Fidel Ferrer, Executive Director at Project Ledo, talks about his story, experience with racism in the US and beyond, and what medical providers should know when seeing people of color. We discuss the importance of connection and what it means to extend a hand in health care and education. To share resources as opposed to simply completing a transaction.
“As someone who has gone through struggles in life, as anyone has, being able to achieve something greater and better than yourself is important. I feel like, as my mom always taught me, that let your core values and beliefs speak louder than whatever they can perceive you as. And your color is beautiful. Your ethnicity is beautiful. Your culture is beautiful. And when you align yourself with your mission and purpose in life, and that passion that you have towards something – go after it.” – Fidel Ferrer
Connect with Fidel Ferrer: www.projectledo.org
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Transcript – The Invisible Profession Podcast Ep. 006 – Fidel Ferrer
Welcome to the Linguava podcast, the Invisible Profession, where we give you tools, tips, and resources in medical interpretation, and translation to help bring to life our industry and ultimately help improve health outcomes for the Limited English Proficient communities.
David: Welcome to the Invisible Profession. Episode number six. Thank you all for joining me today here. I’m super excited to be able to have a dear friend and an inspiring individual who is not only has been a Spanish interpreter here in our local community in Portland. He’s a future dentist, entrepreneur, has his own nonprofit organization that’s doing a lot of good in our community. Someone who is compassionate and filled with passion and just really speaks from a place of genuineness and authenticity just really has, it has love in his heart for all people that he comes in contact with super excited to have my dear friend, my brother Fidel here with us.
Fidel: Yeah. I am super excited to be here and then connecting with you in regards to these important subjects and topics that now are so important for our community. I am honored to be here honored to share my story. I always say that, you know, there’s a power in sharing people’s stories because as we talked before briefly anyone can talk you in and out of science you know, like liberal arts, even theology, but no one can take the experience away from you.
And this is, what we are trying to do, we are trying to bring this conversation to live. We’re trying to educate and be educated. We’re trying to lead, but also following. And teach, but also learn through all this process. And my experience has been one of the I would say many people go through and I’m not by any mean the the one that kinda like once you leave the whole movement, it’s like all of us, our responsibility to share more and more.
I was born, as you said in Cuba, especially in Santiago, they Koa, which is kind of like a little province in the south east area of their whole island. And since I was born my mom took upon her, to move from Santiago, to look for better opportunities in Havana, and graduated with a biochemistry degree in Havana, in university of Havana.
And then that’s where she met my dad. And then we moved from Santiago to Havana and in Havana growing up my mom always have implanted or seeded in me, the responsibility of carrying my core values and my beliefs up on my sleeves and let that speak greater and louder than whatever color of my skin.
might be reflected upon. The growing up in Cuba, it was interesting comparing to here because we We have a sense of community. There’s so much that Cubans relate to one another because of the constant oppression and persecution that they experienced from the government.
So they, one of the ways that Cubans have been able to To cope with that as the level of responsibility, community oriented responsibility with each other. And that means taking care of each other. That means getting to the place where in the neighborhood, you can go to your neighbors for like a little bit of a coffee, or like if you run out of salt or sugar, I, remember so many times when my mom used to send me to one of my good neighbors now Luciana to get that little bit of a sugar or coffee, or maybe sometimes bread or sharing, like the food that you got, the.
Made or they made for us and things like that. So that level of community allowed to Cubans to get a little bit more in content with like issues like that raises racism is like.
David: So it may be able to connect and see beyond differences are.
Fidel: But although the constant oppression that we felt from the government which is systematic and enhance also that racism, right.
That hostile environment. Yeah. I remember one time when I was you know, having a day with my friends in old Havana I want to be better that all my friends that they happen adopt, you know, not all my friends are white, but like the group that I was with, they happened to be white. And we were walking down Havana.
And the police walked by and only stopped me and asked for my documentations my identification. Right. And at that time I was a little like taken by, but I was just like making light of it. I’m making fun of it. My friends also were actually the ones who stood up and said, Hey, this is wrong. And I, and once again, that level of community oriented that level of like standing up for the jumps in at least jump in, you know, and I was really taken by it because I.
