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Wisdom for families from LeDerick Horne, poet with dyslexia

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LeDerick Horne is a Black man, poet, activist, and person with dyslexia. He’s spoken at the White House. And he wrote a definitive book on hidden disabilities. But his life could have all turned out differently.

As a child, LeDerick couldn’t read. He was labeled “neurologically impaired” and was put in separate special education classes. And he struggled to find his place as a Black man in America with learning differences. He says one mistake could have led him to prison or worse, like many of his classmates.

In this episode, hosts Julian Saavedra and Marissa Wallace talk with LeDerick about all the people who made a difference in his life. LeDerick shares his advice on how to help kids of color with learning differences thrive. Stay tuned until the end of the episode for a special reading by LeDerick of a poem that will inspire your family.

Episode transcript

LeDerick: Just to have the words to describe this, that were not "you're dumb" or "you're stupid," but that there is neurological, biological roots behind why your mind works the way that it does. When you have that label, part of what it gives you is community. And so to be able to say, "I am dyslexic like Harry Belafonte is dyslexic. I am dyslexic like Muhammad Ali is dyslexic." And so you could start making all these connections, and your narrative is connecting to all these other people's narratives. That is just, that's very empowering. It's an uplifting act. That's why, like silences, it's never going to be golden. We always have to have to give words to our experience.

Julian: Welcome to "The Opportunity Gap," a podcast for families of kids of color who learn and think differently. We explore issues of privilege, race, and identity. And our goal is to help you advocate for your child. I'm Julian Saavedra.

Marissa: And I'm Marissa Wallace. Julian and I worked together for years as teachers in a public charter school in Philadelphia, where we saw opportunity gaps firsthand.

Julian: And we're both parents of kids of color. So this is personal to us.

Welcome back, everybody. Julian Saavedra here. Hey, Marissa, what's going on?

Marissa: Hi, Julian. Oh, you know, just some excitement in the building today.

Julian: Somehow, someway, we are incredibly fortunate to continue having really phenomenal people on the podcast. And our guest has spoken at the United Nations; he has spoken at the White House. A Black man, a poet, an activist, and a person living with dyslexia. Welcome, welcome, welcome, Mr. LeDerick Horne.

LeDerick: Hello, hello.

Julian: Um, so we want to make sure that before we jump into the actual interview portion of the show. We explained specifically one disability that we're going to be focusing on.

We're focusing on dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disability in reading. It may also be something that a student has a hard time with their reading comprehension, with spelling, and with writing. So making sure that when we speak about dyslexia, we're specifically focusing on the idea of reading.

Marissa: Thank you, Julian. Thanks for clarifying that for our listeners. And thank you, LeDerick, so incredibly much. We are beyond grateful for having you. I want to take it back to your early days. We would love for you to just tell us, tell the listeners, what was school like for you and what did the world look like at that time?

LeDerick: I think different points in my time through school were at times very challenging, at other times very uplifting. I started out my education at a private school, a Catholic school in New Brunswick, New Jersey — St Peter's. And that was kindergarten and first grade, the first time. And then first grade the second time. And you know, I remember being a kid. I remember enjoying being in school and being around kids, even when it would be that I was struggling academically. I recall first my family, they recommended that I be placed back in district. And eventually I was recognized as being someone who needed to be evaluated. I was initially given the label of being neurologically impaired. And my great teacher, Ms. Priscilla Yates, who was my first special ed teacher, and just how much love she poured into each and every one of us, a feeling that I still have today, just that the investment and the caring that she had. And I also remember our school district started a gifted and talented program, and this was a brand-new thing.

And Ms. Yates really encouraged me to go out and be a part of that class. And I remember stepping into it for the first time and feeling just totally overwhelmed. And I, at that point, I'd been special ed for a few years, and I realized that at that moment, I think I'd become institutionalized. I had been placed in an environment where it was very little interaction with other students outside of special ed, and that just felt overwhelming. 

Middle school, there was a lot of emotion around, I think, my identity and where I fit into the world, and thought I got very good at putting up the front of being OK. But internally I was not OK. And the further I got into high school, the more challenging putting up that front was to maintain. Until I got to my winter of junior year, and I always describe it as me just having an emotional breakdown. And it was primarily motivated I think, one, from just the stress of trying to like pass for normal, but also the fear of not knowing what was going to happen to me after I graduated from high school. I, this was at a time when I did not know, like they weren't really doing much in the way of transition planning, what I knew was that I, like, I wanted to go to college, but I didn't think that folks like me could go to college because all you do is read books and solve complicated math problems, and that was just, was not me at the time. And then the career goal seemed like it was always just going to be like manual labor. I was depressed and clearly showing signs that I needed mental health support.

