Roberto Germán [00:00:01]:
Welcome to our classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of, but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host, Rovelto Herman, and our classroom is official. Elite in session. Welcome back to our classroom. Today we have a guest, Martha R. Bareda, PhD, a writer, lecturer, a living history performer with over 30 years of experience as a lecturer, consultant, and trainer for issues related to race, class, and gender issues, working with educators, law enforcement, and business and civic leaders.
Roberto Germán [00:00:54]:
Currently, Dr. Bareda is a writer, lecturer, and living history performer and the director of the Blanchard House Museum of African American History and Culture of Charlote County, located in Punta Gorda, Florida. That's right, folks. We're still doing this work in Florida, believe it or not. Believe it. All right. Not going anywhere. And Dr.
Roberto Germán [00:01:20]:
Martha has a wealth of experience to share with us. I think it's important for us to learn from and with individuals that have a lot more experience, have more wisdom, have been through some things so that we could draw from their experience in history and also apply to what's happening in the current day. And so today we're talking about to grow in Jim Crow. That's right. To grow in Jim Crow. And so, Dr. Martha, thank you for being here today. What a pleasure.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:01:56]:
Well, Roberto, thank you so much for inviting me. It is my pleasure to be with you.
Roberto Germán [00:02:03]:
Well, let's go ahead and dig right in. You published an article titled Reflections of a Made Queen. And in that article, you mentioned the term colored and the Jim Crow era. Could you explain what it meant to be colored during that time? And how did these labels impact your sense of identity and your understanding of your place in society?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:02:28]:
All right, if you were designated as colored, you were the other. You were considered to be less than human. Your qualities were considered to be inferior to that of whites. So it was all an inferiority to put that colored label on us in terms of the identity. We got those external societal messages. The Jim Crow era, they were always there. And basically, what they were saying, the segregation was meant to say, you are less than the discrimination. You cannot go here or there.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:03:08]:
You are less than everything was meant to show the difference between whiteness and blackness. We were simply called colored. Now, a really key word here is place, Roberto. That is the key, because the place and you would often hear when I was growing up, where they're not keeping their place, our place as colored was at the lowest level, the lowest rung on the social racial hierarchy that had been created. And on that hierarchy, if you wanted to survive, if you wanted to keep your job, you had to have two terms. One, a performance identity, and one is an authentic identity. Well, in order to keep your place so that whites felt good about themselves, you had to use your performance identity. Yes.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:04:09]:
Keep your head down, take your hat off. But by the same token, when you came back to our place, you had your authentic identity. You were a human being. So that whole thing with colored was to dehumanize us.
Roberto Germán [00:04:25]:
Wow. That must have been quite the challenge to live through in terms of constantly switching and fighting through the notion of your place. Right. Because you mentioned the word to dehumanize us. We should all be able to sense our own humanity in any space and place in which we dwell. And yet you were living through that experience. And your description of the veil coined by Du Bois highlights the perception of black intellectual, cultural, and moral inferiority. How did this myth affect your education and personal aspirations as a young girl?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:05:10]:
All right. From my family and from my community. And it's very important, Roberto, that I mentioned community, because when I grew up, I grew up with a community reinforcing everything that I'm going to say to you. I write about my experiences as a colored girl. Right. But it is the lessons I learned that if anybody takes anything from this, this is what I want them to take. These lessons I learned in my home, and they were reinforced in my community. There are two sets of them denials and affirmations.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:05:53]:
First of all, I am not tragically colored. I got that from zora. Neil Hurston. In fact, I was in DC on Monday for a presentation. The barber who was Dr. King's barber, said we weren't saying they had agency, even during Jim Crow, Roberto, there was agency. We were not thinking of ourselves as victims. I know what it sounds like.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:06:20]:
So I am not tragically colored. These were rules I learned. Now, I am not Hugh, who the largest society believes or says I am. I'm not that I am not inferior to any race or group, culturally, intellectually, or morally. In fact, I've read in Enslavement, the elder said we are morally superior because we don't treat people inhumanely. And I am not the other who they claim that I am, undeserving of respect, dignity, and equality. Now, those were our denials. Now, this is who my family and our community let us know who we were.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:07:05]:
I know who I am. My community said this to me. I am a precious gift to my family and my community, Roberta. Our community made me and us feel that way. And I am a member of a dynamic culture that provides for my resilience, my well being, and my joy. Now, this last one is real crucial here. I am born with unique gifts and talents that I will use to better my community and fulfill my life purpose. We had a purpose.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:07:44]:
Our community. The grown people in my community, Roberta, were responsible the community. They were responsible for encouraging us and holding us to certain principles. So those lessons that I gave you were not just from my house. They were from all of the adults that surrounded us. And that, if I must say, is something I think we must bring back, is that sense of community that I, as a colored girl during Jim Crow. I felt that that's why I could be who I am because of that.
