Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Gender Consciousness: Mother

BOND: I find it interesting that your mother emphasized gender equity, because of the -- several women we've had interviewed, none of them has said that someone told them about gender equity or prepared them for battles on gender equity. It's great that it happened, but I just find it unusual that it happened.

LEE: My mother did, from day one. She had three girls and she had two sisters. And so, we grew up and we lived with my grandfather and my grandmother until she passed. And so my mother grew up in a family of women and my grandfather, of course, was a strong African American man, but he had all these women around him and they would not let him get away with anything. And so from day one, my mother emphasized going into non-traditional roles.

For example, she emphasized that I needed to study so I could go to college to be whatever I wanted to be, but she also emphasized the fact -- and she made me take piano lessons and she made me go to sewing classes and she insisted I learn how to type. You know what, she said, "You're going to need to learn how to type so you could figure out how to get through college so you can get the kind of job that you went to college to get," and so she was always very clear on learning all of the skills that we needed to learn and that women needed to learn so they could move forward in their lives, but also she --

And I loved music. I wish I had a chance now to play the piano, but she knew that the arts and cultural activities -- she made sure I was involved in sports. I played basketball. She made sure that I was a cheerleader and part of the drill team. So she made sure that we did everything as a child, so myself and my two sisters as girls could grow up to be the kind of independent women that she thought we should be in a male-dominated and in a racist society.