I'm very fortunate that I've totally won the parent lottery. I have a very supportive family. I think I've also been very resilient, and I used that horrible time as an opportunity to rebuild myself and bounce back. And I started talking about going to college and then, yeah, and then the world changed for me.

Julian: Wow. I love how you're able to be so reflective, like being able to look back and identify specific moments in time in your school career where there were shifts. I call them like points of diversion. Where one or two or three paths could have been chosen, and each path that you chose led to a specific outcome. So, thank you for that.

LeDerick: Oh, you're welcome. Yeah, no, the point of divergence piece I think is important because, at any moment, I'm very clear, like I have, I had friends growing up that did jail time. You know, that got involved in all kind of behavior. And, and I would try to point out the folks that like, I'm a pretty bright guy, but many of my classmates, these people were just brilliant.

But I think so much of it is around how much support you have. And then, sadly enough, I think it's also the role of the dice. Like there were plenty of times where, you know, if — I don't know, an encounter had gone the wrong way, maybe I wouldn't be here today. And I also know that I, this existential dread that I think I carried for a long time when I was a young person where I just, I didn't think I was going to live past 25. I just didn't think that was in the cards for me.

Just before that breakdown, I know I was suicidal. I've described it in the past is like — the most clearest thing I remember is like wanting to get in an altercation with a police officer so that, that I get locked up or I'd be shot and killed. And the police officers have a name for it: They call it death by cop. And, um, yeah, those are, those were very dark times, and I was very fortunate that none of that took place. And I was given a little bit more time to work a little bit more on myself and to step into more of my potential.

Marissa: That's really raw and real, and I'm appreciative that you're at a point, obviously, in your life where you can go down and reflect and understand everything that got you to exactly where you are.

Julian: For you, when did you discover that you were dyslexic? When did that occur for you?

LeDerick: Uh, language is interesting. Who gets the label of dyslexia and who doesn't. And I definitely think of it as a label of privilege, right? So, I grew up in New Jersey. I was born in '77, and I'm a part of the first generation of students to really be able to take advantage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and creation of special education. And here in my state, one of the labels that was tossed around a lot, particularly for boys and particularly for boys of color, was "neurologically impaired." And so I carried that throughout my entire time. And it was like either you went to the neurologically impaired class or you went to the behavior class, right? I remember the kids in the behavior class. 

But I got to college. And my, uh, I was at Middlesex County College, and they were, they had a great support program for students with learning disabilities, attention issues, and they also provided evaluations. And so after being there for five years and getting ready to transfer to a university, I asked to be evaluated. I was, it was actually a fun experience because at that point, I had won so many battles. I had learned how to write. I'd become a math major. I'd like become a strong self-advocate. 

And so I was sitting in the evaluation, laughing at some of the places where I would struggle with spelling or reading, what have you. And then also just like, just slam dunking, like, I remember, a spatial relations question, and the lady was like, "Give you — everybody takes a while for this one." And I just got it right, immediately. As a person with learning and attention issues, sometimes our performance is sort of all over the place, but when those results came back, she said, "Yeah, you can call yourself dyslexic, you're dyslexic." And I think prior to that, the disability counselor that I had, she was the first person to sit down and explain to me what it meant to be LD, and I remember her introducing me. I was speaking to, I think, a group of IEP team members when I was still a college student. And she said, "This guy is severely dyslexic." And I was like, "Yeah, that's me. That's me."

Julian: How did that feel when you finally, you had a label to the things you were experiencing?

LeDerick: I grew up in both a household, I think a larger community, and the school culture also reflected the prevailing culture of silence where we just, we didn't talk about it. And I think it was one of the things that I was really craving when I was a young person, is just, can we have some dialogue about things which are just clearly not right? And no one was talking about it.

Going into college, I started to use the word "learning disability." And I know that there's like a lot of debate about the use of "disability" and "learning disability" and what have you, but I still use it because it was very empowering for me — some of the first language that I had to describe it. I also think of myself as someone who learns differently. Just to have the words, words to describe this, that were not "you're dumb" or "you're stupid," but that there is neurological, biological roots behind why your mind works the way that it does. And then the, I would say even more powerful than that was that when you have that label, part of what it gives you is community. And so to be able to say, "I am dyslexic like Harry Belafonte is dyslexic. I am dyslexic like Muhammad Ali is dyslexic." 

