This is The Official Statement from Bernando LaPallo and his family concerning the authenticity of the date of his birth. We feel it’s important to set the record straight before endless interpretations and reinterpretations are made by others that have no knowledge of his intimate family history particularly at the juncture of his 112th birthday occurring August 17, 2013. We are going to address two such misinformed and erroneous claims by naysayers, dig into history and present Bernando’s account verbatim while revealing our own family document thanks to the foresight of Bernando’s maternal grandmother Henreitte Carr. We would also like to acknowledge that there are countless stories in the United States that have not been told in full. For the sake of those who have not had the chance to speak up and be heard, or be taken seriously, or who have been discredited as if they were orphans with no fathers or mothers or no understanding of who they are, where they came from and what their lineage is, this is for you. We are stronger when we tell our stories completely.
To the Media – What is Left Out is as Important as What is Left In
Now we address the media. You are burdened with the inherent responsibility in the field of reporting and it your job to listen closely and learn as it is a process of discovery. Ask better questions. Recognize that there are multiple forms of gathering information. A well rounded approach adds depth and credibility to you and serves the public better. If you find yourself with the good fortune of speaking with elders who have lived through a particular time (that you have not) listen carefully, listen respectfully. Oral history can be cross checked with historical events. Explore the social climate of the times: What were the mores? What were the restrictions or prejudices that were prevalent in society? How do they differ from today’s attitudes if at all? How can you deepen our vision? It is precisely due to a lack of vision and a jumping to conclusions that has prompted us to present our story since the media failed to do it’s job properly. And what is this job? To use their positions positively in order to educate people and engender discussions by uncovering layers of history rather than obscuring it’s richness through shallow coverage. What is left out is as important as what is left in. Deeper discussions, although difficult at times, are sorely needed. It is a sign of respect and a symptom of a healthy society that values it’s members, particularly it’s elders. What they transmit and teach us is important as it may spare us from repeating mistakes with a wisdom born of hindsight. Regardless of caste, creed or origin, be willing to reflect on profound meanings. Consider that methods of collecting data itself can be subject to flaws since, in the end, data is collected by humans. Paying close attention opens the door to what clues to look for or the questions to be asked particularly if out of the range of the reporters own personal experience. Is this not wise?
The Heart of the Matter
Trouble first appeared on Bernando’s facebook fan page in May of 2013 when a Steven Sherlock, claiming to be part of the Gerontology Research Group staff (of which he is not) wrote that Bernando’s age was “likely fraudulent”. The GRG that has declared itself as the absolute authority on super centenarians, might want to expand it’s scope as to what kind of documents are acceptable as proof. Later, a sensational piece of “journalism” published by AP News reporter Ben Walker following Bernando’s trip to Yankee Stadium on June 1, 2013 appeared. Bernando and his oldest grand daughter Erika Chamberlin, conducted a lengthy phone interview before this piece appeared in the press. A considerable amount of time was spent with Mr. Walker explaining Bernando’s side of the story. Ben Walker stated that he himself had been to the social security office himself trying to establish the correct date of birth for himself at least “ten times” and he is a much younger man. Ben Walker decided to leave out the very information that would have made his story truly interesting. We find it unfortunate in this digital age of “instant information “ that so much is omitted because it is deemed to be too inconvenient to report. In other words, some thinking is going to have to be done and perhaps some unpleasant episodes on our history looked at. Opening up historical topics to deeper examinations and discussion is absolutely critical to understanding ourselves and each other. Since Mr. Walker missed that opportunity we are taking it.
Midwives and Records of Birth
There is an assumption today that a delivery in a hospital and a birth certificate has always been the norm. Up until the 1920’s children were delivered by midwives in the mother’s home or a designated structure. Hospitals and their attendant bureaucracy sic; birth certificates came in vogue much later. The documentation of the birth of a child or other significant events in the life of a family would be passed down through oral tradition or recorded in a family bible if people could read and write. This was true for black families as well as white families. In the United States. Bernando was delivered with the assistance of a midwife in Victoria, Brazil on August 17, 1901 in a simple structure where expectant mothers went to labor. Today where that structure once stood at the edge of the jungle, is the Hospital of Sao Joao or Saint Joseph’s Hospital. The shack and the midwife who delivered him are long gone but Bernando, who is living history, remains.
Bernando’s Account Registering for Social Security in the Jim Crow South
“Well the whole thing is this. First of all when social security came out in 1934 I was working in Florida for the Hage Brothers opening cafeterias for them as a chef.They were a Swedish family. I opened two in Saint Petersburg and one in West Palm Beach on Olive Street. They were called Traymore Cafeterias. My boss, Ainard Hage, one of three brothers, came to me and told me I better go down to register so “when you get old you get your benefits.” I replied, “You are right about that”. So when I got there to the government office in Saint Petersburg they had separate offices. One for coloreds and and one for whites. I don’t know if you have heard about segregation but that’s the way it was. The man in the office asked me when I was born and I told him. “I was born in 1901. I was born in Brazil”.