I felt like, why do you have to single me out through all, like all these six, seven people that they are in the group. Right. And once again, but in myself since, I have all these core beliefs and I’m like, no, like I want to make sure that I behave in a way that is appropriate for my core values and my beliefs based upon what my mom have has been able to teach me and see it in me. But at the same time, there raised a question of. Why me? Why me?
David: Why are you singled out?
Fidel: Why am I singled out? Why do I have to behave? Like raise the bar to myself, to behave in a way that for other peoples is not expected. Why is it expected of me?
David: Yeah. You get tired of that. But imagine it means carrying, having to carry that where a lot, majority of other people don’t have to ever even think about.
Fidel: Now thinking back. You know, because once again, at that point he was like, oh, like he’s just calling me because you know, I got singled out again. Right. And that’s sometimes blindsides the pretty much the experience that you get in a regular basis.
And then you a, and you are not able sometimes to process those things, you know, because there’s a system, man. It’s systematic. It’s something that is almost embedded into the DNA of the society. You know, that sometimes the right code doesn’t, you know, like get transcribed or doesn’t get, you know, actually, you know, translate,
David: Doesn’t get, can’t change over overnight. And so when you came here to the us, you know, you were, what, 22. Hardly spoke any English. Yeah. Very little English. So you’re learning language, you’re learning the culture. What was your initial experience to how racism is played out here in the US?
Fidel: Yeah, it was really it’s really interesting to talk about that because I was Thinking and reflecting.
I was dreaming even coming to the states and believing, oh my gosh, I’m going to the land of freedom. That’s what they, you know, like that’s the whole statement, the American dream I’m coming from a place of hostility come up from a place of oppression coming from a place of restrictions.
I am going to the land of freedom, right? That’s like the most beautiful thing. I remember landing. And the first thing that I identify that I was able quickly to realize that there were not a lot of people who look like me. Right. And it’s straight to Portland, Oregon, right? I did well, we from Havana, we landed in Miami.
We stayed there for a couple of hours. And then from there we laid over in Denver and then Denver and straight to Portland that was like the whole day traveling. And there you go. A guy, you know, like, in the really early twenties coming to the states and He experiencing all those things at once.
Right. But when I, yeah, that’s a lot. But when I got here, the first thing that I noticed that there were not a lot of people that re that actually can relate to people who look like me. And once I’m not expecting, I wasn’t expecting to seeing a lot of Afro Latinos. Right. But at least someone that I can relate to that maybe has the same color of my skin that they have like some sort of like that I could actually see.
That was my first encounter. And I was like, oh my gosh, like I am in a totally different environment. Right. And as you know, when I left Cuba, I was in school I was in dental school in Cuba. And I was you know, I was fortunate enough that I worked hard in a dental school where I achieve a lot of awards achieve a lot of I would say I did a really good contributions back then and I was trying to fulfill my same dream here.
And oh boy, that was like, And most are in and out itself because as I was going through trying to find myself in this society and being able to communicate that was the main important things. Like how can you go through society and you cannot communicate. And on top of that, having this color of your skin, seeing you as a barrier, you know, as as hindering the possibility to connect.
So, no, that was like another layer, right? That to add to it. So I remember going through a lot of places and first of all I could not you know, like speak very well English at first. I could not in a while, I’m still kind of like struggling a little bit, but I think I have improved a little bit.
David: Your English is awesome.
Fidel: With an accent.
David: So how was that experience different? It sounds like it was accepting, you know, welcoming experience with the latino community here. And how is that different than with the Latino community here?
Fidel: Yeah, it’s different because the Latino community it’s when you hear the word you, you identify or you like prefix yourself with a different demographic, you know, and that happens in a regular basis.
You know, when I speak Spanish to a Latino community, sometimes they’ll be like, wait a minute, but do you speak Spanish? You know what I mean? Because once again, black person and the Latino community, they don’t see Afro sometimes Latino. As the someone who can speak Spanish, you know? So that was interesting.
I remember, you know, I worked with you for a couple of years and I used to as a Spanish interpreter. I used to go to the to the clinics and they will be kind of like wondering whether I actually was able to speak Spanish or not, or whether the translation was accurate enough now.
