Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Philosophy - Keeping an open space

BOND: I would think so. When you look back at your life, when did you begin to think of yourself as a leader and I know, Bob, you're going to say I'm not a leader, but you were a leader and are a leader today. Did you ever think of yourself as a leader?

MOSES: Well, again, what I thought about a lot is the line that Ella [Baker] drew, so I think that what we did in Mississippi to hold the space open for the sharecroppers to develop the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party because we couldn't be the leaders of that party and so developed that idea of helping to develop leadership, but I think of the same thing with The Algebra Project. A lot of people were pushing that we should have a youth wing of The Algebra Project and what I had in mind was this other idea, so we kept a space open so that eventually what became the Young People's Project could actually walk into the space and own it and so they had their own autonomous organization, really different than your youth wing of an adult organization. So, that leadership was keeping the space open. Now, within The Algebra Project, I also exercised leadership. Part of that is what one of our board members calls managing the vision, making sure— Well, what is the vision that the project is working on and how does this little initiative that someone is proposing, really is it congruent with the vision. People have a hard time really understanding, one, what the vision is or having a vision and then keeping on track with the vision so that the little things that you want to do don't actually become obstacles to this grander vision. I think that was the issue in keeping a space open for the young people to form the Young People's Project because all the times people were coming up with suggestions to do this or do that, but if you did that, then you were actually setting up an obstacle that would have to be torn down if young people actually decided that they were going to become what they did, what they became.