And so you could start making all these connections, and your narrative is connecting to all these other people's narratives. And that is, that is just, that's very empowering. It's an uplifting act. That's why, like silences, it's never going to be golden. We always have to give words to our experience.

Marissa: I mean, I've worked in special education for over a decade and I always struggle with certain schools or certain institutions that that is their thought, or they dance around, like we're not being up-front or direct with our families or our students. And I definitely think by the secondary, I've always worked in middle school and in high school, but at that point, it is unfair; it is disrespectful to some extent to not have these real conversations with students so they can understand themselves better. 'Cause I can only imagine that difference or that switch when you were at a point where you could provide language and vocabulary, because then there is that, then that connection and that sense of empowerment that I think so many of our children don't have, still don't have. So that's really eye-opening.

LeDerick: Yeah. And, and, you know, particularly if you want to prepare your young people for the adult world, because like this stuff ain't going away. I'm going to be dyslexic till I die. And if you're going to work for someone, when you've got, you've got employees or co-workers or a manager or whatever, and you need support, the adult world means if you want those supports, you have to be able to self-disclose. You have to be able to have that conversation. And I encourage us, with our young people, to start having those conversations as early as possible. And I think at any age, we can start talking about this. I think, and I think everyone can embrace that, and we, at a very basic level, all of us should be aware. And I think that this is an exercise that every single human being needs to do, is you need to be clear about what your strengths are and what your challenges are.

Marissa: You have said in the past, and you kind of already gave some shout-outs to some teachers, but you said that it takes one person to change a life, right? So I don't know if it's the person you already mentioned, but who was that person that you feel really was that catalyst or that life-changer for you?

LeDerick: Yeah. So I was in school as a little kid and just passing from one grade to another. And then, yeah, Ms. Yates, my first special ed teacher, just created this safe space. And so when I was really young, that was, that was her. And I, and I know that part of the reason why I've been as successful as I have been is because that one person has shown up at different times. When I was in high school, there was a substitute teacher that used to just show up, and he was just like this hippie, neo-hippie dude who was talking about auras and all this other kind of stuff, but it was also just like a moment where I was just like questioning myself and my place in the universe. And I wanted to have these big philosophical conversations, and this was a guy who I could talk about meditation, and I could talk about these sort of things and how our decisions directly affect what our reality is like.

And then when I got to college, Susan Conlin, who was my disability counselor, she showed up, and she was the first person to sit down and read through my documentation with me. So all of my IEPs, all the evaluations that had ever been written up about me and my learning disability, she was the person that sat down, laid everything out to me, and gave me the permission just to write and to not worry about spelling as much. And no one had ever given me that kind of permission, right? Like the, to make, that there was a certain honor in making mistakes, and that was just a part of the process of learning, and just — it's going to happen, so let's just figure out what's your process is going to be. She just empowered me to, just to embrace the idea that, that I could write and just to write anything. 

And at the time I think she was just encouraging me to get these essays done so that I can get out of remedial English, but I took that home and started writing poetry and, yeah, and it just opened up a whole world for me.

Julian: I'm always interested in hearing specifically about the experience of Black men and their experience with learning and thinking differences. You know, as a Black male educator myself, I've been fortunate to work in schools where the majority of the students I work with are Black folks. And I know that in the 18 years that I've been in education, there's been a pretty big shift in the way that we speak about special education. 

Earlier in my career, there was a pretty strong stigma related to any time we talk about special ed. And now probably in the last five or six years, I find that our parents and our students are coming into school way more knowledgeable about the process, a lot more open to discussing special education and all the opportunities that come with it. 

And I'm wondering, from your perspective, you experienced it as a student and even throughout the time you transitioned from elementary to middle to now the college experience you had, and now as somebody who's working in the field, can you talk about like some of the things that you've seen transition and specifically with, with Black men, how that plays into what that transition looks like?

LeDerick: I agree with you. I think that the landscape is definitely changing. It's great to be able to interact with more and more families who are open just to utilizing supports like special education, but particularly for Black families. But I also think it's just, it's very spotty, right? There are times where you're looking at like multigenerational trauma related to schooling, and that there are families that are just like, "I'm not going to put my kid through what I went through," because maybe mom and dad had the experience of passing through special ed and it was not an inclusive environment. Special ed was probably more of a space that you were in versus a set of services that you were receiving.