David: And unpack that a little bit. What were, what was that experience like when you. Where was it? Just people giving you a different look or was there anyone actually say anything or?
Fidel: Yeah, so, I felt first the look was one of the main things. I you call it out. It was like, wait a minute, you’re an interpreter.
Are you an interpreter? I do. You speak Spanish? And I’m like, yes, I do speak Spanish. And I, you know, the minute I started talking they will kind of like connect with me then when we will go to the room They would, there will be subtle, you know, like reassurement of comments as to Did you translate like exactly what I said?
Like, did you say exactly what I say? You know, and I’m like, yes. I mean,
that’s how I was trained. And she, and then I would just repeat that back to the the doctor, right?
David: Yeah. Conduit.
Fidel: Yeah. Yes. And she’s yeah but really do you say, so it was always she or he, or whoever it was in the room. It was always kind of like the re reiterating of reassurement.
That was actually a little bit discouraging because I’m like, yes, like I speak Spanish. I, you know, like I’m well educated. I am pursuing a dental career. So I know exactly, especially in the dental field, that’s a medical terminology. So that was really interesting. But there, I must say that the, there are some dialects that there are different from each community and each country, you know, from Mexico to Cuba, it’s different from Cuba to you know, like Venezuela or any country in Latin America who speaks Spanish like that speak Spanish. It’s kind of like a little bit that it’s a little bit different. Right, right. I’ll DOE the. The ability to connect with the Latinos or the Latin X or the Spanish speakers.
It’s, it was a little hindering because of the color of my skin, you know, because they assume. That I could not speak well Spanish or that I was an African-American trying to speak Spanish and you don’t get me. You don’t get all those things. So it was really interesting and interesting enough that when I would talk to them, you know, once again, that’s my core belief is like, yes and no is an opportunity or like a misperception or ability that you had as an opportunity for me to say yes. Right. So I would come around and they will elaborate a little bit more in what I do, because once again, coming from a dental background, pursuing a dental career, that’s that. The most qualified, you know, sometimes in those appointments, but yet they didn’t see me as such, you know, and speaking of that that was also one of the things when it comes to the healthcare system and it dental systems, particularly one of the things that I was not in all of the first couple of years, it was not able to see a lot.
You know, representation. I always find those words really empowering representation and relate-ability, you know, so those are those words that they always like now in this whole movement speaks to my mind because when I started my first Steps to go back to school and pursue my dental career at the beginning, it was coming from having no one that I could relate to.
It was coming from someone that I was trying to achieve this. And sometimes it’s defeating and really defeated because I was trying to achieve a dental career. I was trying to achieve a science degree, not having representation, someone that I can relate to, that I can see myself, you know, and that’s really discouraging.
Like, and once again, that’s systematic and then you start to like exercising these like whys. It’s like why there’s non there.
David: Yeah. As you’re sitting at OHSU School of Dentistry and you’re looking around, right. I mean, you’re. You’re probably not seeing a lot of people of color.
So yeah. Why is that? And again, you have to look back at our history. You know, we have to open the history book as to what brought us to where we are today.
Fidel: And I am like one of the things I’ve you mentioned really well there, that I really resonate with, it’s like leaning, that word.
You have to like there, the effort of leaning in and listening to those conversations and leaning in and listening to those experiences. Right? Those stats. Because sometimes we say, no, that’s what I was. I’m not going to lie. I was under that belief. Coming from Cuba. I was under the belief that I, when I went to the land of freedom, everyone is it’s the same.
Everyone is equal. Everyone is good. And then shortly realized that was not the case. And what I think what a once again, it’s my experience. I think of what is important to take away is that. Equality doesn’t mean that any, everyone is the same. Equality for my personal belief. It means that you have a fair access.
You have access, you know, the same access of opportunity, the same access, that same access that I was looking for when I came through the states, you know, Cuba. Having a lot of restrictions. You don’t have those access. You don’t have that access as someone else to decide the fate of your path, your trajectory right? Here when you go to the, oh, you come to the land of opportunities, there’s a lot of freedom. That access is like, smeared and embedded into so many systematic racial and and you know, oppression, injustice, and they, the advertisement that branded as a, you come to the best place on earth and I’m not going to lie.
