Geneva Smitherman: Dr. G. Yeah. That’s what my students in the first class I taught after I got my Ph.D. I was in the Afro department at Harvard, which had just been set up, and the students there gave me that name. They said, “We can’t call you Dr. Smitherman, that’s too stuffy.”
Carrie Gillon: Hi! Welcome to Vocal Fries Podcast, a podcast for linguistic discrimination.
Megan Figueroa: Hi, I’m Megan Figueroa.
Carrie: And I’m Carrie Gillon. So, today I thought we would talk about Quebec.
Megan: Yes, tell me. We’ve talked about Quebec before.
Carrie: Yes, we have. Quebec Nationalist Francois Legault wants the Canadian province of Quebec to welcome economic immigrants who can speak French in the future.
Megan: Economic immigrants. So basically people looking for jobs?
Carrie: Yeah. So basically not the refugees. People who are migrating to Canada and not family reunification either. So just people who are moving for work purposes.
Megan: So solo individuals?
Carrie: Not necessarily. It could be a whole family. It’s just that you’re not reunifying.
Megan: Interesting, okay.
Carrie: There’s no person here who can, what’s the word? I can’t remember but there’s a family category.
Carrie: And, that would be still fine, like stay the same. So it’s just the people moving for economic reasons.
Megan: Okay. I mean that’s a lot of what happens here and has been happening here before we had, like, in the ‘90s and early 2000s, I think about in the Southwest but…
Carrie: Yeah, you have the same basic categories. You have refugees and asylees. You have family reunification and then you have the economic immigrants. You have all of them.
Megan: I just never heard of economic immigration. I don’t know why. Probably because we have such gross rhetoric and such surroundings.
Carrie: Probably. Yeah.
Megan: Okay. Go on. So if they speak French, they’re in. That’s what he’s saying?
Carrie: Basically, yeah. It’s just another hoop you have to jump through to be accepted in Quebec. Basically, he wants to have only francophone economic immigrants by 2026 which is coming in fast.
Megan: Coming very soon, wow.
Carrie: He said in his previous run as premier, 80% of the economic immigrants spoke French and before that, it was 40% to 50%.
Megan: Premier, is that like the governor?
Carrie: Yeah, I guess. Yes, it’s somewhat equivalent to a governor. It’s not the same because the premier and the prime minister in a parliamentary system have to be the leader of their own party in order to also be the leader of the province or the country.
Megan: That’s right.
Carrie: But functionally, it’s the closest equivalent to a governor. Yes.
Megan: Okay. So he has had a very powerful leadership role before. But he’s not in power right now in any way?
Carrie: No, he is.
Megan: Oh, he is?
Carrie: He’s the premiere.
Megan: Okay, currently. He’s saying since the time that he’s been there, it’s been 80% Francophiles.
Carrie: Francophones. Francophile means you love French.
Megan: That’s right. It’s true. Anyway, Francophones. Okay. Anyway, 80% of the economic immigrants have been Francophones, but that’s just been a coincidence because it’s not law or required yet.
Carrie: I don’t know if it’s a coincidence. You have a fair amount of power if you’re in a leadership role. If you’re the premier, you can have your will trickle down through the bureaucratic ranks, right?
Megan: Yes, you’re right.
Carrie: But yeah, he can’t force it, probably, 100% until he passes the law. I don’t know in terms of Canadian law if that’s going to be deemed legal or not. So that actually reminds me of something that’s going on. It hit BC pretty badly that Canada basically ran out of all children’s Tylenol products because RSV hit us and the flu hit us really hard. It’s starting to hit the US right now but it hit us earlier. Anyway, so ran out of all these products and so in order to import them, you can’t just import them because there’s no French often on the packaging. So they had to figure out a way to print off special French instruments or something.
Megan: So in Quebec, you have to have signs in both French and English, and even the products?
Carrie: In Canada, all products have to have both French and English.
Megan: But not all signs in all provinces?