I think that some of the biggest challenges that educators and advocates face is being able to help people to see what are some of the benefits that come along with having your child evaluated, with having special education supports.

I know as a, you know, as a Black man, you're carrying this legacy, at times like having to feel like you need to be perfect all the time. I can't make a mistake, right? I can't make a mistake. And that goes from like the clothes you put on when you step into a professional environment or any kind of environment to the language that you use. And it can be very challenging to say, "Look, I really can't spell that well, or I really cannot read that well." And particularly given all the history that our people have fought through to be able to gain the actual right to literacy. And to say that this is something that I cannot express in the same way as everybody else can, there are a lot of people who just aren't trying to hear that. And then when you combine it the idea of being a man and all those, those constructs that come along with that and how —

Julian: You have to be twice as fast, and there's no margin for excuses or for error, like you just got to get it done. No matter what, you just got to get what you need to get done.

LeDerick: And when I talk, get the opportunity to go into schools and to talk to students, I say that's — one of my number one goals is just to help everybody to understand that it's OK to ask for help, that there is nothing wrong with that.

Julian: So thinking about them and thank you for helping us understand there's commonality.

And a lot of the things you're speaking of are things that I've experienced myself and things that I even see in my students now, experiencing talking through some of that, and the idea of having somebody that they can trust to express what they're experiencing is really incredibly important.

I hear that you're a gifted poet, and I've been able to check out some of your work. And tell us about that. What is it about poetry that spoke to you or inspired you, and how did that process happen?

LeDerick: I think I've always been a lover of words from like the very, very beginning. My mother tells stories about me telling stories as a little boy and just having a pretty strong command of language, at least spoken word. And then I recall as a very little boy, recording segments of "Hamlet" when it was on TV and interesting jingles that just had an interesting rhyme structure. And I remember being in, probably in the seventh or eighth grade and taking my father's, one of his cassette tapes, and it was, it had "Hotel California" on it. And I just remember the storytelling within that song and just being amazed by it. 

And I know I was also really blessed because I went through, graduated from high school in the mid-'90s. And there was a, that was an era of hip-hop that was very conscious, politically conscious. I'm in the special ed classrooms with a bunch of Black boys, many of us want to be emcees. I had some classmates who were amazing artists, and I always give them a lot of credit and appreciation because I think many of them could see the poet in me before I could, and were like inviting me to come out and to try to say a rhyme and this, that, and the other. And I was horrible. I couldn't do it, but I, but I got, yeah, I got to college and I learned how to write essays.

I got to utilize spellcheck. I got a real clear understanding of sentence structure and the use of punctuation, and yeah, and then I just, I began waking up in the middle, like literally in the middle of the night and just writing poems. Like, some of the first poems that I remember hearing were, my mother had a Last Poets album, the first Last Poets, who was a group from Harlem, New York. Yeah, and so I remember being a kid and listening to those albums, and that's what poetry became for me. I really think the responsibility of the artist is also to use your work to create a better world, to push our society, push our culture to be more inclusive, more accepting. That's how I, how it began. And I, I remember taking my pile of poems that I had written in the middle of the night and stepping on a stage in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and reading my first poem. And everybody clapped, and I was, and I was hooked.

Julius: They snapped.

Marissa: You mean snapped!

LeDerick: Right, right.

Julius: Who did you rap with?

LeDerick: Yeah, so some of my favorite groups were like, I don't — like, the Digable Planets? I don't know if everybody remembers, like who — like that. I got to , before the pandemic, I got to, got to go see the Digable Planets. My wife got me tickets, and that was like an incredible moment. But yeah, like a Tribe Called Quest.

Julian: Q-Tip, uh, Mos maybe?

LeDerick: Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. The whole Black Thought movement. I'm a lover of Jay-Z's lyrics. You know, I remember, you know, sitting outside of a teen club trying to freestyle over "Can I Live?" Shout-out to Brian Wallace who is now a, principal, uh, down in Maryland. And we'll every so often drop a rhyme for his students, write a note just to let them know what's up. And he's also a minister. And so I've gone to some of his services, and he will, he will rap with the choir, you know? And so, —

Julian: That's a form of communication, right? And that's a form of expression that, you know, are our gifts to the world has been through the artistry of words. And that's why it's just so profound for me to hear, you know, somebody who experienced dyslexia, and you flip it on its head, and you go out and share with the world, you know how to take these words and not only master it but make it something beautiful. Shout-out to yourself too, for doing that and recognizing that this is something that you could do to share with everybody else.

