Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential Drama Teacher: Marylee Shappee

BOND: Now, who were the people who were most significant in helping you develop your talents? Your parents, I'm sure, but your parents and whom else? Who around you as you were growing up make you aware of talents you have that might flourish?

JONES: Marylee Shappee.

BOND: Who is she?

JONES: She was in the flush years of Camelot or maybe a little before, our school system had money to bring in a drama instructor, speech and drama instructor. This is a small country school. Those must've been good times and she was an outlandish kind of person, very sophisticated, very sardonic. She wore mini-skirts. Around the community, she wore mini-skirts. She said she hated television. She said I don't need someone to tell me how to wash my toilet bowl. She spoke of things like people being stupid and mediocre and she called me by my last name — "Jones, B. Will," she said when I was constantly showing off like the little black boy in the class who wanted to be loved. She said, "cut the crap." She's the one who talked to me the day after Martin Luther King's speech had been — Well, actually, it was not that speech. I think it was probably Selma or someplace like that and asking me, "what do you think it means to hear, everyone to hear him speak like that and the people in the church saying 'amen,' talking out loud like that?" and then she explained to me the differences in the oration, what bathos was, that this speech, the March on Washington was the pinnacle of bathos and that it was different than purely intellectual reason. It was appealing to an emotional response in a group and my ears were perking up to all this value system that she was trying to talk to me and I am one of her students. I just loved to hang out with her but she really would talk to me and she had her blind spots but she actually knew that something was happening and she wanted to know what I was thinking about it.