Carrie: No, the signs are– probably in New Brunswick, because it’s actually functionally a bilingual province. But certainly, in Quebec, there are very strict language laws about how big the signs can be in English versus French or other languages. French always has to be the biggest.
Megan: Every time we talk about Quebec, I’m just gob-smacked by this because we have such English supremacy here because of power. But, just the idea of a bilingual trilingual, whatever, multilingual place, I guess it’s just so foreign to me.
Carrie: Right. But, to be fair, Quebec is actually trying to be much more monolingual.
Megan: That’s right, but toward French. Yes. That’s a lot. We did one intro where we were talking about that.
Carrie: Yeah. So this is all part of that. This is what the Quebec premier is doing. I swear, every few months there’s a new language law proposed and, or passed, making laws yet more and more draconian.
Megan: Yeah. And as you mentioned, this guy wants to do it in a short amount of time. Doing all this, changing these things, the time that he wants to do it by, that’s going to affect people that are already living there, you know?
Carrie: Not really. I mean, they’re already there, and the rules are already quite strict. Remember how we talked about within 6 months you had to start switching all your services to French?
Megan: Oh, that’s right. Okay.
Carrie: Yeah. So it’s not going to affect them, they’re already under that.
Megan: Okay. They’re not going to be kicked out? These economic immigrants won’t be…
Carrie: No. Unless they commit a crime or something that, you know?
Megan: Okay. Yeah, but not because of the language thing. But they probably already…
Carrie: No, once you’re here, it’s pretty hard to get kicked out.
Megan: Does he refuse to speak English? I’m just wondering about him.
Carrie: That is a good question.
Megan: I’m just trying to imagine this man and this is what I’m imagining.
Carrie: My guess is he does because he kind of has to. But, he might not. There’s a small chance that he doesn’t. He refused to participate in the English language debate before the previous election so he just got re-elected, basically.
Megan: Wow. I guess you’re not there, but I just wonder if people in Quebec respect that decision.
Carrie: For sure. Obviously, not everybody, but there will definitely be a pretty solid base that would definitely respect that. To be fair, Quebec is a French-speaking province. It’s not strictly speaking bilingual even though Montreal is bilingual. There actually are some pockets of small towns that are English. But by legislation, it is a French province so it makes sense that he would do that. There’s no way that there would be a French debate here in BC. It’s completely English.
Megan: Well, doesn’t make sense, right?
Carrie: But if you have any federal aspirations, then you better learn French if you’re an English speaker.
Megan: Wait. But how good is Justin Trudeau’s French?
Carrie: His dad is Quebecois. He’s a French speaker too. I think he’s actually, probably,…
Megan: Grew up speaking French. Both.
Carrie: Yeah. I think he’s actually, probably, a really balanced bilingual.
Megan: I’ve never heard him speak French, now that I think about it. As if I would know anything.
Carrie: Yeah. Definitely, you wouldn’t be able to tell necessarily.
Megan: No. Of course not.
Carrie: I’m not sure if even I can tell, but I can tell that he speaks…
Carrie: He doesn’t sound like an Anglophone speaking French, I can tell you that. Because I know what that sounds like. Because that’s me. I think part of this is that he just won the provincial election and now he’s like, “All right, last time was 80%, this time 100%.”
Megan: Right. Yeah. He’s like, “Here’s my first 100-day agenda, or whatever.”
Megan: Okay, so we’ll probably see some more stuff…
Carrie: For sure.
Megan: …coming out of Quebec soon about language.
Carrie: It’s just constant. It’s a constant stream of language news out of Quebec.
Megan: Wow. If anyone ever thought that language wasn’t important for some reason, I mean, it is everywhere.
Carrie: It’s extremely important.
Carrie: And every community looks at it slightly differently and there are different concerns.
Megan: Exactly. Yeah, absolutely. We have such a good episode.
Carrie: We do. I know. We get to talk to someone who’s involved in the Black Power movement.
Megan: And, I just loved chatting with her so much. I could have gone on forever.
