Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Boys & Girls Club of Chicago

BOND: At age 11, you joined the Boys & Girls Club in order to play ping pong.

WILLIAMS: That's right.

BOND: But what else did the club do for you besides providing ping pong?

WILLIAMS: You heard about that, huh? Well, I joined the Boys & Girls Club because it was a refuge in Chicago. I went to a lot of different schools and I needed a place to be able to have a quiet place to play but also a safe place and my parents both worked. Sometimes they worked two jobs each and so the Boys & Girls Club became my refuge and so I went there and I learned to play ping pong but also I learned about Chicago. They took us on tours on every important place in Chicago—The Museum of Art of Science & Industry, the Museum of Natural History. They took us to see the White Sox and the Cubs play. They took us to the aquarium, to the planetariums, so I learned a lot about Chicago because of the Boys & Girls Club.

BOND: Did you play ping pong?


BOND: Were you good?

WILLIAMS: I wasn't good. As a matter of fact, when I learned later about how good the Chinese were, I realized how bad I was. [laughs]

BOND: So you're going to a different school every so often. You had this single place that becomes sort of your rock.

WILLIAMS: That's right, the Boys & Girls Club, that's correct.

BOND: That's incredible.

WILLIAMS: And they had a lot of wonderful strong black men there who were role models and would talk to you about doing the right thing and getting a job and taking care of your family. That was important.

BOND: How about service to others?

WILLIAMS: And service to others. That was implicit, but they never really talked about that. They talked about just being a good strong man, though, but obviously as I reflect on that, service to others was important to them.

BOND: And so it took with you?