As a sorrowful 10-year-old, Bertie Simmons swore she would fight for social justice here in Houston and across the nation. Today she shares a little bit of her story.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with an iconic Houstonian: Dr. Bertie Simmons. After nearly 60 years of working as a trailblazing educator in the Houston Independent School District, Bertie published her memoir, “Whispers of Hope: The Story of My Life,” which incorporates previously written recollections of her impactful childhood friendship with a black girl in the Jim Crow South.

From raising funds to take gang-affiliated students to New York shortly after 9/11, to growing up in a toxic home environment, to the secret power of blueberries, Bertie and I covered it all in this open and honest woman-to-woman interview. 

Here’s an outline of our discussion with timestamps so that you can skip around to the section(s) that interest you the most:

1:40 - Bertie’s childhood friendship with a black girl named Dorothy during the Jim Crow Era, witnessing the horrors of the Ku Klux Klan, and her calling to fight for social justice 

3:55 - Bertie’s life in Houston: A commitment to fighting inequality in minority neighborhoods, her experience working with Barbara Bush and Clyde Drexler, and leaving a legacy for her granddaughter Ashley 

8:10 - Bertie’s secret to staying youthful and energetic: blueberries

8:58 - Laurene Powell Jobs’ $10 million dollar donation 

13:15 - Bertie addresses gang activity in her school and leads a humbling trip to Ground Zero 

19:28 - Why Bertie decided to write a memoir 

21:27 - Bertie addresses her removal from principalship at Furr High School and her subsequent lawsuit 

27:37 - Bertie’s message for us