Megan: And I felt so good after our conversation.
Carrie: Yeah. It was a really uplifting conversation.
Megan: It was. We hope you enjoy listening to this conversation. That was very fun and uplifting to have.
Carrie: Yes. Enjoy.
Megan: Here’s another podcast we think you’ll love. It’s called Subtitle and it tells stories about languages and the people who speak them.
Carrie: Which is kind of like us.
Carrie: If you’ve ever wondered about she, he, or they pronouns in Swedish or Japanese, or why some people seem to be so good at picking up languages, then Subtitle is a podcast for you.
Megan: I’ve actually wondered about both of those things.
Carrie: Me too.
Megan: One recent episode profiles a woman who forgot her mother’s tongue and then set out to rediscover it. Another is about words that seem programmed to make us laugh. Another is about our very first and very last words. What’s your first word, Carrie? What did your mom or dad tell you?
Carrie: I don’t remember. I remember the first question I asked when we got to the cabin, which had no electricity. I was like, “where’s the TV?” So that clearly tells you something about me. I don’t remember what my first words were. Do you know yours?
Carrie: I don’t know why I find that so cute, but I really do.
Megan: Because I was very curious about buttons, apparently.
Carrie: Anyway, Subtitle is produced in association with the Linguistic Society of America and is hosted by award-winning journalists Patrick Cox and Kavita Pale. Listen to the Apple podcast or wherever you’re listening to this. They also have some episodes on why some people still speak Latin.
Megan: Communicating with extraterrestrial beings.
Carrie: Linguists who solve the crime. Sign me up.
Megan: I know. Is the polyglot brain different?
Carrie: And did Hurricane Katrina kill the New Orleans accent? Which is related to the did millennials kill the Philly accent?
Carrie: So that we have. So if you like our podcast, you’re almost certain to like Subtitles, so go check it out.
Carrie: Dr. Geneva Smitherman is a University Distinguished Professor Emerita of English and co-founder of the African American and African studies doctoral program at Michigan State University. Smitherman co-founded the first public African-centered elementary school in the country, Malcolm X Academy within the Detroit Public Schools. She is also known as Dr. G or Dr. Smitherman and the Queen of the Black language. She’s the author of My Sole Look Back in Wonder: narrative essays about her race, gender, class, and linguistic consciousness as a member of the Black power generation of the 1960s and 1970s. So welcome, Dr. G.
Geneva Smitherman: Thank you.
Geneva: Thank you.
Megan: We’re so excited to have you. I’m so excited to meet you. I really have to say that your writing is beautiful.
Carrie: Really is.
Megan: Knocks me off my feet.
Geneva: Thank you. I pride myself on my class in writing. Thank you.
Megan: You should.
Carrie: You really should be proud because most academics are not that good writers.
Geneva: Tell me about it.
Carrie: The first question we have is, why did you want to write this book?
Geneva: Well, I guess one of the things that motivated me is wherever I would go and give talks in the community or in different campuses, people who would always ask me, “Where are you from? How did you get this thinking?” Because at the time, I would have to say that the field of composition and rhetoric, which is an allied field of linguistics, was very conservative. They were teaching the King’s English and I mean King. They wouldn’t even say Queen’s English.
And they wanted all the students– oh, and Latinate grammar. That’s the kind of grammar they taught. When linguistics became an enlightened field, people recognized that grammar didn’t fit English. But, that’s what they were teaching in the late ’50s and ’60s. This is a long way around in answering your question, but I remember at a community meeting in Metro Detroit, they invited me there to talk about language and the proposals that the Detroit Public School was coming up with. In that community meeting, I did what I thought was the correct thing that I was being trained to do at the this prestigious white University of Michigan and Harvard, where I was the only black student in the damn graduate class. I presented thinking about what language is and what African American language is, how it fits the model, and so on and everyone was listening attentively to me. Then this one elder, I never will forget it because I was really young when they went to graduate in my early ’20s, and this one elder stood up and said, “It’s Black English.” Because they were still using the term Black English then. “If Black English is so good, Miss Smitherman, why are you talking to us in non-black English?” I was using an academic-standardized way of English. I never had thought of it so she posed the question. “If it’s so good, why are you not using that language?” So from that point on, I went home and remixed that paper with [inaudible] poetics and all in like language of the printed age.
