To Be Woman, Gifted, and Black: From One Generation to Another

To Be Woman, Gifted, and Black: From One Generation to Another (1980)
Duration: 00:28:57

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Themes: Education and Families | Musical Roots and Branches | Literature and Language |

Guests: Lena Horne, Nikki Giovanni
Host : Gene Elzy
Producer : Alfa Harrison, Deborah Ray

Summary: This show is entitled "To Be Woman, Gifted, and Black: From One Generation to Another," and Elzy begins by saying that they will be talking with singer Lena Horne and writer/poet Nikki Giovanni, who have been touring together across the country. Lena is the first interviewee, who has also been an active member in the civil rights struggle.

Elzy first poses the question as to whether the road to success for the black performer has changed over the years. Horne believes so, and says that the present generation does not face the same stresses of her generation. She does, however, believe that her generation was fortunate to have been able to listen to and draw from the black stars of earlier years. He also asks her about what disciplines she learned as a young child that now carry her over into her present-day performing. She states her belief that "the show must go on," and she was always taught to be professional and disciplined, no matter what.

Horne's grandmother was a very good friend of Mary McCloud Bethoon, and Horne had the opportunity to meet her. Horne was enlisted by her in the National Council of Negro Women, and she was the main reason that Horne is a Delta. Horne also talks about the strength of present-day black women, saying that they are as strong as past black women, but for different reasons.

Horne then is asked to provide any thoughts she has for young entertainers who are going to have to "fight that fight." She doesn't think they'll have the same stresses, but she knows that it's rough economically at the present time for both whites and blacks, and she has learned to be more sympathetic to all sorts of people.

Horne talks about her upcoming retirement from cabaret, and says that although she won't be singing in that kind of setting anymore, she will continue to give concerts and do TV appearances and shows.

Then, they go on to interview Nikki Giovanni. They start out by talking about her new book, "Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day," and whether it is different from her previous works or more personal and different. She sees it as an outgrowth of her first book, and rather than being a departure, it is a natural maturation. She stresses the importance of learning and growing from experiences. She also talks about her decision to be a writer, and says that "the form chooses the writer," and every writer has his or her own discipline.

She says that she would not be able to think of herself as a typical black woman, but what she shares with other black women is a strong curiosity and a desire to make things better. She hopes that she can be helpful to black women in any way possible, because she believes that they are a great asset to the world. She also believes that through her work, she will pave the way for other black poets to make their own mark on the world. She sees it as a constant kind of progression, where children take up where parents left off and other citizens draw on people's examples.

She also talks about how women are most certainly the backbone of families, because they are the ones who teach the children. She supports men, but stresses that the family is "set by the woman." She is then asked what she thinks the seventies brought and what she believes the eighties will hold for black men and women. She thinks that the eighties will bring new definitions for life, men, women, and more, and give people new senses of what everything truly is. Blacks will also be in the unique decision to create the definitions.

Giovanni has been quoted as saying she was disappointed by the fact that the books published now hardly give any contribution to the black contributions of earlier times, especially the sixties. She talks about how children believe that they are educated and are the way they are only because of the contributions of white people, and they don't realize and understand the contributions of blacks. She states that there is "nothing unique in white history," and the culture of America comes from the blacks. She believes that blacks must reclaim who they are. She believes that people who see themselves as educated really are not, and must draw on other medium, such as books, to become better educated. Literature and reading is extremely important, and she talks about how she read to her unborn child while pregnant.

Elzy finishes by asking her where she thinks her writing is going. She is unsure, but she's playing with the idea of trying to write a novel. She is interested in exploring human beings, so she'll write to accomplish this in any way she can.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 13, Photographs
Box 17, File 11, Nikki Giovanni & Lena Horne - Interview
Box 17, File 27, Lena Horne
Box 19, File 16, Musician Bios.