I often wonder what African American descendants researching Slave Ancestry could learn about our Ancestors and heritage if descendants of every slave owning family shared their research data OR donated legacy documents to a repository for public consumption? What could we learn if our own families had preserved Great Grandma’s bible and funny childhood tales or shared freely the rare, coveted Ancestor photo or cloaked family “secret”?
When I visited Duke University Rubenstein Rare Document & Manuscript Library last November I *thought* I knew what to expect. I’d been hoping to touch the collection since discovering it online in 2009, so at least I knew what was “physically” there.
But how could I have known the shock and multitude of answers contained in Samuel WINGFIELD’s plantation ledger? Or known how much seeing and touching the names of my Ancestors branded on those ancient papers would mean to me?
Had it not been for Mrs. Alexander BAIRD’s August 1990 submission to Duke’s Special Collections Library, I’d never know the weight and financial yield of my WINGFIELD Ancestors labor or the names deserving to be called and brought home.
I still don’t know Mrs. BAIRD’s relationship to the WINGFIELDS. I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter. What does is that some 14 years ago she had the forethought to make sure history that’s irreplaceable could rest in a place dedicated to preservation.
I’ve begun talks with Spelman […]
This week the world grieved the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou.
There were so many beautiful posts (checkout Michael Twitty), quotes and thoughts shared about Maya, I’d really not planned to post anything. I thought watching and reading the praise as it flowed, knowing what Maya Angelou’s transparency and pen meant to me, was enough.
I took in Maya’s charge to “just do right”, and shared it with my kids. Like everyone, I thought about how her life has gifted me and words anchored in my heart long ago.
Yet I still planned to keep quiet… like the freedom from shame Maya relieved me of so many years ago, was our secret.
But after reading “What Maya Angelou’s Past Can Teach the Feminists of the Future“, I felt I had to affirm writer Lauren Davidson’s assertion, that Maya Angelou’s darkest life moments were as inspiring and enlightening as her brightest and most celebrated accolades.
I was 18 years old when I first learned of and read Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I had a BEAUTIFUL toddler, my firstborn Jerold (Jay) and was heading to nursing school, having just graduated with Honors.
In spite of the merit I earned by being a “good, young Mother” and […]
So worth the short wait. What a gift to me and Alice’s multitude of admirers. Thank you Pratibha!:)
There were many sweet moments throughout the piece that gave me pause, choked me up, made me laugh aloud. To ‘meet’ the human Alice Walker, apart from the author whose words 25+ years ago gave me release to be me, was surreal. Having context to the life experiences shaping her work? Hearing the narratives of my other sheroes Sonia Sanchez, Jewelle Gomez, Sapphire, Evelyn C. White and Beverly Guy-Sheftall? Man… priceless!
“When I couldn’t deal with reality around me, I would create something.” – Alice Walker
I knew Beauty in Truth would immediately prompt me to write. Alice’s writing has been liberating my inner-voice for a very, very long time!:)
At some point my 14 year old son, Justis joined me to take it all in; he’s grown up in a house filled with Alice’s books — some […]
Justis was a full-term baby born floppy, which is a less clinical way of saying he was oxygen deprived and not breathing. We’ve never really understood why but I remember him being silent and blue, and me being in complete shock, watching my OB-GYN begin chest compressions.
Mom and my Great Aunt Mitzi (Nan) were right beside me, and rather than joining me in silent shock, they immediately began to pray — LOUDLY. It was 30-35 seconds that felt like a lifetime, but as soon as the prayers began, Justis started breathing!
For years, we each told the story of how Mama and Nan prayed Justis back to life. They fought for him when I could not.
Now, almost 15 years later, Mama’s taken rest from the torment of Alzheimer’s Disease, and her Justis is fighting #4GERRIE, #4NAY (our BELL Cousin) and the 5.4 Million people living with Alzheimer’s today.
On Friday 2/7, Justis and his Community House Middle School #ENDALZ Warriors hit the halls with a common mission — $1 for 1 Krispy Kreme doughnut!
900 doughnuts and 25 minutes later, our CHMS Student Supporters had helped the DANIELS family give Alzheimer’s its first kick in the butt for 2014! Focused and impeccably-coordinated, I’ve never seen a fundraiser so successful, flawless and FUN!
Students were happy for the afternoon sugar fix, and open to learning about Alzheimer’s Disease and our mission to find a cure. Several students understood […]
Congressman John LEWIS, 1961 Freedom Rider:
“Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, turning it into a modern-day pulpit. He saw an America where men and women of all colors would be loved equally as God’s children. He invited us to not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ We have come a long way in these fifty years, but we are not there yet. We need to find ways to share our common humanity, instead of finding differences to divide us. I am encouraged by #DREAMFORWARD’s efforts to reaffirm Dr. King’s Dream for the future. I hope young people are inspired by this observance to choose the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence. Young people are the future, and more than ever before, we need them to be unafraid to stand up for what is right, to speak up and speak out, to get in the way and to cause some good trouble in the name of a better America. We must dare to carry the dream of a world that is more fair and more just. If we do those things, if we keep the faith and keep our eyes on the prize, we can advance Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream in 2014 and beyond.”
All RACES. All AGES. One PURPOSE. #DREAMFORWARD
I’d searched ALL DAY for the word to sum up my feelings regarding our first New Year’s #BLOGFEST – We Call Your Name event. Then after the tweets died down and we were all descending from our Ancestors clouds, Bernita (still a NEW KID herself) of Voices Inside My Head nailed it, “BLOGFEST was epic!”.
It was indeed. I’ve never in all my years of researching genealogy, felt more connected to a body of work, than I do today. I never planned on it, have frequently complained about it, and sometimes get up the nerve to question the Ancestors why they have me doing it. But I know this work is Divine, and I’m so thankful to be a part of bringing not just my, but MANY Ancestors out of the dark. They are SHINING. BREATHING. REJOICING!
I’m hard on you NEW KIDS because I need you to embrace fully the responsibility that rests on your shoulders. And should the day come I take hiatus, I want you equipped with EVERYTHING you need to push your Ancestors, and our collective Community FORWARD.
NEW KIDS your work will bloom and spread. Many will follow your lead. If you call them, Ancestors and newly connected Cousins will come (in my best James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams voice). You’ve shifted the landscape and narrative of our genealogy research FOREVER.
When I was a young girl living at home, sometimes, just before I dropped off to sleep, I would see the air of my room filled with Spirits. They didn’t say anything to me. They didn’t frighten me. They were just there, indistinct, swirling.
On Saturdays my mother would drive us over to my grandparent’s house on Detroit’s East Side. My mother and Aunt sat in the front. We four cousins squeezed into the back seat. In the winter it was dark. If I was lucky enough to get a window, I’d look into the lit windows of the houses we passed and wonder about the people and the stories they were living.
Each of our blogs is like those lighted windows. In them we tell our Ancestor’s stories, stories to be read by our families and by the rest of the community. Stories that are so much more varied and moving and true than any stereotyped version of our history could ever be.
Today, as we launch over 25 new African American Genealogy blogs during the AAGSAR Blogfest 2014, I can feel the Ancestor’s Spirits swirling around us as they see their stories being told, their pictures shared and their names being called.
To Our Ancestors,
… we stand before you now, your living legacy, the flesh and blood of our collective dreaming, and we realize with a knowing deeper than the flow of human blood in human veins that we are part of something better, truer, deeper.
We speak your names.
We speak your names.
“We Speak Your Names” Pearl Cleage, pg. 15