I started writing academic articles for publication using a mixture of standardized white English and black community language. I was the very first person to do that in the field, actually. I made various publications in 1970, I believe. “English Teacher, Why You Be Doing the Things You Don’t Do” was my title. So since that moment, everywhere people would say, “What gave you the idea? What made you start trying to write in the language?” And I said, “Well, the community people. The community that raised me and gave me birth.” That was an attack. I’m thinking I’m being all cool and down. I’m with the movement and I’m talking this standard English that I’m learning up here in this elite top-10 university. I thought I was doing the right thing. There is no such thing “if Black language is so good, how come you ain’t using that? We heard you say nothing out of your mouth that’s Black English.” And, that was devastating.
The community taught me how to relate, and how to devise a way of communicating complex material, which they needed to know to make appropriate policy decisions about how to educate their kids. They taught me how to do that. I started practicing. I would even get in front of the mirror and just practice by myself and watch myself. And then, I have my little Sunday school kids. I would practice Sunday school lessons on them. Eventually, I was very sure, that’s how I came to develop my style. That’s one of the things within the field of linguistics and black settings that I became known for.
Carrie: That was one of my favorite parts of your book, actually, it was that story, and I was really hoping that you would talk about it. Because I think I’ve seen that kind of call-out. I work for the Squamish Nation, so first Nations here in British Columbia, and I see those kinds of call-outs in that community as well. I really appreciate that story.
Geneva: Wow. okay.
Carrie: So one of the things I also wanted to ask you about was the term “womanist”. Because I think that a lot of people don’t know what that means. And so, why do you call yourself a womanist and what does it mean?
Geneva: Well, I learned that term from my sister Alice Walker, who you may remember as a Pulitzer Prize winner of the novel “The Color Purple”, which would be turned into a movie and so on. Way back, this would have been in the ’60s, way back then. Alice Walker in her community talks and writings when began to talk about womanist liberation and womanist democracy. To my knowledge, the experience can crucify me on this if they want to, but she was the first person to use that term. In fact, she is credited with having coined the term womanist. And what did she mean by that? She said that if black liberation is going to mean anything to our people, it has to involve everyone. And in particular, there was a lot of chauvinism, male chauvinism, masculinists talk, and akin about when sisters could be leaders and who should be leading the struggle and so on.
And her position is that we need everybody in the struggle. We can’t just have black men, and we need to be concerned about everybody that isn’t just young black men and black women doing about the elders, the older people, and what about the young kids and the teenagers? So her definition is that a womanist is a person, male or female, or even now, what do you all call it? GQ. Gender is not relevant but [inaudible] have “two genders” because we ain’t know no better. And she said we can’t just talk about black men, even just black men, and women. We have to talk about the whole community. Older people, young kids, tiny kindergarten, and high school kids. How do we bring everybody concerned and needed into the struggle? And if you are a womanist, that should be your position. You are for everybody in the black community regardless of age, or today when you’re saying gender, education began that she got to be concerned about the whole black community. And, I said. “Yeah. That’s right.” And that’s why I’ve been calling myself a womanist, she developed that term.
Carrie: The subfields of linguistics are terribly disconnected from each other. And how it’s not like this holistic community thing. Do you feel the same way?
Geneva: Yes. Definitely yes. Back then in the ’60s, linguistics is almost always connected to education. And education is a discipline that was one of my majors, they’re calling us teachers. I wanted to be a teacher and I thought that was really important. But there is hope because as older generations fade away or die off. I mean, God, I’m not wishing anybody dead, help me, Jesus, I ain’t wishing nobody. But it is serious. But as older generations give way to the newest thought of younger generations and younger thought, linguistics has become much more disciplinarily connected to fields that depend on language like education much more than you connect it to anthropology or sociolinguistics now. So, it’s getting better.
