Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Family Influences

BOND: Who are the people who've been most significant in helping you develop yourself? You mentioned your grandparents a moment ago. Who else helped make you who you are today?

LEE: Well, of course, my grandfather, W.C. Parish. He was a 33rd Degree Mason, member of the AME Church, and he was an officer in the NAACP. My mother, who now lives in Arizona, eighty-one years old, always has been a strong, I say feminist, because she always had a very clear understanding of who she was as a woman and insisted that we never ever kowtow to anyone, whether it was because of our race or our gender. And I think my mother early on helped me understand that I had a dual role in life and that I better fight against racism and sexism hand in hand.

She never, ever would allow us to say we couldn't do anything. She said, "Can't is not in the dictionary." She said, "Look, if you want to be whatever you want to be, you better do it, you know, regardless of what they tell you you can't do, being a woman or an African American." So I think my mother has really played that kind of a role.