Charles Marsh: Was the icing on the cake the staff meeting in 1967; over Zellner and white involvement; or was the negative reaction immediate with Greenwood?
Cleveland Sellers: The negative reaction was a shifting away on the part of the idea that we could persuade America of the rightness of our cause to change its power relationships and its ways. That reality kicked in. So when you start talking about power, you must be in a position to control the medium in which you get your message out. If not, then you are dead in your tracks. We thought it was important to get our message out through Stokely; so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If you don't put him out there, then somebody else will interpret it for you; if you do, then it's gonna look like you bought into the whole notion that black power became this and that to everybody. The whole black power concept came from our organizing in Lewdness County; we were talking about independent political organizing. We used that term--black power--because we thought it would be more appealing to the African-American community--and we were right on that issue--but we had no idea how it could blow up in the press.
CM: If I understand it correctly, Zellner's argument was that blacks could organize in black communities without whites without it being racist; but whites could not organized in white communities without blacks without it being racist.
CS: That's part of his argument. But his argument is that going back to the old school SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], you have to be very clear about what it is you are presenting. If you want whites on the staff, then whites must have a role in your organization. You want whites to work in the white community because you don't want them in the organization. Because it is a critical stage in the development; in order to work in the African-American community, it must begin to develop support in that community. African-American has a responsibility to support its own effort; it has a right to make decisions that are not based on the beloved community. So if Zellner made SNCC feel the reality of what its position was, but then by this time Stokely is gone, Ivan has gone; Stokely and I are together. Our falling out was over the organizational management. My concern was the organization had a responsibility to the community which it served. And to the people who were involved. We needed to have some organization and cooperation. We fell out over that. Then Black Power emerged after that. We don't fall out over the issue of Black Power. We moved to make the struggle international; the ANC [African National Congress] and other liberation groups. The Puerto Rican Liberation movement.