In fact, I don’t know if you all know about this new project from Oxford University Press. There is a new research effort; a partnership between Oxford University Press and the Hutchins Center at Harvard which is established when Dr. Henry Louis Gates [inaudible]. OUP and Harvard came up with a project on the lexical of African-American English. They’re going to do a dictionary. I think it’s the Dictionary of African-American English that’s going to come out, it’s a three-year project and it had big funding from Harvard, from the Oxford University Press people, and from several foundations.
What the project aims to do is to document the development of lexical semantics, the lexical vocabulary if you will, of the African American language. “When was a certain word first used?”, “What did it mean and who used it in the black community?”, and “where has it been used in the mainstream way and other communities?” That’s all going to be in the dictionary. You would never have had these high elite academics and presses of that sort of centers cooperating and thinking on that basic level about–considering talking about words we can’t relate anymore like 24/7 and [inaudible] into the American mainstream black usage or black music or now from hip-hop. You would never have had a connection, academic pursuit, and mainstream persistence from everyday people. So things have changed and actually I’m very optimistic about that.
Carrie: Your book “Word from The Mother” was actually reissued this year as well. “My Soul Looks Back In Wonder” is coming out new. But in both books, you talk about the spiritual. You write that hip-hop linguistics brings new life into old verbal forms. How has the role of the black church interacted with hip-hop and the black language tradition?
Geneva: [Inaudible] what comes to mind immediately is the fact that many of the [inaudible] renditions and expressions that are now in black popular culture, including here in Manhattan, the Motown sound, and so on, a lot of those traditions and expressions, verbal expressions, came out of the black church. A lot of people will know that but the boys are swirling about that. Way back in the 1890s, [inaudible] and black church, that’s where I learned it. It’s from this writing. And, I think it’s because the black church is probably the most critical, cultural, institution historically in the black community. At one point in time, you go back to pre-civil war and even post-reconstruction, all we have is the black church. We didn’t have music or entities or anything like what we have now. The culture that we had and that we could manifest and embrace without restraint and constraint is the black church. And consequently, many of the very good traditions and culture of Howard came out of the black church. I went and got out of the church. It was a good secular rise. But they came out and then share [inaudible] in the black church.
It’s coming for in there, to me, communication of sorts between whoever is speaking like the minister or a deacon or whoever is speaking even if is just ordinary bitch war is coming to our communication directly in the way opened between that of the men and women in the church.
And so, you see movies, and you see scenes in the black church and see the preacher, they’ll say something, and somebody says, “That’s right. That’s right. Yep. That’s right. Speak on it. Amen, pastor.” So that back and forth, the call and the response, is that it’s a black church. Well, that transition into early jazz. You know the jazz unison, somebody owns with the man when we found out I gave back when he says, “let’s get the drummer slam.” and so, the jazz tradition and the Motown tradition, that carried on. You know how there’ll be a call and whoever is performing they’ll say, “Raise your hands in the air like you just don’t care.” That came out of the church. That’s a canon form of this communication of back and forth between the speaker and the congregation. The preacher or whoever is speaking will say something and people are just waiting to answer and that’s only like saying, go ahead, go ahead. That’s right. All right. So I think that’s how you see the power of the culture and the style of the church. Coming out of the intimate secular everyday world.
Carrie: One of the things that you talk about in your book is being sent to speech correction therapy. Could you just explain why you were sent and what effect that had on you?
Geneva: Well, in this thing is, this is in the 1950s if you do anything, go into teaching and get a teaching certificate, you had to pay a speech test. This is true in almost all the states, not just Michigan. The main thing on the speech test was the parents and the applicant had to use the traditional, standard, the method [inaudible], and pronunciation. if you didn’t know that, you fail the speech test.
