Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Berkeley Mentors: Carlton Goodlett and Maudelle Shirek

BOND: Let me ask you about some people in Berkeley or in the Bay area — Carlton Goodlett.

LEE: Carlton Goodlett — very important person to me. Carlton Goodlett got me very involved, along with Maudelle Shirek, who was a member of the Berkeley City Council. They got me involved in international relations in a big way. Dr. Goodlett was a member of the World Peace Council, Maudelle also. And Dr. Goodlett early on said — and I don't know why he came to me and wanted me involved with him — but he took me on these delegations with him to Czechoslovakia and to Vienna, and he wanted me to be part of the international liaison of peace voices throughout the world. And so Carlton really mentored me. He actually allowed me to be part of his press corps. He gave me press credentials, so when I needed to get to certain conferences like in Cuba and only the press could go, then, of course, I went as press and wrote articles for the National Newspapers Publishers Association and for the Sun Reporter and Dr. Goodlett was an unbelievable close friend and mentor, and he's another person I miss tremendously.

BOND: And Ms. Shirek, what about her?

LEE: Wow, she is ninety-four years old now. Early on again, late '60s early '70s, she took me under her wings. She is the granddaughter of slaves from Arkansas. And Maudelle was working at the Co-Op Credit Union, and I was a young single mother with two kids on public assistance, mind you, and Maudelle — she saw something about me, what I don't know, but she pulled me in and she said, "Look, first, you've got to join the Credit Union. You've got to learn how to manage your money." Financial literacy to her was very important and I said, "Well, how can this woman, this beautiful woman who's progressive talk about money? You know, and be into money like that. I mean — you know, she's not a capitalist." Somebody else said, "It's not about money, it's about how you use your money and how you manage your money, and money's for the good and use it for the good." And she helped me in so many ways get into financial literacy initiatives and she taught me how to manage my own little bit of money that I had when I was on public assistance. She helped me buy a house and my little Volkswagen and she [was] just really unbelievable in terms of being there in the background helping me and guiding me through college.

Maudelle also taught me how to eat better. She was really, in the early '70s, into nutrition. And I always tell people, she bought me this little paperback. I wondered why she bought it for me and she knew I was eating too many unhealthy meals, you know, fast foods and what-have-you and she bought me this little book called Diets for a Healthy Planet. And I still have that little cookbook and it was how to cook and eat healthy. She would call me early in the morning and she made me walk the lake with her so she got a chance — you know, now, as I look back, she was really coaching me and mentoring me, but she also was helping me in terms of my health and walking and exercise and this was in — like I said, this was in the early '70s, you know.

And I've traveled the world with Maudelle also, many times with Carlton Goodlett and Maudelle and to see world leaders, to see NGO leadership and people throughout the world welcomed them as heads of states and revered them both was really, for me as a young African American woman on welfare with two little kids, like, awesome.