Recollections from their shoulders

Days after the close of a Family Reunion on the maternal line of my family and the emotions are still percolating.

In retrospect, I can say that I ran on pure adrenaline over the course of 3 days.

Strangely enough, sleep did not beckon as forcefully as it is apt to do.

For me, the Sandman typically starts sprinkling dust around 8:30pm EST and I progressively start winding down before slumber envelopes me.

However, being in the midst of so many members of my family, makes the words that I would have at my disposal, elusive at best.

But – being speechless is not a luxury that I have.

As I stood in the hall looking out at the sea of blue shirts, absorbing the sights, sounds and love that was emanating throughout the room, I found myself wrestling with a cornucopia of emotions.

It was realization that I’ve had previously – and at this particular moment it shook me to the core.

As I stood there near the door with a Cheshire Cat smile pasted across my face – I understood that there wasn’t anywhere else that I’d rather be than here.

I’ve come a long way since I learned that placing my faith in that which is unable to love me back was indicative of a much larger problem.

In fact, I’ve broken it down to a simple equation:

Fear + denial / self-hate = Broken people.

Broken people often drown in the shallow waters of their own disaffection – but if they only knew and possessed the courage that would inform them:

That standing on that solid ground of that which defines them – would provide them some measure of redemption.

I used to be broken and placing my faith in the wrong places…

Always left me hollow and wondering what it was all about.

The business of cultivating something greater than just getting by was not in my orbit.

Until I collided with that which I attempted to escape from and forced me to learn that mandates will not be denied.

Divine intervention
You weren’t spared to languish…

I had to stare death in the face before I realized that there was something inside of me that needed to be given voice to.

And… Thankfully.

I’ve found that voice in the collective of my family.

The stories that comprise the fortitude, legend and love that allowed those who came before me to persevere was infectious – but the changes didn’t happen instantaneously.

Like Jonah… I ran.

Until…

I couldn’t run anymore – and I was ashamed that I allowed cowardice to direct my steps.

Standing here was a rousing affirmation of the redemption that found me.

This train of thought was broken with my cousin Tammy telling me that I needed to say a couple of words to the family – I relented as my pleas that I was shy was met with laughter by everyone within earshot of our conversation.

And with that I took the microphone unsure of what I was to come.

I dived in, unprepared with no notes.

Everything was a blur.

Starting off, I pushed back against the narrative that I brought the family together…

You can’t bake a cake with eggs only, it is comprised of ingredients I remember saying.

And – I acknowledged a few of the people that were pivotal in the effort.

My family brought itself together.

Love was the culprit.

I am a simply a man who loves his family and a cog in a grand machine.

I was a messenger, a tool, but not the reason.

 

1850 Slave Ledger for Church Tipton
1850 Slave ledger – showing my 4th Great Grandmother as chattel.

From finding my Ancestors on weathered documents where they were relegated to the confines of property, to seeing draft registrations for family members from every conflict from the American Civil War to Vietnam.

 

Grandpa Tipton Draft Rcrd
Army Enlistment for my 3rd Great Grandfather during the Civil War

 

The history of my family is one of triumph and a testament to the power and resilience of the African-American experience.

The gravity of their sacrifices bore itself out as numerous family members told me how the events impacted them.

And at the time of this writing, their words still echo.

Being on the receiving end of statements like:

“I now have a sense of worth…”

“You took the stories of our family and expanded it into something bigger than we could have ever realized.”

“I never knew that we had this much love in this family.”

“If you never do anything else in your life, you should never hang your head about anything.”

I couldn’t help but to think that our Ancestors were smiling down from on high at what their love had wrought.

20180719_2040191413670640492504068.jpg
Finding purpose in the power of family.

And with that…
I knew that being broken was a vestige from my past and that the business of honoring the shoulders that I stand on is my present and future.

 

20180429_0041103986597469193878722.jpg

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