So of course, he wasn’t speaking black English like me back in the 50s. And the Team X Men accents and working-class whites from Appalachia, Southern Appalachia, and south or in the urban, white working-class communities and the newer [inaudible], those groups smoke the standard text work. Many people in those groups did not meet the standard text based on the grammar of black. So if you fail that you have to take a speech test and you have to take speech correction. And you have to pay for it by the way.
So I remember in the speech correction plan, and I had a real attitude too. A lot of people in there did because I ain’t coming out of College Prep High School, which basically, at that time, almost has no weight with the three-point ban. And I maintained a 3.5, 4-point scale during my first freshman year at Wayne State. And not only that, I was trusted by my elders in the church– who when I finally found it, our church, in our living room in the Detroit, East Side ghetto– voted me to be the church assistant secretary just because I said “Ahh” instead of “Hi” or “Fow” instead of “four”. You know, those kinds of sounds which I don’t think need correction. And that is sort of psychological saving grace from that class.
While in there, I expected to see other negros students because as an assistant, you yourself are a negro. But I didn’t expect to see Hispanic. And, I didn’t definitely expect to see white people. I said, “what is that white people doing in here?” These were the Appalache, Southern, and working-class whites. We’re all in there. And, the speech therapist tested us for dysphasia, dyslexia, and stuttering. Nobody in there stuttered. She couldn’t get anything. But when she is a speech therapist, a clinician trained to deal with real biological speech disorders, she could not get anything wrong. And by the way, she was a grad school trying to get her little Ph.D., you’re not gonna give on like, “Anna stuff didn’t grasp the news and she’s slow, helped me.” You know woman and I got to do this. She taught us the test. I’d never forget that. Every day we practice other speech tests. There were other tasks. They even make a list of words and pronounce them. And then, you even had to do an extemporaneous biography of the account of your life in three minutes. And she says, “just memorize. Say something different. Don’t do that extemporaneous”
And then, after the end of the semester, everybody in the class passed the speech test. If you think about that, we were about 56 or 57.
Carrie: So you also talk about the deficit model of black talk. Yeah. Why is the deficit model so harmful?
Geneva: Number one, it is an inaccurate model of speech-language praxis, with no difference for black speakers as any other group. I mean speech-language is a basic biological phenomenon in the human species and so everybody’s got speech-language capabilities and [inaudible] are biological. And that they weren’t raised. [inaudible] have been “yes, sir” because It’s similar to what we just said about the kids’ need [inaudible] communication is disorder [inaudible]. If communication disorder. They’re mean…
Carrie: One of the last things I wanted to talk about with you is your experiences as an expert witness because I thought that was very interesting too.
Carrie: So whatever ones you want to talk about the floor is yours.
Geneva: This is my first expert witness court hearing. [inaudible]. It was in 1969 and there was a meeting at a church, an unpopular Black Baptist Church in Detroit. The pastor was Aretha Franklin’s father. [inaudible] Franklin was very recessive to the movement that is starting and slowly forming which led to what we recall as Black Power. But he was the head of many other Black church ministers [inaudible] of this progressive thinking. And knowing that this town will change, he supported a lot of black causes. He had allowed the Republic of New Africa, a national organization, to have a meeting in his church.
The Detroit Police, I don’t even know how they knew about it, it was a secret and he had no one brought into the church. But, they came to Bethel Church and disrupted the whole meeting. And then, the members of the Republic of New Africa confronted the police, and one policeman [inaudible] 1969 [inaudible] injured and maiming women have to be killed. So you know the force can invade the church. They arrested everybody in there: men, women, and children. They’re like two-three [inaudible].
They don’t have jail space for that many people so they put them in the bathhouse at the swimming– beach area of Belle Isle. This Island park that’s really one of Detroit’s crown jewels. It’s way out in there on the Detroit River right in between Windsor Canada on the west side and in the Lower East Side, Detroit in the undercurrent. He put him in [Inaudible] He immediately [inaudible] men, women, and children, everyone in this bathhouse. And so this was now about 10-11 O’clock at night.
