Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Community Empowerment Across Racial Lines

BOND: At the same time, you mentioned Willie Ricks or Mukasa as he’s called as well, who is an early advocate of Black Power. He’s the original Black Power guy, and obviously an influence in your life, but at the same time, here you are someone who reaches out across racial lines so you can take an example from this man, yet not be an imitator of this man. How do you — ?

SELLERS: One thing I realized, and this is scholarly but also listening and learning, listening to Uncle Reg and my dad talk about —

BOND: That’s Reggie Robinson.

SELLERS: Reggie Robinson, talk about just different things that went on in the movement. Reggie always tells the story that he was dressed one way and Dr. King called him one day and said come to his hotel room and gave him all his suits and shoes so he would look better. And you know, they talk about the story, they talk about John Lewis and they talk about the stories of Dr. King and some of his speeches and things of that nature, but I’ve also learned about the Black Power Movement. And what I’ve taken from that is not a radical ideology but it’s a sense of self. It’s a sense of empowering one’s own community. My community has changed, though. My community is not purely an African American community. My community, the problems that affect us are not black versus white. My community are the haves versus the have-nots, so I take the lessons of Willie Ricks and Reggie Robinson and yourself and where we’ve tried to empower African Americans throughout the Deep South, I try to empower the have-nots.

I use a lot of the same tactics. I talk about grassroots organizing and I talk about the roles of social justice organizations and we need to talk about the role that the black church and the NAACP should play from this point forward, but I still talk about — they still do have a role but it’s empowering the have-nots, and that’s what I try to do and those are the lessons that I take from those persons.