Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Race in Music and Culture, Past and Present

BOND: And to you that's not the black dancing?

JONES: Well, I'm proud of the black DNA in it. I'm very proud of it, but now it's certainly world dancing, isn't it? Have you listened to "American Idol" lately? I don't do it very much but I say to someone now, everybody is down, everybody can sound like Aretha. They've studied it. You know how to bend those notes. You know how the melismas. You know how to soar like that. Is that a black sound now? Tell me. You tell me. When you listen to someone on the television or on the phone, there used to be a time you could tell in three words if they were black. Can you anymore?

BOND: No, you can't now.

JONES: No, you can't. Should I bemoan that? Hey, evolution now. Everything truly free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty. We're now grown into each other's world culture and your DNA is proudly in there, so just settle with that. You don't have to stay segregated anymore.

BOND: You made me think about the last two Broadway shows or the last two shows my wife and I saw. We saw the one about the "Jersey Boys."

JONES: I love the dance in "Jersey Boys."

BOND: Well, and then we saw The Temptations and I've loved The Temptations all my life and that style of dancing they do and that strikes me as —

JONES: Well, there was a choreographer.

BOND: Charlie Atkins. I met Charlie Atkins once.

JONES: See, and I never knew. We grew up thinking that the performers made the steps.

BOND: I did, too. But, anyway, which is it, the "Jersey Boys"? Is that black dance? Are they doing black dance?

JONES: Hmmm —

BOND: They're certainly not black. These are Italian boys.

JONES: They're not, are they? That's a very good question. That kind of little hip switch there they do that's synchronized. Where did that come from? Maybe here at this great university, the social historians will tell us but I would think that came from everybody watching black people move. Remember that--what with Bing Crosby, The Birth of the Blues, so, bless him, but remember the storyline that here was this prodigy of a singer who was down in the levee teaching the black people how to sing? He was teaching them how to like harmonize and he invented the blues, right? Well, we don't need to go to those things anymore to know how much pain there is about who owns what. Now, maybe if your question is about what is authentic to an African American experience and what's my relationship to it, I'm still trying to understand that.

BOND: No, that wasn't the question.