As I stand on their shoulders

Useless fact…

My family refers to me as the Ancestor Whisperer, because it is said:

“Dead or alive if they are related to us, Shun will find them.”

We laugh about it – but I wish that it were that easy.

Over the course of nearly 6 years.

I became that family member who knows who everybody is…

You know that person when the conversation turns to an obscure family member that lived down yonder, way back when, who knew cousin so and so, but everyone draws a blank, until they break the glass and call the one person who would possibly know.

That’s me – guilty as charged.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Truth be told…

In the early days.

I had no interest in tracing my Family Tree whatsoever.

I told myself that someone else would do it, reasoning that it didn’t really matter.

When I shook the tree in the early days – I was berated by a handful of Family members some dismissed my efforts as:

“some Fake ass Alex Haley shit”


On a couple occasions I was told… That where we came from didn’t matter, because were are already here.

Admittedly, this took the wind out of my sails and I relayed my concerns to my Great Uncle Calvin, who upon hearing my report, told me something that guides my genealogy efforts to this day.

He was incensed, but clearheaded before replying…

Me and my Great Uncle Calvin.

“Fuck them then Nephew! Write that down and remember that I said it… You ain’t doing this for the lost, leave the lost where they are… Do this for our folks that need it… We have lost our way and if we don’t know who we are and where we came from – then we have failed.”

The concern in his voice was palpable and I took his words and ran with it.

My Elders taught me that loyalty to family is what allowed us to persevere and I wanted to have the power of humilty and grace that defined them at my beck and call.

To be worthy of the sacrifices of my Ancestors was a winding path.

But it was necessary that I humble myself before I could even begin to be worthy of their light – I had to be broken before I could be made whole again.

It was in the process that something amazing happened…

When I found my people, I began to find myself.

I often tell my Family members:

“I love you because I am you.”

Me with a subsection of my family.

Because I know it to be true….

Those shortcomings, contradictions, fortitude, faith and stubbornness in the face of certain defeat that has defined those that came before us – I see in the faces, words and deeds of my family.

History repeats itself, especially within families and I soon understood why the Elders were so insistent about the importance of family.

There is truly power in numbers.

Me sitting at the base of the African-American Civil War Veterans Memorial in Washington DC – where 2 of my Ancestors have their names inscribed as service members.

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