Then when called Judge Crockett had to rein him or else kind of lose [inaudible]. So at midnight, I am weeping in the niche crocket. We held court in the bathhouse of the beach area of Belle Isle and release all the women and children. So in that court case, what we’re dealing with was that the police accuse the women and men of the Republic of New Africa, the male [inaudible] he’s there in the mirror. No witnesses, no proof, no nothing.
And they arrested him. At that point, whenever I [inaudible] lawyers that are way, too young in [inaudible], he was called to prevent bail or arrange the bail, and proceedings. And the Judge set his bail at $50,000 dollars.
Carrie: At that time.
Geneva: At that time. It.
Carrie: [laughter] it what?
Geneva: $50,000 dollars in 1969 was the equivalent of $361,035 in 2020. I mean he was a working man and he worked he just worked in his community organization. He was just an ordinary layperson and his salary–okay hear me out. The bail was $50,000. His salary for the year was $8,670. So, when they [inaudible] Haggard’s Lawfirm, he was in [inaudible] for everybody, both black and white [inaudible]. Very left-leaning. [inaudible] Marxist-Leninist publicly. I mean he has about two or three of his law partners.
When they had arraignment for him they wouldn’t allow Catherine and his partners to call any witnesses for him and may reconfirm the bail and knock him back. So that evening, it means meaning/meaning out doing this in the community Square Park in downtown Detroit. Each day in the courtroom, the legal team would go there and report the day’s events on the trial. To his very outspoken [inaudible] I mean eating in [inaudible] and he at that meeting told the public [inaudible] and announced the ridiculous amount of bail and merely capturing the charge– I already as forgotten this so wrote this books. But yeah, yeah, he had a few choice words for the judge. To the community he had there, he refers to the judge as a lawless racist. A rude bandit. Beast. Pirate. Hunky dog food.
Carrie: Hunky dog food. [Laughter]
Geneva; hunky dog food. [Laughter]
Meagan: That’s amazing!
Geneva: I can explain that. This guy is nuts. That’s what he called him. So well you can’t name a man you can use a point that you resonate in the courtroom. He’s outside in the fire talking down the community. And when the judge saw an 11 o’clock news that night with Catherine standing by him, he judge [inaudible] with contempt of court even though they weren’t in the court. The man had to stand the trial of the lawyer for him his little world was put aside for a minute and they had to start Catherine’s trial on these contempt charges. As I said, he went on the offense.
He got me an Attorney Howard Moore who had been [inaudible] with the King and `Angela Davis, and all of the Canon national attorneys, white and black. That’s when he found in me I was finishing my Ph.D. in my dissertation. He called me to meet a language expert and then how his language where it’s appropriate can please him and the people who use it, which was true. I found with Guinea’s help a layman from MIT, O’Neill. They do the math and help them put together, help Kenny’s legal team put together that he is speaking the language of the people he was talking to. He was practicing good socio-linguistic communication theory and [inaudible] your message to the audience.
And let me tell you, when the hearing was very [inaudible] we sat next to me, and on Monday, the courtroom was packed, and [inaudible] legal team. Yet, every minute there, opening argument they quoted the Famous Wayne O’Neill, a linguist from MIT, and hopefully, one day to be famous linguist, Geneva Smitherman of the Univeristy of Michigan, almost a Ph.D. That was the end of it. With all that ass power need, expert witness, that was the end of it.
So, it was dismissed. And to dismiss the contempt charge against Cockrell and for seeing the legal triumph, of Mr. Heyman. That was my first involvement as an expert witness and one of my most exciting ever.
Carrie: [Crosstalk] Yeah, I bet
Geneva: This is one of my favorite snoring [inaudible] cases now I’m an expert witness and that’s my favorite.
Megan: Yeah, well, it’s a good one.
Carrie: [Laughter] is good. Oh, no, I wonder I mean, I just really want to reiterate to our listeners, your writing is beautiful. And you [crosstalk] and do not have to be, I don’t care who you are, you will like these books.
