you may ignore that you're part of a whole, that you're separate -- you're asking people to look at only your feet. And you're more then your feet.

GIOVANNI: Well, you might be. But -- and I'm not might, you clearly are -- I'm just, and I'm not -- I just know that if you -- if I may -- wear good, flat shoes the chances of keeping your knees and your pelvic, you know. If your feet are all right, your chances of the rest of your body being all right, because you'll stand straight, because you'll breathe better, and so what we're going to do is not say you know, "Well, for God's sake, I mean if you're having rotten teeth you should have them fixed" -- don't say, "Well, my feet are okay, it doesn't matter about my teeth." But you're going to start with the bottom. Malcolm X said that, "We know so much about the condition of a country by the condition of the women." And he's right, and again we're talking a bottom line. So, if we're looking at black America, or if we're looking actually at white America. If we're looking at frontier women, if we're looking at women in the holler. What we know because the expression which is a really nasty expression is "barefoot and pregnant, keep them barefoot and pregnant." Well, they need shoes and they need shoes because as Nancy Sinatra said, “These boots were made for walking.” And all I'm trying to say is --