Marissa: I definitely heard a lot of lessons and a lot of things that you learned through your journey of engaging with poetry and how you, and again, like Julian said, like you did, you flipped it on its head and you really took something that others might've seen as a weakness and you turned it into your strength. 

So throughout that process of becoming a poet and becoming your true self, I'm sure there was some of those struggles or some of those moments you potentially were like, "Ah, I don't want it. This is hard." Right? What would you say to someone who may be out there really wanting to do something that might be not what others think they can do, but what do you tell them? How do you tell them to work through those struggles?

LeDerick: First, personally, I think one of the great gifts of the Black experience and particularly in my family, like my grandfather was a civil rights activist, my parents definitely, they were raising me on the tail end of the Black Liberation movement. And I knew who Malcolm X was even as a little kid, and Martin Luther King. And going through my breakdown, one of the things that I realized was that I could map onto my experience, the overall Black experience. So, to say that is to say I know that society gets it wrong, right? Like the dominant society, oftentimes does not know what the hell it's talking about. And as a Black man, you can be told like you're destined to be a criminal, you don't have anything to offer to the world, all this other kind of stuff. And then at some point you just kind of like, nah, that's wrong. Like, I am not going to buy into that. I am going to choose another path.

I think one of the more powerful things is just to, to share my own story. But it's also to remind them that when you're, like, I think all of us sometimes have these passions that maybe are in no way connected to what our skills are, but if you can — if you follow that passion and put the time in and the work in, you can become whatever it is you imagined. And I think all of us have to be comfortable with the idea that you may not be great-great at the beginning.

Marissa: Take that leap and put in the work. That's what, I hear you, like, that's the two things, those two things to hook into and do.

LeDerick: Yeah. And it's, and you're right. Nothing is going to save you from putting the work in.

I think that's another thing that dyslexics, if you're going to be successful, you do have to be comfortable with is the idea that nothing's going to save you from having to work sometimes much harder than everybody else, even with all the supports in the world, like many of us are just going to have to put more time in.

Julian: Thinking about that mindset that you've developed and specifically in all of the work that you've been doing — you have tons of accolades. You've done a lot of fascinating things. I'm interested to know, like, what is the part of the work that you enjoy the most?

LeDerick: I wrote this poem "Until Every Barrier Falls," which was celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And I shouted out Judy Heumann in that poem. Judy Heumann is a disability rights advocate, a legend in this space. Immediately, like upon us talking, was like, "You need to, I need to introduce you to this person. You need to meet this person, meet that person."

Julian: That's how those things work.

LeDerick: Yeah. But I walked away from that and I was like, there's power and just like connecting people. And so one of the things that I enjoy really now is being able to like meet somebody and say, "I know someone else that you should be collaborating with, there's somebody else. And they may be on the other side of the country, but you all need to know each other.

And I just started working with a new accountant and I connected her with, uh, a Black woman-run nonprofit organization. And they're doing amazing stuff together right now. And so there's, yeah, there's something about that, that, like, building community, which is really exciting. Within the past couple of years, I've made a very specific effort to do work directed to helping the Black community in particular, right? So people with disabilities, a variety of disabilities within the Black community. There's a lot of work to be done there. I think one of the things that, if you really look, I think objectively at whether it be within dyslexia or any sort of disability supports, there are a lot of white folks who are running the organizations.

There are a lot of white folks who have really figured out how to take advantage of different resources out there. And a lot of that knowledge and that access hasn't trickled down to communities of color. You know, addressing some of those disparities is something that I'm really passionate about right now.

And then, like last week I through some of this work that I'm doing with a local school district, an administrator connected me with a senior in high school who's dyslexic. Got on a Zoom call with him and his mom. And the beginning of that conversation, this young man was like, "I'm going to be a construction worker." And in 40 minutes, he was like, "No, I'm going to college." I don't think everybody needs to go to college, but I don't want any of us to make a decision about our lives — I don't want us to make it from a, I don't want any of us to make a decision about our future from a place of fear.