Carrie: They’re fascinating. They’re so well written.
Megan: And they’re and they’re very approachable.
Carrie: They’re very approachable. And I say both books because as I said, you did “Word from the Mother” was reissued this year as well.
Geneva: Right. Kind of the classic news classic. you know.
Megan: Yeah that’s great
Carrie: Yeah, yeah know so “Word from the Mother” and “My Soul Look Back and Wonder”, I cannot recommend them more [Laughter]
Geneva: Thank you.
Carrie: All of your writing. I’m still in this uh I guess in the fight to you know to overturn deficit models of the black language of LatinX language, do you have any advice for me as I move forward?
Geneva: You need some allies in different communities, in different public policy levels, if you can meet somebody who works with or is a state senator or is a state congressman, they’re a help. Level with me, [inaudible] legal allies, legislators, policy-making [inaudible] allies, and then community organizations, civic organizations. Like in the black community, you know, this pretends even sororities even involved get involved. So maybe in some kind of social movement. What’s interesting to me is having more [inaudible] where people seem disconnected. When I say now in this late stage of my life, people are connected. I mean, they do here I mean, that’s sometimes like them Trump’s supporter [inaudible]
Carrie: Yeah. [Laughter]
Megan: We don’t want them to connect.
Geneva: Yeah, when a mean, but it’s well spread this. Nothing. So, that’s encouraging to me and so in that one, I’d say if you reach out to community groups, legislators, or aging people in the church community, or any church community, I think you can find some real help there.
Carrie: Oh, that’s beautiful because I think it’s like [crosstalk]
Megan: Good advice.
Carrie: like full circle here. It’s filled communities what I’m hearing.
Geneva: Yeah. yeah.
Carrie: [Laughter] Thank you so much.
Megan: Thank you so much isn’t really great.
Geneva: Can I ask you a real quick question about Vocal Fries?
Carrie: Yeah, sure.
Geneva: How did you come up with this name to bring your project?
Geneva: Fine, as in fine but it’s fine. When…
Carrie: The Vocal Fries?
Megan: The Vocal Fries.
Carrie: So back when we started this podcast, people were still in the media talking about vocal fry a lot and how women are doing it too much, and it’s hurting their careers and blah, blah, blah. And vocal fry is a creak, just you know, creak on our bowels.
Megan: Creak words. Creaky voice.
Carrie: Creaky voice. And, everyone uses it at least a little bit in English. Some people use it more than others. Men, men use it a lot and no one cares. Only we only care to notice it when women are using it. So that was why I thought we should have some kind of name related to vocal fry. And I was like, oh, vocal fries. And I [Laughter] actually asked my husband to create this logo.
Geneva: Really? It’s cute!
Megan: [Crosstalk] it’s pretty cute right[?]
Megan: [Laughter] because [crosstalk] I was like, yeah, so and I, I use vocal fry a lot.
Carrie: I, I’m the other generation that uses a lot and it’s like, Okay, we have finally Okay, podcasts aren’t normally hosted by women. We are the minority in that. So we have two women hosting so that added on to– I really liked how that.
Geneva: Okay, it’s clear. And definitely, attention-getting.
Carrie: Yes, thank you [laughter]
Geneva: Yeah. No, That’s great. Okay. Thinking outside the box.
Carrie: Yes [laughter]
Carrie: Yes. [Laughter] Thank you.
Megan: Thank you so much
Carrie: And we leave our listeners with one final message on this show, don’t be an asshole. [Laughter]
Geneva; [Laughter] Wonderful!
Carrie: Thank you so much.
Megan: Thank you Dr. G. [Laughter]
Geneva: Yeah, yes, nice knowing you, and keep on pushing.
Carrie: Thank you!
Megan: Thank you!
Carrie: The Vocal Fries Podcast is produced by me, Carrie Gillon for halftone audio. Theme music by Nate Granam. You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at vocalfriespod. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our website is vocalfriespod.com.