Reflections

Just Do Right. Thank You Maya Angelou!

Maya Angelou - Just Do RightDr. Maya Angelou ~ 1928-2014

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 […]

A Mother’s Day Gift…

Birthday Memories - Luckie, Jai & MomShe called me her “Rock of Gibraltar”. She loved my lack of tact, chuckled at my acid humor and applauded EVERY hurdle this teenage Mother conquered to create a life she was proud of. Gerrie was my Champion!:)

BRILLIANT in every sense of the word. Mom was relentless, nurturing; an Innovator before we knew what that word even meant. Gerrie commanded attention and though only 5’2 she sparkled in ANY crowd. Boy was she something special!:)

Born 7/6 and 7/7 we were “two peas in a pod”. On my first Mother’s Day without her, I truly know how invaluable Mom was to me, her baby girl.

I believe “Sometimes Grandma” is Mom’s gift to me and the kids. I think she knew in our effort to heal others, we too would find healing and purpose.

Mom was the QUEEN of strategy and taking care of other people. Our Harmony St. Kids have her wrapped all around them!:)

So my gift to you Mama this Mother’s Day is to be…

  • Relentless in my work to see an end to Alzheimer’s Disease. No standing on the sideline. I’m chin-deep in this FIGHT!
  • Fearless in the face of the unknown and unplanned. Life catches us by surprise. I look FORWARD!
  • Tenacious in defining a life on MY TERMS; I call the shots and choose the roads my feet travel.
  • Brazenly, unbelievably HAPPY, HEALTHY and WHOLE as I figure out this new and unfamiliar world. I know you’re still […]

Some Friday Wisdom… Character

11.3.31 - Character

You Got Roots?! | Sunday, 2 March 2014 @ 6PM ET | @AAGSARFacebook

Missing Johnnie Mae ~ Thank You Sandra!:)

Johnnie Mae & Robert LongLaughing about the recent cemetery “adventure” of AAGSAR member Sandra WILLIAMS-BUSH (Ancestral Callings: Georgia & Mississippi), I was reminded of one the funniest family stories ever shared with me by my late Cousin, Johnnie Mae STRINGER LONG.

Mae was Elbert STRINGER’s younger sister, the daughter of Missy DORSEY and John STRINGER. Missy and my GG Grandmother, Marrie WINGFIELD CARTER were Sisters. All of the beautiful DORSEY and STRINGER images I have, came from Mae. Her facial features and voice were so much like that of my Great Grandmother Annie CARTER JACKSON (Mae and Elbert’s first cousin they referred to lovingly as “Baby Sister”), I would just stare at her. It was comforting to be in her presence.

I spent many afternoons with Mae scanning pictures, capturing history and laughing about her fear of ghosts and spirits.

My favorite Mae story?

According to Mae, she’d always been the scary type. When she was a teen she and Elbert would visit Grandma Catie’s grave at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

Mae told me when Grandma Catie died, her son John “Bud” WINGFIELD and cousin Harry HECTOR carried a huge boulder via wagon from Washington-Wilkes to place on Catie’s Grave.

Well when they arrived for one visit the boulder had disappeared – sunken COMPLETELY in the ground! On top of Grandma Catie’s grave! And when they attempted to investigate further, Elbert and Mae began to sink into soft earth!

Mae said the calmer Elbert got, the more hysterical she became! Mae said […]

BEAUTY IN TRUTH: The Nature of This Flower Is To Bloom…

Alice Walker - Beauty In TruthThough not the case, it feels like I waited a really long time for Beauty in Truth, Pratibha Parmar’s (Kali Films) documentary about Author, Poet, Advocate, Womanist Alice Walker.

Beauty in Truth premiered in London on March 10, 2013. I viewed it by the grace of PBS American Masters series this past Thursday — twice.

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 […]

Finding NO Peace In PEACEWOOD: My WINGFIELD Ancestors Plantation Home

Peacewood I - WINGFIELD Wilkes County GAWINGFIELD-CADE-SAUNDERS House (PEACEWOOD) circa 1936

When I really peer beneath the surface of our country’s damaged history, and how human transgressions have been processed by the descendants inheriting it, I’m challenged to find our cultural silver lining.

I believe the healing salve for historic ignorance and human cruelty lies within our yet to be lived future; to be championed by the untainted souls of descendants far removed from the slave legacy I inherited.

Am I saying Generations X, Baby Boomers and beyond are hopeless? Sadly, yes.

The longer I live, I find it harder to vest in the goodness of mankind when he’s still very much covered in his Ancestors history-stamped residue.

For example, while scanning this 2010 Tours of Home blog post regarding PEACEWOOD, the plantation my WINGFIELD Ancestors built and sustained while enslaved by Thomas WINGFIELD and his descendants, I immediately became angry reading this narrative:

This beautiful old plantation home is a significant and interesting example of a house assembled from different periods and made into a columned plantation seat in the 1840s and 1850s during the period of prosperity before the Civil War.