Roberto Germán [00:08:26]:
So you feel like we've deviated from the sense of community?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:08:32]:
Roberto not feel. I know we have there's this individualism that has taken place, and I know we have many people who are doing well. But if you think about what we see in the news and everything, it's an individual. Individual success does not mean that the group has come along. Individuals have benefited. The masses of our people still have some difficulty. So we have come to believe in the values of the larger society. When I was in DC, I'm in a taxi with a Nigerian taxi driver.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:09:14]:
First of all, he's pointing to buildings. You draw those buildings in DC. He says, you know where those were first? Don't said in the three empires in West Africa. But he said to me, he's a Nigerian. He said, we must go back to who we are. We are one. We are a collective society. We are not to separate ourselves.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:09:38]:
And so, Roberto, I've seen too much moving out of the neighborhood, not coming back, not bringing everybody with us. And so I didn't mean to give a lecture on that, but that's how.
Roberto Germán [00:09:52]:
No, we're here to unpack all of this. It's certainly relevant to what's happening today and to things that we need to wrestle with, not just as individuals, but as a community.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:10:06]:
I can tell you probably well, I'll tell you the story a little later. It's about me as a 13 year old. I'll tell it to you later. Go on.
Roberto Germán [00:10:15]:
Well, I'd like to hear about your upbringing. You mentioned being involved in attending poorly funded schools and experiencing segregation in various aspects of your life. Can you share some specific instances or memories that stand out to you from this period?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:10:33]:
Okay. Yes, sir. My mother had a heart defect. My father was in Virginia. And so when I got ten, we moved back to Pontegorda. I went to school in a little four room white frame building. We had three teachers. Each teacher it only went to 6th grade.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:10:54]:
Each teacher had two grades. We had a room that was supposed to be a library, but that was where we had our cafeteria. That's where the lady we ate our meals. Our bathrooms were outside, so each teacher had two grades. Roberto there were no resources for us, but our school was central to my community. I mean, central, you know, our teachers only made half as much as the white teachers.
Roberto Germán [00:11:26]:
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:11:27]:
But the way they had a mission and the way that they moved. And by the way, each of these three teachers who were poorly paid have master's degree. Okay? So I'm in the school, no resources, but we're citral to our community. And let me say this about my colored school, segregated school. My teachers made up for the loss, the lack of resources. I can say that honestly.
Roberto Germán [00:11:52]:
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:11:53]:
They focused on what I call now a pedagogy of empowerment. Okay? They focused education for us. Everything I heard from my family, from my school, from my community now was on education. Education was the key to our racial uplift. Education was the key to any kind of equality that we were supposed to have. And it was also something that we had to do to give back. That was our destiny. And so, especially when I went to high school.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:12:33]:
Now, my high school was a new high school because one of those schools they built when they thought all the color people were going to go to the integrate the schools. So the building was very nice. However, in my biology class, we had a lab. We had one microscope, okay? For all of us in the class. Microscope, okay? But let me say this. I got three things, important things from my education in general. Competency, our teachers didn't play. When I started working, I saw that kids sleeping my kids that looked like me could sleep in class, could do nothing.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:13:17]:
We didn't play. And when I was in school, there's no such thing as suspension. There's a board of education where there was no suspension. Competency, that was the first C. They pushed us. The reason that I can have an essay right now is because my English teacher, Ms. Daley, saw that I may have had a gift for writing. And in our county, they even let the colored kids enter the countywide contest.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:13:49]:
I won two of those because Miss Daly did not ask Martha Russell if she wanted to write. Ms. Daley said you will write. If somebody was smart in math, they gave them more lessons. If you were brighter than other students, you had to tutor others. So, competency, we had to learn. Second was confidence. They instilled in us, honey, whatever somebody says about you, you show them who you are.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:14:19]:
I'm telling you, my generation, we can show you who we are. Okay? Confidence. But the third thing, which was very important, Roberto, was the commitment to excellence. We had to learn that we were three or four times better just to make it in society. So if you see one of us somewhere my age, honey, we'll show you who we are. We are excellent. Because it was drilled into us. We had no choice.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:14:47]:
We had no choice but to be excellent.