I love this country by heart because has provided me with amazing opportunities. But opportunities that I had really hard to fight for. That sometimes I question whether that was you know, systematic or not. And now nowadays I feel like what I was feeling. It wasn’t wrong to feel that way because you started questioning yourself and you are like, why do I feel this way?
Why do I feel this way? Why do I feel that this person is not taking my job application or this person is not letting me get into these schools? You know yeah. Other than just the color of my skin. And why do I feel this way? You know, sometimes when you look at, you know, I went to PSU then I pursued biochemistry, you know, like taking the legacy of my mom because my transcripts were not transferable to the states.
Right. So I had to start all over again, you know, and that was a monster in and of itself. And once again, a black person Afro Latino coming from a different culture, different society, trying to aspire being educated, try to aspire pursue a science degree is really hard in this country and a black person period, trying to go into a medical field.
It’s really hard. First of all, no representation. Second of all this systematic, like the ground, the foundation of your core education. It’s almost not non-existent because the funding of the government and the education system, them the, you know, like the public schools, they’re not you don’t look in at actual, their root cause and putting things implemented to actually get to the point of where you are at a fair shot, you know?
And that, besides the point. You know, like, family struggles that besides the point of actual, you know, like police brutality, struggles, like community struggles that they face too, you know? So when you are growing up in this society and you’re a kid, and you have to think about all those things before you can actually focus yourself into education.
Pursuing a science degree pursuing any degree in general. It’s you’re not at a same start line.
David: Yeah. That’s not in a level playing field. Well, I think that, that brings up a good point as well, which is, I think it’s important to talk about, which is the whole idea behind the movement of Black Lives Matter.
When we look at well black lives matter. Yes. But what about. What about my culture. Cause I’ve also experienced racism and you know, maybe I’m, you know, maybe I’m from India, maybe I’m Asian or something like that. And I’ve experienced racism. So, so isn’t that important as well?
So like which racism is worse than it is. It’s not, it’s definitely not about a game of which racism is worse. It’s I think that when someone said this last night, when they were speaking at the at the, one of the marches I was at, and they said, when. All lives matter. We all know that all lives matter when black people matter, everyone matters, right?
When black people eat, everyone eats right. When black people succeed everyone is able to succeed.
Fidel: We have been in this place of insanity that we are doing over and over and over doing things and then expecting different results as to feeling that is okay. Feeling that it’s okay.
These gaps, right? It is what it is. I’ve heard so many times, even from my black community friends, like it is what it is, you know? They’re white, you’re black. You’ll have to do this things. When the police pull you over, you have to put your hands on your wheel and just look straight up, tell them exactly what they need to hear otherwise.
So all their people don’t experience those things. The other people don’t have that kind of like innate ability. I want to settle the people. I mean, other white folks. You know,
David: I never, ever have to think about that. If I’m walking down the street, I don’t have to stop and think, oh gosh, I need to be extra careful right now because I’m walking down this street at this time at a time of night.
If so a cop is going to see me differently and could easily pull me over.
Fidel: Yeah. And then that’s one of the things that I really resonate with because when you talk about. How to move forward. Once again, you have to know why these things are happening and tackle each sector, you know, and what is not working.
It has to like, they’d have to change. This is the time that we have to change. These are the time of, we are not, we’re not going to be able to move forward until our. Inwardly perceptions, abilities and believe like, look introspectively and see what is not working, because one of the things that I’ve been seeing right now, right.
That our allies, right, want to put black leaders in the forefront. They want to put they want to make those statements, which is all, all in all. I’m not saying that they are bad. I appreciate, I love that moment, but if you don’t change the perspective of your own organization in order to get the root cause and actually recruit talent, right.
And actually look at ways that we can volunteer and actually look at the ways that we can elevate the equity of our black folks. You’re not doing anything. You’re just like putting, like, you’re checking a box off. And if we don’t want to do that’s something that I really strongly believe, especially in the health sector and especially in the health system.