The man answered me “Where is that?”
I replied, “You mean to tell me that you are out here taking a census and you don’t know where the fifth largest country in the world is? Anyway,I know American history better than you do. If you were a colored person born here you are right, there were no records of the birth dates of slaves. But I was born in Brazil and we had records.” The census worker told me that “I looked too good” for a colored man although that’s not the word he used if you understand my meaning. He said he didn’t believe me and that he was going to put down 1910.
Years later, when I went to the social security office with my mother Mattie, I was living at 72 -10 41st Avenue in Woodside, Long Island although for real estate purposes it was called Jackson Heights. I drew my first social security check when I was 65. I took her with me so they could take her word as to when I was born and where. She was my mother after all. The Social Security Bureau informed us that they couldn’t update my records because “it was registered now”. When I told them I could obtain my birth records from Brazil, I was told it would “take too long” and they’d put it back a year to 1909 which they didn’t do. I was cheated out of several years of my social security benefits. Anyway I’m not going to worry about it now but that’s what happened.”
– Bernando LaPallo, Monday, May 27, 2013
“You Might Need This One Day” – Pages from the Family Bible
Shortly before she died Bernando’s maternal grandmother Henreitte Carr gave him something valuable that she thought he might “need one day”. Her foresight is uncanny and remarkable in a way only mothers and grandmothers can be. She tore a few pages out of the Carr family bible published by the Oxford University Press in 1885. Handwritten was a list of the names and dates of birth of her children and grandchildren. Her and George Carr’s children listed are: Willie Carr June 12, 1889, Hannah Carr September 16,1872, Dora Carr July 10,1873, Walter Carr May 12, 1874, Mary Carr March 16, 1875, Virelle Carr December 31, 1875, Georgean Carr October 12,1878,Sam Carr 1908 (no month written), John Carr 1894 (no month written), Mattie Carr, September 10, 1875, Rosette Carr 1898 and Estella Carr with no date written.
We believe the dates for Hannah, Dora, Walter, Mary, Virele and Georgeann to be earlier dating 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865, 1868. These children were born into slavery as were their parents and there appears to be an attempt to conceal that fact in the notations. Fortunately, the white family nee Carr who owned them (and whose name they assumed) did not believe in slavery and taught a few of our relatives how to read and write hence the ability to write down these dates. Further down on the page there are four grandchildren listed as follows: Neeta born in 1900, Lucille 1901, Mattie (‘s) Son – Bernando 1901, Ralph 1902 , and Helen 1903. At the bottom of the page is written “Given to me by my grandmother in 1940”. Bernando explained that he carried those pages in at least 10 different wallets over the years. Finally he gave the pages for safe keeping to his oldest daughter Lee Chamberlin. This document is a historical record.
Twice Denied 1934 and 2013
The rebuttal of the ignorant census worker out in the field in Saint Petersburg, Florida in 1934 while President Roosevelt’s Social Security Act was being prepared to pass in 1935 is an example of when real life events, a historical account from Bernando’s own life, trump a document deemed absolute in todays world which barely resembles the world 79 years ago. Steve Sherlock and Ben Walker have repeated history by refusing to acknowledge and accept what Bernando has known; That he was born in 1901 in Brazil to Mattie Carr and Bernando LaPallo Sr. A trivializing dismissal of Bernando’s self knowledge not once but twice in history is unacceptable. Countless people of color and even European immigrants passing through New York’s Ellis Island have gone through similar experiences. The spelling of a family surname was truncated and altered because the intake worker deemed it unimportant to listen requiring too much effort on their part to understand what that person was saying to them. We believe that people are intelligent
and actually know their own family history. Let it be acknowledged.
In Closing A Message of Health
In the United States today our current generation is not expected to outlive their parents. 70% of children are obese and diabetic by the age of nine years. There is a profound disconnection with the restorative properties of a nutritious diet, daily exercise and moderation in all things living as proof positive in Bernando. If this is too much of a stretch for skeptics who haven’t tried living a truly healthy lifestyle as Bernando has been following for over a century, they need only examine the lives of the children around them and examine the statistics.Supporting your health instead of trying to find reasons as to why it cannot be possible is what we suggest. Study the soil, air and water of the country and you will see a reflection of the health of the population staring right back at you. Study the wisdom on eating found in the Bible. Study you own body. Study nature. The power of cellular nutrition as evinced by many leading edge doctors today who have integrated their understanding of science and nutrition will exhort you to do the same and our providing proof that Bernando is living proof of. Understand this miraculous body you inhabit and the gifts that The Creator has bestowed upon us right here on earth to remain healthy. By doing thus you will help change the course of history and our fate as a people. Bernando’s message continues to be to make your health your first priority adding life to your years instead of years to your life. Keep your colon clean, get your rest, eat plenty of green vegetable and fruit, drink plenty of water and exercise and you’ll live a long and healthy life. If you do so you might just look so young that nobody believes how old you really are.
With Gravity and under the approval of Bernando LaPallo Jr.
July 29, 2013