Roberto Germán [00:14:52]:
That's beautiful. I want to go back to something that you said earlier in terms of not feeling sorry for yourself. And people from many folks from that time period who didn't feel sorry for themselves, didn't see themselves as victims, which I think it's important. I definitely support the notion of not seeing ourselves as victims. And I also wonder about how you and others navigated still fighting for advocating for things such as reparations or other basic rights or demands of restoration and repair. And reparations is not just a financial thing. Right. But nonetheless, the notion of, hey, there's something here to be restored because of harm that was caused.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:16:04]:
Roberto, I'm going to tell you quite frankly, during my growing up, that was not one of the words that I heard. What happened was that we had two separate societies. And if you look at what happened during Jim Crow, we had over 200 vibrant African American cities. We had educational institutions. We created them. We had societies. What happened? And you take somewhere like I'll take my town, Ponte Gordon, okay? We had the white society, but I, of course, wasn't born then, but in my little town of Ponte Gordo, which you passed by in 1927, honey, we had 20 colored businesses. Colored people work for colored people, colored people rented from colored people.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:17:04]:
So what we did, we did not focus in that particular aspect of Jim Crow. It came later, when the soldiers came back from Second World War, okay? When we got Brown versus Board during that period, we absolutely put our energies into creating our own communities. That's why when the barber for Dr. King said he actually said he said we weren't saying they were doing their thing. And that is a key, because what I'm feeling right now is a return to that period. And so we can either hope that they do something for us, or we can start doing it for ourselves. And may I say something about Florida? And this education can either, all right? We're going to you know, the little nonsense that, unfortunately a Negro said was true? We have this nonsense. We can wait for the court.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:18:12]:
Take two or three years, or I'm going to say to people who are listening to this, do like they did when I was in school in Jim Crow. Do you think that our teachers didn't teach things other than what they were supposed to teach to keep us immediate? All right. They knew how to go around this. So what I'm saying right now is, okay, while we're in court waiting for this in our churches, you have Sunday school, have Saturday school. Teach your own history. Teach African American history. Don't start with slavery. Start with the three.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:18:49]:
The places that we came from in West Central Africa, they had three empires. Start with that we don't need. See, my generation did not wait for them. They did not wait for them to teach us about ourselves in my school, they went around all of that. That's why I can be who I am, because they did not wait. Okay? They did not wait. Tulsa yeah. They got so angry and so jealous, they burned it down.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:19:19]:
But do you think tulsa you couldn't go into department store. They built a department store anybody in the world want to go into. You couldn't go to the theater. Look at the theaters they built. Look at the schools they built. They did not wait for anybody to give them anything. They took what they wanted, and they made it for themselves. And that's where I am now.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:19:41]:
Especially. I am very concerned about the school situation and very concerned that we're just going to sit and be angry when we should be every Saturday. We should be teaching African American history every Saturday. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to go on the lecture.
Roberto Germán [00:19:58]:
Oh, no. Hey, this is what we're here for. We're here to talk about it all. Don't just teach Sunday school. Teach Saturday school. I love it. I love it.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:20:10]:
And, Roberto, one of the issues that has to have you asked me about the culture when I was growing up, all of our churches, they had their separate religious theories, but for the community, they all came together. What I see now is more territoriality. For us to save our children, our churches are going to have to come together for a community, not a religious purpose, for a community purpose. That's what's going to have to happen. Can't have territoriality we have to come together as community solidarity. The Africans tell us that. The elders tell us that. We must listen to our ancestors and our elders.