Right? Yeah. So how do you take those things in consideration. How do you take in consideration that these guy s, black folk, that came from a different demographic that has had a lot of struggles, had a fair shot. They might not get. Straight A’s because everyone, if they have all these boxes on, like check check, you know, like having a food in their table all the time, having, you know, like their family and the community is not being harassed all the time.
Having actually educational system that, you know, like allows you to learn and get that education, all those things. Right. Do you not going to get to the point where you can actually even inspire even think of a science career. So how can you as a health provider, as a institution like education wise you know, in the health field, how can you get to understand that and have a great shot. I always say to my friends that I rather take a 3.2, four student, not a 4.0 student, you know, because these three points and also look at what their story is. I’m interested in more about what your story is. Because I bet that you’re with all the things that you have going on, you still managed to make it.
I know that you are the one that is going to be they want to be because you’re committed to consistent to work hard. There are other questions of my friends that they said, well, like, when it comes to equality, right? Well, like, you know, only Michael Jordan is one of the most successful with his own company.
Then, you know, I people in the world and then he has like these company that is huge. And Oprah as well. In the fact that you just 0.1, two, three, out of like millions of black people,
David: How many people are there in the world.
Fidel: And that’s interesting because I was watching the documentary of Michael Jordan that The Last Dance and one of the things it’s like stroke me in my core, because he said he shared that.
As he coming up to the person that he wanted to be, he has like a narrow focus on like, when I say narrow focus, I mean like really good focus on what he, like the person, like who he actually wanted. It like inspired to be, he had to block all that noise. He said that he has to be able, he was, he had to be able to block all the noise to, to conquer that.
But imagine all these kids that they’re coming up and do exactly the same thing when all their kids, they don’t even have to think about that. Right.
David: They don’t have to deal with that same noise.
Fidel: Exactly. They don’t have to deal with the same noise. And that comes from once again. The, everyone has a fair shot to start at the same line, the starting line.
Now it’s all up to you, whether you want to run 50 miles or it’s all do whatever you want to run 20 miles, but at least, you know, like fair access to the same opportunities.
David: That’s really what health equity is all about. Right. Is recognizing that. We’re all starting at a different line, right? We’re not all starting in the same place.
So where is this person starting at? Where are they at so that I can help provide health equity? And so I wanna pivot on that question there to be able to unpack as we have a lot of providers that, that listened to listen to our podcast. Medical providers medical interpreters as well and translators.
And so what would what would be, if you had white medical providers sitting in this room today, listening to this conversation what would it be that you would want to share with them in regards to what should they know? When they are taking care of the limited English, proficient community patients or black patients.
Yeah. What is something that they need to know that maybe they’re currently missing?
Fidel: Yeah. That’s a really good question because you know, having this platform allowed me to actually pretty much leaning in and once again right. And understand. And one of the things that I really will like to express to them is the fact that even though you don’t speak the same language, right. That doesn’t mean that I have less value, you know, or less level of understanding. The fact that you don’t speak the same language English wise, right. Because we’re living in America. That doesn’t mean that I have less value, first of all.
And the fact that I am a black or that, I am Latino doesn’t mean that I cannot achieve a better health for myself or even achieve a higher standard of being in a position where I can actually provide that health. Right. That’s one of the main things because we always see ourselves because we don’t speak the language sometimes as the recipient of that help.
Right. And by seeing ourselves in that recipient end, it hinders the possibility to empower them, right? To empower the ability of them to achieve better health, achieve positions in the health system, you know, because you’re always a recipient of that. Right? You know, and that’s how, what has been there the whole time.
So for us, it’s important to shake and, you know, stretch a hand and say, no, like I am empowering you because I’m pulling you with me to get you to the point where you can achieve your, yourself, you know, like I’m empowering by pulling you towards rather than, okay, I’m here. I have to like, do that to you, or like provide help.
And then that’s it. And that’s one of the things that I really want to resonate because, with people, because he’s important that we empowered and empowering sometimes for me doesn’t mean that you give me what I need.
David: Give you money or something.
