By Beth David, Editor
It’s an exhibit that started long before Ron Barboza knew he would create an exhibit. The retired New Bedford High School teacher said he became interested in Cape Verdean culture and history from listening to the stories of relatives when he was a child. About 50 years ago he started collecting photographs, creating slides in those early days.
“Anything to do with Cape Verde, I studied,” said Mr. Barboza.
When he received a scholarship to Morgan State University, a traditionally black college in Baltimore, MD, he realized that being Cape Verdean was a bit different. People quickly took to calling him by his last name because it was so unusual among the student body.
In those early years, as a teenager, he was not sure why he wanted the photographs and the stories. He was just interested. It wasn’t long, though, before he realized he wanted to write a book, with lots of photos, about Cape Verde, the Cape Verdean people in America, and especially the local CV community in Greater New Bedford.
He kept collecting. He kept talking to people. He put together a couple of small books and pamphlets.
And now, some of the fruits of his labors are available for viewing, free of charge, at the New Bedford Public Library downtown.
Among the 80 or so photographs displayed, he points out relatives, like his father, who served in WWII. He points out his former students, and easily relates their stories and the stories of their relatives.
He tells you who the oldest is, and that would be Judge George Leighton at 104. He tells you nicknames, where they served and how proud they were to serve. From the 54th regiment, which was the all-black unit from Massachusetts in the Civil War, until the present day, Mr. Barboza has stories, pictures, and perspective.
Not only can he tell you how they served, but he has many stories about the discrimination they faced because they were not white.
Like Agneil Rose, who was a Marine, except, said Mr. Barboza, “there were no black Marines” in WWII. So Mr. Rose had to sleep in different barracks, even though he trained with the Marines.
From Army privates, to Gary Brito, who is the first Cape Verdean Brigadier General, and every rank in between, Mr. Barboza wants to preserve their stories, men and women alike. And women are well represented, from nurses in WWII, to women of rank serving today.
“I want people to be aware of the contributions Cape Verdeans have made to the armed forces of the United States of America,” said Mr. Barboza. “There’s so much.”
The exhibit runs through Wednesday, May 24, at the downtown library, 613 Pleasant Street, New Bedford, and is open during regular library hours.
Mr. Barboza is actively looking for more stories and more photos for the book he is working on. Email him directly at email@example.com, or find him on Facebook.