Roberto Germán [00:20:59]:
We got to kick down the walls of division.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:21:02]:
Thank you, sir. That's the key for you today.
Roberto Germán [00:21:07]:
Absolutely. I mean, that's part of the aim, is to not run away from the issues, certainly talk about and address the issues, but find ways to address them in community and find ways to be in proximity. We all come with our differences to the table, but we should be able to, at the very least, meet at the table and then take it from there. Right. As we're breaking bread and sharing insight, what are the things that bring us into further proximity as opposed to focusing on the things that drive us apart? But we have to be able to engage in these critical conversations and call the spade a spade. So your description of strength and love of your family members, it's beautiful, it's touching. How did their support counteract the negative societal messages and stereotypes you encountered? Can you share an example of how their love influenced your sense of empowerment?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:22:17]:
All right. I learned three things from my family in particular self identity, self worth, and self determination. Now, my grandmother, I got the self identity from her. My grandmother during that age, now said, that doesn't mean us. Now, she didn't mean that. We didn't have to obey laws. I don't know what it feels like to go to a back door of a restaurant. We would go drive 50 miles to Sarasota because the store didn't let us try on clothes.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:22:52]:
My grandmother would not let us do anything to dehumanize ourselves. Wow, she said when I said that, when she said who you are, you are a human being. You have worth. My grandmother gave me self identity. She did not play dehumanizing yourself at any point. Okay. My father, I call him my hero. I'll make this story short.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:23:18]:
My father, we were still living in Virginia, was a truck driver for a brick company. And in this little town of Virginia, the colored, and they, especially the men, they got along. They would drink beer together and talk. And he and one of his very good friends, Ferguson, were talking, and they had the very same job. And Ferguson let my daddy know somehow he didn't mean to, that he was making twice as much as my daddy. Honey, same job. Daddy went into work on that Monday morning, and Daddy said, you need to pay me more. I'm worth more.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:23:50]:
They said, Bond, we can't do it. My daddy quit that day. All right? And I came home, I felt the little thing. But my mother supported my daddy in quitting. My daddy knew his worth. My father, in the middle of Jim Crow, knew his worth. Guess what? Right now, in the 60s, he was hired by the Blue Ridge Job Corps as a driver. His hobby was softball.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:24:16]:
He coached the girls softball team right now in Marion, Virginia, at the Blue Ridge Job Corps. The Activity Hall is named after my father, who knew his worth. Alonzo C. Russell Activity Hall on the building because my father knew his worth. And finally, my mother knew all she self determination. My mother was one giving back. People came to her for everything. She was known as a humanitarian and a historian in our community, but a humanitarian in the entire community.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:24:56]:
Mother wasn't into the first Negro, the first to do this. My mother just did what she did. And guess what, Roberto? Right now, there are seven women on murals in my town. Guess who one of them is? My mother. Bernice Russell. Bernice andrews Russell. Because she did not let anything stop her. I'm talking about Jim Crow.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:25:22]:
Mother did not let anything stop her. So my father said, Honey, no. I'm worth something. I'm somebody. My grandmother said, I know who I am. My father said, I'm worth something. And my mother said, I don't give up, honey. Those three things my family taught me what a legacy.
Roberto Germán [00:25:39]:
What a legacy.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:25:41]:
I have to tell you. Can I tell you my little story now?