Fidel: Exactly. Yeah. Because a lot of providers are like, oh, we donate this much for these organizations. We donate, donated, which is it’s awesome. It helps a lot, but empowering also means, let me pull you and share the resources that I have. That way you can take care of yourself with the resources that I have been able to take care of myself and take care of you as well. Right?
David: That’s a that’s so, so true. Yeah. I was, someone was talking about that the other day, too. It’s like a lot of companies right now are donating money. Let’s say to Black Lives Matter or other great organizations, which is wonderful. And there’s a lot more that can be done to just like you’re saying, if all we want to do is just donate money. Just to be able to check a box or feel good that, Hey, we donated money.
So, you know, we’re doing something to help the community. If you’re able to do more and really walk, you said walk hand in hand with them to make that connection. Because ultimately that I was having a conversation with with Toc, a good friend of ours, here at Linguava who works at Care Oregon.
And she was saying, you know, the difference between. You know, companies that are getting this right now and companies that are missing this, healthcare organizations, there’s a lot of them are thinking about how can we engage more with communities of color and we want to be able to engage more.
And she said, you know, The what she, how she responded to that as she, again, gently leaned in and said, you know, instead of thinking about engagement, think about connection.
David: How do I, how can I connect with you? Because if I connect with you, then that’s a more of a personal relationship that’s being established that I’m listening to you after, in order to me, for me to connect to you, I got to listen to you. I have to stop talking and hear where you’re coming from that in order for me to provide health equity. I need to know where you are, and I need to know your experiences that bring you to the table today, because it’s going to be different than the last patient that I just saw or the next patient.
Fidel: And that is so important though, because even in as a you know, a recruiter under the admissions for schools, it’s like, how can I see beyond all these stats. I want to see where you at. I want to connect with you. Where are you at mean, how can I provide the resources for you to come to the point where you can actually experience what you want to achieve?
You know, from like a leveling that playing field, rather than you always going to be. It’s kind of like it rather like being a surety. You know? Yeah. It’s more like a fellowship. Right. So like that. Yes. Like it sometimes, you know, when you see a, when you feel that surety work on you all the time, you, your mind starts to think like that.
What you’re going to be at, you know, at that surety level, like, they’re gonna give you the money or they gonna give you this. And that’s why when they don’t give you that you expect that. And that’s why sometimes when you expect that you don’t get that you know, you get mad because you don’t have that in, in, in regards to, you know, like, like section eight in regards to, you know, like the Care Oregon plan, you know, health plan, things like that.
So if you don’t get it all food stamps, if you don’t get it, you get mad. Why don’t I get it? Instead of like sharing the resources that way you don’t even have to apply for that, getting meeting you where you are, the way you don’t have to do all the things, sharing the resources, listening to you and see, okay, this is what this person needs.
How can I share the resources that way he can come to me?
David: I love that. Creating the right programs to be able to get you there. Cause you can get there on your own. But, and so instead of just throwing, like you said, throwing money at it, it doesn’t, it helps in the moment. Right. It helps for the meal for today, but it’s the same thing with schools.
Right. If we’re looking at schools and saying, okay there’s great disparities here. So. What we really need though is better teachers, better funding to be able to create programs that then will create the same opportunities that maybe a lot of white communities are receiving right now.
Fidel: Yes. It’s one of the things that I, and that’s what was actually you know, like I started at my nonprofit actually a year ago. At its core values and mission is to pretty much provide that empowerment for these kids at an elementary level, right? Those are critical areas, critical pivot points, critical times for them.
They’re all like seeing all these transformations in their lives, on their own, seeing how it, you know, they can. Get to science or get to other places in their life. That what beyond what the reality that’s being represented to them at that point. So, I took in my senior year, I took a capstone and leadership capstone which allowed me to connect with communities because I really want to be I wanted it to be involved in the community and see what is actually doing what can I do? What can I provide, you know, like, in the community from a leadership perspective, in order for me to understand, once again, that word like you, in order for you to be a leader, you have to be a follower and listening in order for you to be a teacher, you have to be able to listen and learn.
