Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Reflections on Gay Rights and Civil Rights Movement

JONES: Leaders are a bit distorted. What was Bayard Rustin? Let's talk about Bayard Rustin. That was another thing around that table that night at the Smithsonian. Bayard Rustin never came up. Now, this was a man who was very — extremely cosmopolitan.

BOND: Well, who was around the table? Maybe Mrs.[Dorothy] Height was the only person who knew Bayard Rustin.

JONES: Did John Lewis know him?

BOND: Yes, John knew him.

JONES: Wilkins?

BOND: Roy Wilkins knew him and —


BOND: And was mad at him all the time.

JONES: More than mad at him.

BOND: Yes. Yes.

JONES: Nasty stuff.

BOND: Nasty —

JONES: Everybody around that table. There was something being policed around what we can allow into the wake of our great civil rights struggle and that is — And I feel like I was there to do that, but I was afraid I would be predictable if I started taking off the shoe and hitting it around this issue, so I was going to be really — I was going to behave, first of all, with humility toward my elders and with the idea that giving them the benefit of the doubt, they all know that the women's movement, the gay movement, all of those were very very much influenced by the success of the civil rights movement which civil rights was supposedly not only about black people, was it?

BOND: Right.

JONES: It was about human rights, right? But we know it really meant black rights, right? And I was sitting there waiting for that to happen and I think it was cowardly. I think it was — That was kind of — I'm not proud of that moment. I'm not proud of it. I wanted somebody else to bring it up, to say it, but nobody did except for Dorothy Height.

BOND: Well, I'm not sure if I know really why that would've occurred. It could be that Bayard is at a lower level in leadership than these people gathered around the table.

JONES: Why was he at a lower level?

BOND: I don't mean — because he was not the great speechmaker like King. He wasn't the leader of any great movement or organization like Roy Wilkins was or Dorothy Height was, so he was a lesser figure. I don't mean a lesser person.

JONES: I don't know if you've seen, but I recommend it to you and any of the people listening to this, "Brother Outsider."

BOND: Oh, yes, I've seen it.

JONES: Well, my understanding was this is the man that was lecturing Martin Luther King about non-violence.

BOND: Oh, absolutely. He taught King about non-violence. He said King couldn't organize vampires to go to a blood bath. [laughs]

JONES: Well, but my point is I thought that the man because of his troubling identity could not be in the upper echelon.

BOND: Yes, that's true.

JONES: You know, so it's not that he just somehow was not, but it was stacked against him and he was a good player. He was a good guy.

BOND: Yes, a very good guy.

JONES: He thought the mission was more important than him and I wish that he had been a little bit more self — Not even about self.

BOND: Less self-effacing?

JONES: Less self-effacing.

BOND: And less willing to take a back seat.

JONES: Yes. But to quote, "the movement wasn't ready" to have this discussion.

BOND: No, it wasn't ready. It's not really ready now.

JONES: Amen. Amen.