Roberto Germán [00:25:46]:
You sure can.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:25:48]:
Okay. All right. I'll tell you about my mother. My mother decided to want to become Catholic. She and I and several other color people, we were baptized at the white Catholic Church. My first Holy Communion was me and three other little white kids. She became president of the Women's Guild at the White Place, all right? Because she was good. She? Wasn't I'm the first? She was good.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:26:11]:
But anyway, I was about 13 years old, and my mother, Alan only child, bragged about me the way I brag about my children and my grandson. And she happened to tell these women that I was 13, I had learned to type. So one of was bragging, martha can type, blah, blah, blah, blah. So one of these women said, oh, Bernice, really? Can she come over and type for me? So, mother oh, yes, honey. I got to that woman's house, and I go inside. I have see this bucket with this bucket of water in this rag. And I looked, but see, I had learned about performance, identity. I took it, and very slowly, I said, Ma'am, I forgot to tell my mother something.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:26:57]:
I got to call my mama. So she said yes. I said, Mama, don't want me to type. She must be in a mop floor. His mother got in her car and came back. She was furious. But let me tell you, Roberta, I wasn't so much furious as I felt sorry for a grown behind woman who was felt that I could take her place. I was a 13 year old child.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:27:21]:
I learned something about whiteness that day, about how threatening I could be as a colored. My mother came and got me. But let me say this, Roberto. Those lessons I told you about, I'm not who white society thinks I am. I know who I am. If I hadn't learned those lessons, what might have happened to me that day? I might have fallen for that and said, this is supposed to be I'm just supposed to be a mate. Those lessons, honey, if I had learned that, I may have said, I learned to type so well. Honey, I didn't say that I felt sorry for that woman, but frightened by a 13 year old child, I said, oh, I know where you come from now, baby, if my titan can make you think I'm going to take your place.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:28:08]:
Roberto Germán [00:28:10]:
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:28:12]:
So that was a critical lesson for me. But I think I know who I am.
Roberto Germán [00:28:19]:
And that's a good thing for folks to hold on to, like understanding who you are, understanding your worth. Right. You mentioned the story about your father. He understood his value. He understood his worth. And also just learning how to advocate for yourself. I mean, you use the terms performance, identity and then authentic identity. But within that, what I see is, like, you understanding and having been taught by your parents and your grandmother how to navigate different situations, how to advocate for yourself.
Roberto Germán [00:28:53]:
Right. In that case, making the call, being slick about it, hey, like, hey, I'm not going to blow up. I'm not going to overreact. Let me make this quick phone call. Let my mom stay. And so these are good things for us to know, for us to learn from, for us to implement in our own journeys. Right. It's a different time period that we're living in, but things manifest themselves in these ways, right.
Roberto Germán [00:29:20]:
It just might look and feel and sound slightly differently. But at the core we're talking about people that are bringing their issues, bringing their sin, bringing their prejudices, their biases, and sometimes their hatred. And we have to know how to combat that. And at the same time continue to press forward, continue to embrace the power that we do have, right. The strength that we do have and the community that we do have. Which is why I appreciate you. I appreciate your willingness to commit yourself to writing these articles for our consumption and also to come on my podcast and share. And so you mentioned that you don't see yourself as a victim, but rather as a realist.
Roberto Germán [00:30:13]:
Can you expand on this perspective and how it has shaped your approach to life's challenges and opportunities?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:30:22]:
Okay. I would say I've been determined to do what I want to do. I went to a predominantly white university in Western Michigan. I took a course, a major that at the time was kind of off track for African Americans because they thought that we couldn't speak. But I was in speech pathology and of course, several things that happened at I actually roberta was supposed to be a Negro then when I went up north, but of course the same kinds of things. But the thing is, I have to.
