Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Career: Black Leadership Forum

BOND: Now, the Black Leadership Forum — how'd you come to that?

LEFTWICH: I decided to leave New York state and to go be near my children. Either my daughter Cathryn, who is a resident of Columbia and is a mortgage banker, or my daughter Rebecca, who is an investment banker, who is in Philadelphia. I didn't really want to go back to Philadelphia, and I had — I've known Eddie Williams since I was chairing the Department of Planning.

So I called up Eddie Williams and said, "I'm thinking about coming to Washington. What do you think I might do?" He said, "You're going to come help me do this Urban Policy Institute." So I left New York in 1991 and came to Washington. Was working with Eddie but also once again in touch with all these black leaders who had gone to me — gone with me to the Washington Post to complain in the '70s about the way blacks were treated. It was convergence of opportunity and timing of a forum. Had done a strategic plan. The plan had called for a number of things including incorporation, making a 501-C3, and hiring an executive director.

And I was invited to be the executive director if I would agree to help them get on their feet in terms of funding and to work part time for the joint center until I did that. And that was great. It was just — I couldn't have designed that sequence better had I tried. It was moving through a number of systems back into the civil rights community. Back into activism in a very high profile and deliberate way with people I had known and admired. Dorothy Height and Joe Lowery and Jessie Jackson and C. Delores Tucker and Eddie Williams, Elaine Jones. These people are people who are making a difference. And to be able to work collaboratively with them on things that we — on things of mutual concern. Sort of the cat's meow.