Marissa: LeDerick, the work that you are doing is critical. It's impactful. The bridges that you're building, these connections, and these relationships are really what our society and our world needs to really evolve and be a better place. Can you leave us with some advice for our listeners, for families, our caretakers, especially those who are navigating their children or individuals who have learning and thinking differences. And, and of course, like you said, you shared a lot about your own intersectionality between race and having these learning and thinking differences. So what advice or key words or key phrases do you leave with them as we get ready to close out today?

LeDerick: The big challenge about having, for most of us with learning and attention issues, is that you can't see it. You can't see it from across the room. I encourage families, the person you meet at the grocery store line — it's OK to talk about getting these supports or thinking about getting these supports with my kid or, because you just never know who you're connecting with and how that word may spark them to take the next step that may help their child. 

Part of the work I'm doing now is to try to build a coalition within religious institutions within the Black community. I think all of our churches, our mosques, we should have some sort of ministry around supporting folks with disabilities or differences, you know, bringing those conversations within those spaces, particularly spaces which traditionally we sought out support. We've always sought out support.

Sharing your story is really important and it's something that I encourage our families to do. And I think again, part of the reason is because, um, this can be very challenging, right? It's going to be challenging for, for mom, dad, grandma, aunts, and uncles. It's going to be challenging for the kid, but none of us have to go through this alone.

So the sharing the story part allows us to build community, allows us to draw strength from each other, and then the — to be able to share resources that, it's at times overused, but it does take a village. It takes a village. And so, you know, all of us should be working to try to build that village. Can I do a, can I do a poem to close?

Julian: Please. I was going to ask, too, but I didn't want to put you on the spot.

Marissa: Right? I'm like, I didn't want him to think, "Oh man." But if you're ready, please. Grace, grace the listeners with your words.

LeDerick: So we, we, we ended by talking about family, so I'll, I'll do this poem I wrote about families. And, uh, the poem is, it's hanging up in my grandmother's home.

The first and rarest gift is love. 

It is a light. A kiss. Commitment. Promises whispered. A touch gentle. 

We are, because those before us dared to love, to step forward together, out from Pharaoh's land into a future unknown. We are that future. 

Within each of us, there is a promised land. 

Our bones are made strong by our grandparents' belief. Our skin still carries the warmth of a sun-filled sky. 

It's been a roundabout way. At times the road was hard, but somehow we found a path. 

We always had enough. 

And we still fly. 

We still fabulous. 

We still shine like grandmother's smile. 

Still shine like candy paint on summer's day. Still shine like the gold of wedding rings. Still shine like the love that pulled us through. 

A cloud by day, fire by night. 

Even with a mask on you can see our light. Even at a distance we stay in touch. 

Through post, we share our prosperity. 

Through the phone, we answer a call for support. 

Through screens, we meet newborn sweet babies. 

The dream was tested but not deferred. 

The turntables might wobble, but our music kept playing. 

Through it all, our hearts kept dancing.

And we still fly. 

We still fabulous. 

We, the twists, the braid, the wavy straight fade. We, the caged bird song, phenomenal, beloved, the ones who still speak of rivers. 

We, the dark brown, light tone, cocoa-sweet descendants of tears and triumph.

We, the gamblers, penny stake players, $2 birdies, hustle, and the joy. 

We, the workers, the hands made rough from plow to factory, from blackboard to emergency room, from office space to hair salon. 

We, the draped up and dripped out, riding slow, deuce out. We, the voices seeking grace, praying in mercy, lifted in praise and song. 

We are that song, that poetry, the lyric living humanity's rhythm of people dipped in the blues.

We are family. Yes, yes, y'all. We are family.

In my grandmother's house, there is love. The first and rarest gift. That love lives in each of us. It is our inheritance, our light. It is the connection that connects us all.

Thank you so much.

Julian: Thank you, brother. Thank you for blessing us with your presence. Thank you.

LeDerick: Thank you for having me, y'all.

Julian: You've been listening to "The Opportunity Gap" from the Understood Podcast Network. Do you have something you'd like to say about the issues we discussed on this podcast or a topic you'd like us to cover? Email us at We want to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.

Marissa: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at

"The Opportunity Gap" is produced by Cin Pim. Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. And Seth Melnick is our executive producer.

Julian: Thanks again for listening.


  • Julian Saavedra, MA

    is a school administrator who has spent 15 years teaching in urban settings, focusing on social-emotional awareness, cultural and ethnic diversity, and experiential learning.

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