Roberto Germán [00:31:04]:
Say so they were using different terminologies, but still manifesting the same type of behavior. Right. Still demonstrating the same type of behavior.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:31:15]:
Right. Because of your skin color on the way up, Roberto. My mother and my aunt took me, right. We had to Terry Hall into Anna. We had to sleep in the car because we couldn't get a motel room. Okay, I'm supposed to be going north, right? I'm going north, right? The first march I was ever in protest while people were coming south to march for the Freedom Rides and whatnot 1st March I ever went on was in Kalamazoo for the Negro students to have open housing. Okay? That was my first protest, was that so I went through it. Of course, the separation was there.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:31:59]:
All of our social lives were very different there. I went to a white university, actually I went to University of 15,000 people. Ponte Gordo was 3000 people when I left. Okay, but let me say this, Roberto. Because of that training I got, honey, I didn't miss a beat. I went from 3000 people to 15, got my degree, was encouraged to go on to get my master's, went to University of Michigan. But that training I cannot emphasize enough the psychological thing that has to happen when you live in a society, a racist society. You cannot let anything about what they say about you matter you have got to know who you are.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:32:49]:
And that's the only way that I came from there to master's the PhD. I knew what I wanted. And the little things didn't you see, you can't get involved in the little things. Okay, let's say right now, and my son was very good with this if somebody calls you and I'll say the word somebody calls you a nigger, you just look at them and say, oh, God, you must have a horrible life if you're envious of me and need to put me down to feel better about yourself. You have to put people whose psychological need to feel superior to you. You have to let them know you know their game and you know who you are and you are not inferior. Which brings me to something that happened last week, and I think you've heard about it when all of these black kids at this school were put in that assembly. Only black kids?
Roberto Germán [00:33:44]:
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:33:45]:
You heard about it?
Roberto Germán [00:33:45]:
Yes, of course.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:33:46]:
Told about how they were bringing down the test scores. Now, I'm just going to say this, I hope, because if one of those children were mine in that group, I would be taking my child to a psychiatrist, and I would be suing for emotional distress, because I'm serious about this. Do you know what that did to those children, to be told? And they were in an environment where there were low expectations, because they wouldn't be failing, Roberto, if there were high expectations, do you know how helpless and powerless those children must be feeling? Those parents? Now, I'm talking about individual parents. I'm talking about, as a group, the emotional and I'm serious about this. My background is counseling the emotional distress that must have been caused by saying, being told that you are failure. And your failure is bringing out our school scores. Roberto, the psychological damage that was done to those children, I would say is almost unrepairable. Unless they're in I'm serious about this.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:34:58]:
Some kind of self esteem and emotional health therapy. I mean.
Roberto Germán [00:35:06]:
Seriously, and I'm not excusing what was said. I think it's horrendous. But I'm thinking about stuff that you've even shared in our time here today. What if they had parents like yours, grandparents like yours, who've been instilling in them, self determination, self worth, strengthening their identity, helping them combat those types of messages. Do you think those kids would still need to see a psychiatrist, and that the damage?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:35:37]:
Not if they had parents who listened to their elders, who followed their elders, who started to believe that they didn't know everything, who listened to their elders. Their children would have gotten these messages. See, there are still some children who get the messages because their parents know what they're doing.
Roberto Germán [00:36:00]:
The reason I mentioned this is because there was one coverage of this story in which the parent was talking about how disturbed she was that this happened, and bringing. It to the attention of the media. But she said her kid actually wasn't even in the group of kids that did not perform well. Her kid actually was a strong student. So they also brought her kid up there to kind of make an example of like, hey, well, you all should be like these kids, which is also terrible. Which is also terrible. But the reason I mentioned this is because my sense is that there are probably some parents and some kids just like that that are like you when you were a child and like your parents and who've been driving. Home these messages and helping their kids to understand the society that we live in and the things that we have to deal with as a people and how to navigate those things.
Roberto Germán [00:37:04]:
Listening. If some of your parents are listening to this interview right now, feel free to reach out to me. I would love to have you on the podcast to interview to talk to you about this experience, but also talk about how it is that you're supporting our kids. Because we need more parents to hear these messages. We need to build up the resiliency in our kids and we need to push back. We need to fight back, push back. And you certainly mentioned one way to do that, bringing them to get the support, get the psychiatrist and then sue.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:37:36]:
Most of the distress.
