Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Historically and Culturally Significant People and Moments

BOND: Do you remember specific events, historical events that passed by as you're growing up, as you're in lower school, in high school, then in college? Things that impacted on you?

JONES: Yeah, like everybody. I remember exactly the moment when John Kennedy was shot. I remember Marilyn Monroe's death. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. There's a work in our repertory called "Monkey Run Road" which is trying to talk about the afternoon. My brothers and I were home alone and we heard that Armageddon was about to happen, the world was going to go up in flames. I remember those things very well.

BOND: And they had an impression on you?

JONES: Oh, yes, they did.

BOND: Each different, I imagine. Why was Marilyn Monroe's death so striking?

JONES: That the great, the glamorous, the goddesses and gods among us could die. They could die horrible, lonely deaths and that, yeah, that was a lot right there. There was no escape from this thing which we called life and its circumstances.

BOND: That even she could —

JONES: Even she could. Yes, even she could. And I loved her, of course, like many people but I can't say she was the most important star in my heavens but she was important. She was important. Sidney Poitier, for instance, what did he mean? Last year the Kennedy Center when my sisters were there with me and there was a thing that happened in us and I never met him all these years — maybe once I did at a dinner with Alvin Ailey years ago — but there was something when he was introduced to us that it was emotional in a way that we all talked about later that was very exciting. It was more than exciting. What was that when he did — What was that film? Not "Band of Angels" but the one where he's the handyman for the nuns?

BOND: Yes, I know what you mean.

JONES: But that was the official face. That was the face that we identified with, intelligent, decent. Sexuality had to be controlled.

BOND: Muted.

JONES: Muted. As a matter of fact, I once in the '70s I was going to make a solo which was called "I Am Not Sidney Poitier." It was the first time I thought of doing the "I Have a Dream Speech" backwards which I did later do in a piece called "Last Supper at Uncle Tom Cabin." "I Am Not Sidney Poitier," but meeting him, in answer to your question, he was an event. He was an event in the cultural sphere that said something about possibility and so on.