I took the notion of Family being akin to poetry and expanded on it.
I used my journalism skill sets and the oral histories from my Elders
to map segments of my maternal and paternal sides of my family back nearly 200 years and counting.
Chicago (1940’s) I used to sit between them and listen to the stories of our people – hanging on their every word when I was growing up. From left to right: My Grandma, Father, my Mother and my Great Aunt Lillian. My Auntie lent me her power. The Patterson Brothers My Father taught us about the power of Family. Unc… Spinning a yarn, probably about our folks. He earned the respect he was given. I was told that we were a proud people. My son taught me the art of loyalty and purpose. On the day she gave me a mandate. My 3rd Great Grandmother and her siblings represented a branch of my family I traced back to the early 1800’s and validated via DNA connections and oral histories.
I also found my cousins; the descendants of my 4th Great Uncle John and Aunts Malinda and Fannie. The Ancestors connected me with a part of… me that I needed! My cousin Bobette. A subsection of Grandpa’s My Unc said that these stories gotta be told! My Uncle was the Griot of our Family, until he passed the torch. Ancestors on a monument… check! Posing with the Glorious Ones. On the land where the Ancients walked. When their children gather – the Ancestors are known to smile. The Glorious Ones Talking history with the Glorious Ones. Me and my cousin Tammy. Fannie Austin-Morris (2) who was married to the Rev. Elias Camp Morris (1) moved to Chicago after his death to live with her son Fred Douglas Morris (3). Three of their children: Elias (4), Sarah (6) and Spurgeon (7) also made their home in Chicago. Head bowed on lands where my folk walked. Flashbacks over the years, snapshots of research, narratives and the like.
During the course of my research, I wrestled against a backdrop of loss, vitriol and disaffection… until I came front and center with a gift.
It was in the ashes of
placing my faith in the wrong places.
I had been staring at it all along... this gift.
It was the understanding of why the Elders believed so firmly in the concept of our family – and in the process of finding my folk, I found myself.
My Great Grandma in Baltimore circa (1968) surrounded by my Bigmama, Great Aunts and Uncles … I was the last Great Grandchild that she held before she left this place. My Great Grandma stood here surrounded by her children over a half century ago. (Baltimore, MD) Looking across the street. Reflecting on the Ancients… when they were in Baltimore, Md… when my cousin Linda told me where the house was, I made a pilgrimage.
My 3rd Great Aunt Malinda Carter-Austin and cousin Frederick Douglas Carter made their way to Chicago in the 1880’s, preceding other known branches of my family by over 40 years.
My Bigmama and my Uncle told me on this day… “Our folk gon’ need what we got to give you!”
Snapshots of the Glorious Ones (Hey Auntie!) my Aunt Malinda and cousins… (circa 1903) When I found my folk… I found myself.
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Shun P. Writes
Author, Genealogist, Writer, Poet, Podcast Host, possessor of 2 cents, Blogger and eternal student of life, who harbors a firm belief in his Grandmother's mantra that:
"People need to get off of their rump and do something".
All while keeping in mind that a cheering section will often get in the way.
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