Roberto Germán [00:37:37]:
But yes, we need to put pressure on these school officials. Like, how is this susceptible? Where is this susceptible? In any other space, right? Well, no, it's not acceptable in our space either.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:37:55]:
One of the things. Like as a parent who's done her job, I'm going to just ask her right now. You see, let me tell you this. When I started out, we had moved from Gainesville and my son had been recommended twice to be in the gifted program. You get to second grade to test you. So we went and told these folks. They slowed. They didn't test him.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:38:22]:
And so we went again. We lost his record. So my husband was working at the university. So they knew what was coming next. We were going to have my son tested. They finally tested my son, Roberto. He tested higher. The psychologist told me he tested higher than any child they had tested that summer.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:38:40]:
But let me tell you why I'm telling you this story, Roberto, that changed my career focus. You see, I couldn't just care about my child. My child was going to make it. That's why I spent the 20 and 30 years, because I did it for other African American children. So those parents from that school who have done the right thing for their child, they need to go to those sisters and brothers and say, look, this is damaging to your child. Let us talk to you. Let us get a group of parents. Let us work with our children.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:39:18]:
Let us get community again, maybe it's just your neighborhood. I'm not going to let us off the hook for this, Roberto. Giving back. That's what my mother learned. My mother if you're doing well, it's not individuality, Roberto. It's not about individuality, it's about collectivism. I am because we are. And if my child is doing well remember I said obligation when I was growing up?
Roberto Germán [00:39:50]:
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:39:50]:
Folks had an obligation to help all of our children. And so those folks whose children are doing well, you have an obligation to bring the others along, too. An obligation.
Roberto Germán [00:40:04]:
That's right, folks. You heard it. We have an obligation. Let's commit to that. So to those that are listening, you just told us we have an obligation. You can stick with that. But if you have another message of encouragement you want to offer them, what's the message of encouragement you like to offer?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:40:23]:
Okay, first of all, we need to remember. Okay, I do a thing called Remember and Return. And if you don't remember, go to some of your elders who went through Jim Crow. Ask them how they manipulated Jim Crow when they'll tell you they played that game, okay? They had to say yes or yes. When they got to church on Sunday, top deacon all dressed up. The ones who were the maids, they get they the mothers of the church. So these games but let me tell you what was different about growing up Jim Crow. You see, during that time, we had a very definite line, divine.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:41:04]:
So you could do over there in that white society and come back and be perfectly yourself in the colored society. It's a different now, the mixture. See, we could get certain lessons at our school because our school was all black. So what we've got to do is determine how we can still do these lessons with our kids. But we got to do it probably within our own community, okay? We need to in terms of our schools, we need to ask our kids what's going on? Honey, does your teacher think you're smart? How does your teacher show you you're smart? If your child stops for 1 minute, tell me how your teacher treats you. How does she treat? Don't ask just about your child. How about so and so in your class? How they get along? Who gets in trouble in your class? How come they get in trouble? You need to find out what's going in the classroom. If your child or any other child is in a classroom where low expectations are held, that teacher should not be teaching your child.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:42:12]:
All right? What I'm saying is talk to your children. Talk to your children's friends. Come together as parents so you can know what is happening to your children. That's the first thing we got to come back to community. We got to come back to those values of solidarity, of working together, of giving back. Education is the and what's his name from South Africa said it could be a weapon to change the world. But guess what Stalin said? Stalin said it's a weapon depending who's using it. So we can use education as a weapon for empowerment, or we can let them use education, which they're doing as a weapon for disempowerment.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:42:58]:
So we need to get on this thing with our young people. We need to know what is going on in those schools. I'm talking about the environment, just not the teaching of black English, black history. We got to work on the environment, the history teaching, which you're going to do ourselves. You're not going to wait for other people to teach our history. And we need to start grooming our young people. So this means togetherness, this means collective. I guess the basic thing I'm saying is stop this nonsense about individuality and just being for yourself.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:43:34]:
Let's come back together as a people. All right?
Roberto Germán [00:43:37]:
Thank you for sharing.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:43:40]:
Let's come back.