Right? So I went to a regular elementary school and I was doing a lot of mentoring for different aspects like math, science, and, and the PE classes and these kids are super talented kids, but yet they have not been able to have a fair shot. Why? Because of a taxation I was trying. In my, like, I could not believe that the way that the Portland public district in in, in, if I say like all the public schools are allocating funding based upon taxation of the area where, right.
Yeah. So, The people around the school, you know, like the tax that they bring to the area is how much they’re going to be allocated to that. And I was sharing that perspective with some other friends and they were like, well, that makes sense. You know, the people that they bring, they, you know, like they have more income, obviously the school will like, you know, the district will give more money to that specific area because they’re bringing in more income and I’m like, how come don’t you see that’s wrong?
How come that you see that we need to level that playing for you on the elementary level, you know, at not even elementary level, like in elementary level, middle school, high school, how come you don’t see that is wrong?
David: Creating a huge disparities that are just going to continue.
Fidel: Exactly. And then that’s what we have to talk about. So I you know, I took it up on me to started my organization is called Project Lido which we provide you know, through building Lego robotics you know, like, workshops and in interactive gaming we provide pretty much like empowering these kids, providing like the resources for them to see themselves as leaders to see themselves as a communicators to see themselves as a scientist and in, in the future, you know, we enhance the stem, science, technology, engineering, and math. Like we really want these kids to be able to see themselves as such.
David: Now you’re providing resources and like classes and things like that? Or?
Fidel: Yeah. So it’s an after school program. We started at with Margaret Ms. Margarita, Atlanta elementary school which, you know, it happened to be my mom and she’s super passionate about education. And I wanted it to bring something to these kids. I’ve been volunteering with with, in her classroom for awhile.
And I wanted it to bring something to these kids that is meaningful, that they can actually utilize their talent. You go to their classes and they don’t have those resources. They don’t have Legos. Yeah. You know, and I’m like, oh my gosh, like Legos or something that I personally I didn’t grow up with, but they’re super fun.
And I find them that everyone else, like my, you know, like white folks, like generally. Use them have played with them and I’m like, how come these kids don’t have those things, you know? And that inspires once again, those like mindsets those like abilities to get themselves to see as such. So we provide that for the kids in the afterschool program, we have we break them in like groups and then we provide Lego kits and then they start to build in, like, we have a theme and they build this different, you know, like structures among Lego’s, but that inspires this like leadership, that mindset, because we assess like who’s going to be the leader of the team today. Who’s going to be a communicator. So by that, it brings in different yeah. Different aspect to it. And at the same time, we bring at the beginning of the program, which is a, it runs every year.
Someone that looks like them. From a science from like medical background, from dental background, from engineering background that looks like them, whether it’s like from the Latino community, for the black American, like black African-American community, we bring this we call it a mentor at the beginning of the the session to them to speak to them about what was her or
his experience always, they make it playful and funny because those are like elementary school kids, the first graders, third graders. But at the same time, they start seeing someone, they start to relate with someone that looks like them in those spaces.
David: You got to put themselves in their shoes. I, if they can do that, they look, and talk like me. I can do it.
Fidel: Exactly right. And that is my whole mission. But. We also aspire to go to communities around the world and do exactly the same by and enhancing these kids, you know, to enhancing this kid, to have that connection with other communities. So not only that I’m feeling the recipient of what we talk about of that surety. But also they, you know, like sending them.
David: Like paying it forward.
Fidel: Paying it forward, you know.
Fidel: Those are the connections that we tried to establish, you know, and where they see themselves up there, the recipient, but also this empowering them to like, paying forward and that change and shifts the mindset of them because they don’t only see them once again, it’s like a fellowship.
Right. So I like, we’ve been super busy this past couple of months because we’re going through a funding programs and things like that. But this is the type of things that I, when I started at you know, like when I funded this nonprofit to be able to, for us to have it. But we can only do that.
If we go into the communities, we look introspectively into our own self and say, how can I from here help? Because the majority, you know, it’s like, it’s not for you. Anyone is not in denial that you have to look inside of you. In order to like, show the reflection or what you want to achieve or what you want to be able to see.