Beautiful?! William Johnson is referring to the time period when MY ANCESTORS were bought, sold, raped, bred, tormented, overworked and subjugated to the discretion of his or her WINGFIELD owner. A period when their free labor was exploited, bartered […]

Pierce CODY of Macon Georgia, Much More Than a Slave Narrative

Pierce Cody - Macon GA City Directory 1924Born about 1850, Pierce CODY is my 3rd great grand uncle; brother-cousin to my 3rd great Grandmother Catie WINGFIELD-DORSEY and Aunt Ailey II CODY DORSEY.

Born into slavery in Warrenton, WARREN County Georgia, Pierce’s parents were Elbert, my 4th Great Grandfather and Dicey (Dorothy) CODY. I believe even before he was emancipated Pierce took Fannie (b. about 1851) as his wife and they had at least two (2) children, Sarah (b. 1872) and Harry (b. 1880).

Pierce’s 1937 WPA Slave Narrative came to me early in my research (1999) and I knew immediately he belonged to me.

Reflections of life on Bob CODY’s place, mirrored Catie’s WARREN County plantation memories of “Master CODY” and her sister, Ailey. Learning Pierce’s father carried the name Elbert shed light on the origin of a long-standing family name!

Catie named a son Elbert WINGFIELD, and her grandson cousin Elbert STRINGER’s ability to remember our family’s oral history is the reason we have Our Georgia Roots today!:)

I’m thankful for the gift Pierce’s WPA Narrative has been, but my uncle lived nearly 90 years! Slavery and his reflections of it were but a small portion of a full life. I’d be remiss to allow that narrative to be the only one reflective of his […]

ROSE CODY: She Saying Something Now!:)

It has been a SURREAL few days.

On Monday night, deep in the midst of final #DREAMFORWARD preparation I found myself on GOOGLE poking for family slave document leads on Emory University’s President James Edward DICKEY, son of James Madison DICKEY, the Methodist minister who was the second owner of my 4th Grandmother Catie WINGFIELD-DORSEY.

How I landed on the AJC article referencing Emory’s slave history and research work by Emory Professor Leslie HARRIS, I cannot tell you. However that lead to my emailing Ms. HARRIS, which lead to additional outreach to Mark AUSLANDER, author of The Accidental Slaveowner. Which leads to a currently running research email thread on its 12th iteration!:)

On the other side of my Ancestor breadcrumb trail there’s Lisa HENDERSON of Scuffalong: Genealogy (our newest AAGSAR member) who inadvertently connects me to an acquaintance, artist Lynn Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier of Miss Kitty’s Cloak believing our Emory, Oxford, Methodist-church research might somehow be connected.

And guess what? It is! Every person I’ve bumped into over the past two days leads back to the exact same Ancestor — Rose CODY!:)

Rose was the first slave purchased by Michael CODY of Warrenton Georgia and many of the CODY slaves descend from her. Rose summoned me in 2009, and I produced these now archived posts […]

A Friend Of Friends: Lessons From The Underground Railroad #TALIAFERRO

By sjtaliaferro

One night during the holidays I watched one of my favorite movies, Roots: The Gift. The movie stars LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett, Jr., in their roles as Kunta Kinte and Fiddler from the television series Roots. In this movie, Kunta and Fiddler accompany their owner to another plantation at Christmas time for a party, and become involved in a plan to help some runaway slaves escape via the Underground Railroad to freedom. A simple, yet powerful story. There are many messages and lessons to be learned from Roots: The Gift.

In one of my favorite scenes, Fiddler and Kunta are helping the group of runaway slaves get to the river where they are to meet a boat that will take them further on their journey to freedom. Along the way they make a stop to pick up other “passengers” on the Underground Railroad. When they come to a farmhouse, Kunta approaches and knocks. The man asks…”who goes”? Kunta responds “Friend of Friends”…in acknowledgment, the man replies “Friend of Friends”. A group of “passengers” exit the house. Kunta, Fiddler, and the group continue their journey.

This year, I was particularly moved by the Underground Railroad scene, and even more so by the phrase uttered by Kunta- Friend of Friends. The phrase, and variations of it, was used along the Underground Railroad as a password or signal to those assisting runaway slaves on their journey North…to freedom. The traditional response to the “who goes there” password is said to have been “A Friend of a Friend”.

A Friend of Friends. Say it… A Friend of Friends, again…A Friend of Friends. It evokes such a comforting, welcoming feeling. A feeling of trust, of sharing, of caring, of kindness, […]

#DREAMFORWARD Call To Action: Congressman John LEWIS, 1961 Freedom Rider

Congressman John LewisCongressman 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