Roberto Germán [00:43:42]:
So there was one question I forgot to ask you, and I'll ask it now. If you had the opportunity to have lunch with any individual that lived through Jim Crow, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:43:59]:
Okay. Anybody asked me about my family in Pontegard, I said, We've been here since 1885. And we're here because my great uncle, Dan Smith, was 17 years old when he came. He could not read and write, but he was chosen to be the leader of the survey team for the railroad. They come in and decide where the railroad should go. After they finished the work, 200 colored men came and laid the track. But this young man, my great uncle was a leader. He was the leader of this group.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:44:36]:
Guess what he did? The first church service ever held in Pontegorda to celebrate the fact the train was kid. This kid, he organized it, put it under that cut, and guess what? All the people came, white and colored, came to his little organization and they kept meeting in his little hutch until everybody got their own church. Dan Smith started our Bethel AME church. His wife. My aunt Louisa did not. She was a Baptist. She didn't want to go to Methodist. He started the first historic Baptist church in Pontegorda.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:45:18]:
He was sent he was pointed to the school board to go and get our first teacher. Now, he did learn to read and write, and one of the reasons how, when we got our school, he and another man, Sam Kennedy, sat in classes with children so that they could have the quota. He was a businessman. He had his own boat. The dan. Smith did excellent. He had an orange grove. He was a mathematical genius.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:45:47]:
Okay? He knew something about himself, okay? Two of his daughters were top math teachers in the state of Florida. Three of his grandsons worked for NASA. So if I could meet anybody, I'd want to meet him. When he was 17. Because I'm telling you, that period during those years, we know what it was like. He was so self determined, nothing stopped him. It didn't matter about segregation. It didn't matter about the Jim Crow laws.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:46:24]:
Dan Smith knew what he wanted, and nobody stopped Dan Smith from doing what he wanted. And he was well respected in this town because he stood up like a man. And so he stood, in fact, in the cooperation of Ponteguarda, four African American men helped incorporate my town. He was one. He didn't sign the papers. He was one of the leaders of the blacks who took them to Pine Level to do the signing. He just did what he wanted to do. He did not let obstacles outside stop him.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:47:08]:
He understood who he was. And he was a child of enslaved people. His ancestors must have told him, you got something going. He listened to his ancestors, Roberto. He listened to his not. Do you think that Dan Smith felt like a tragic color? Seriously, does he? Everything that man did, his own boat, orange Grove leader, was he tragically colored? I don't think so.
Roberto Germán [00:47:41]:
That's great. Thanks for sharing. So, for folks who are interested in reading your articles and following your work, where should they go?
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:47:52]:
They can go to Mer.com, put my name in Martha Barretta, and I have lots of articles on there. But the ones that right now that I'm most interested in are Reflections of a Color Girl. Those are the ones. Also, if you go to Wgcu.org, it's in Fort Myers and put in Reflections of a Color Girl, you can hear me reading some of these as well. And so I guess those would be the two places. But let me tell you, to do this, go to Blanchardhousemuseum.org. And we're closed now because of the storm. But we do have some exhibits on there.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:48:36]:
Take a look at our all right. So, Roberta, I've certainly enjoyed didn't mean to go crazy on you, but these.
Roberto Germán [00:48:48]:
Things no, not at this. This was enriching. And again, it's important for us to hear from our elders and hear from those who have had different experiences.
Martha Bireda, Ph.D [00:49:01]:
Let me make one final point. Remember, the governor says, and the reason the legislature does not want accurate African American history told is because of the emotional distress it will do to white children. So emotional distress right now, in general is a key word. What would be the emotional distress to African American children if they didn't hear accurate history? If they had to only hear if they didn't hear about resistance to slavery, if they didn't hear about revolts or rebellions, if they didn't hear about people escaping, coming to Florida to be free, becoming maroons, if they didn't hear about people becoming aligning themselves with the Creeks, becoming Seminoles what would that do to their emotional distress? If they didn't hear any stories of power? So I think emotional distress is kind of an important thing right now, Roberto. Emotional distress. You get me, right?
Roberto Germán [00:50:10]:
I get you. Thanks for your time. Thanks for your time. Dr. Martha. We'll have to do this again. I know you have plenty to share and going to continue to read your articles and share them and pick your brain and receive your insight. As always, your engagement in our classroom is greatly appreciated.
Roberto Germán [00:50:36]:
Be sure to subscribe rate the show and write a review. Finally, for resources to help you understand the intersection of race, bias, education and society, go to trueclassroom.com peace and love. From your host, Rovelto Herman.