You can’t go from external point of working inside. You have to come from inside and go out. And that goes from talent acquisition, volunteering, partnered up with a community organization. So how can these organizations- big, huge, they’re going to sit, you know, we have our ears, like their ears now, you know, how can they look inside of their organization, remove what needs to be removed for them to stripe away that like unconscious bias, there’s allyship. That is not, you know, like, we’ll serve through the community and like go introspectively, look at that and then go and do the work, you know, and I love how much the big corporations are putting so much passion into it.
Yeah, because that is what we need, you know, these are the time of where I’ve been, so like I’m so grateful to be alive in this time to make something good.
David: Amen. No, I mean, and I think that what you’re touching on here, which is so amazing with the nonprofit organization, how that’s giving back. And one of the things that my wife and I have been talking about lately is exactly that is a lot of the people that right now in this current climate are so upset about what’s happening or just, they’re just frustrated meaning that the, those that are feeling those are maybe that are upset at the black lives matter movement or. The they’re not the ones that are out volunteering. If you’re out volunteering, doing any sort of volunteering, you’re giving back, you’re doing something outside of yourself.
So you’re forced to then look at things differently. You’re forced to listen and you’re forced to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Right. And so I think that’s a that’s a takeaway, I think for all of us through this is that whatever, regardless of what color we are, if we’re all jumping into the community together and hey, we can have different religious beliefs, political beliefs, but let’s at least carry it and carry an at a heart of service. Heart of serving others and giving back. And if we do that, I think that will help eliminate a lot of the other differences that we see. We’ll still recognize differences.
It’s not about like some people say, oh, I don’t see color. You do you see color? It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s there. And it’s beautiful. So, so recognize it but don’t let that, don’t let that hinder your experience with another human being because there’s still a human being just like you are so recognize that.
And has been so, so good for that. We’re running out, we’re running short on on time here. So, so I want to ask you one, one last final question and then I’ll, and then I’ll wrap up is just what what would be the. Sort of message that you, if you had to give sort of, you know, three words, five words, what would be that message that you would want to leave behind for those who are coming up that inspirational thought that’s those words that have impacted you?
What would be that message you’d want to leave as a gift behind?
Fidel: Yeah. You know, as someone who has gone through struggles in life, as anyone has. Being able to achieve something greater and better than yourself is important. I feel like as my mom always taught me that let your core values and beliefs speak louder than whatever they can perceive you as.
And your color is beautiful. Your ethnicity is beautiful. Your culture is beautiful. And when you align yourself with your mission and purpose in life, and that passion that you have towards something, go after it, you know, That’s what I always tell my kids. I call them my kids. Let that core value speak louder than that.
Don’t be ashamed of that. You know, core values, beliefs, strong aspirations speak louder than whatever they can perceive you as you know, and then know is an opportunity to get a yes. You know? Yeah. And that’s, yeah, that’s one of the, cause a like Kesha one of the senior staff Intel share and know is an opportunity for you to, for, or for you, for anyone to turn it around into
yes. And that’s what we’re trying to do now. You know, we’ve been, the black community has been at a “no” stage for such a long time. Well, we’re still fighting and those protests, it’s going to be an opportunity for us to get us that yes. Yes. In education, yes. In, in, in dental and healthcare system, medical care system nursing care system, yes.
In an and interpreting opportunities for interpreters yes. To experience different language, you know, it recognize that yes. To, to. To institutionalize things in place that we move forward. Yeah. But from coming from understanding where we were, you know?
David: Yeah. We got to start there. So thank you all so much for joining in today.
And we’ll go ahead and leave Lee Fidel’s contact information at the bottom as well. So you can be able to support. His his nonprofit project Ledo and also be able to get in contact with him as well. Thank you all for joining us today. And if there’s any questions that you have or comments we would love for you to share them.
Any particular topics that you want to hear about for us to share next, leave those as well. And I’d love to to bring those up on a future episode. If you haven’t already go ahead and hit, like, and subscribe to the episodes so you can get more content and just like this today and feel free to also share this with your friends in the community.
We want to make sure that this this message is getting out. I believe it’s going to add a lot of value to those in our community. So I just want to thank you all so much for joining and have a blessed day.
Fidel: Yeah. Have a good day, guys. Thank you so much.
David: Fidel, thank you.