Hello Blogosphere! It has been a busy weekend! I am currently writing this as I wait for my train back to good ole New England. I hope you enjoy the supplied photos! This post is in homage to Roots as in my family roots, the fight for liberation and of course my realized need to travel!
This weekend, I went to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with my mother and brother for the Spivey Forshee Family Reunion. Recently, planes have become a source of inspiration for me. I love the in-between stage of moments in life. The long drives, the plane rides, all seem to be symbolic for life in a way. There are many destinations: birth, graduations, new jobs, family reunions, death, etc. If we don’t learn to enjoy the in-between than how do we appreciate the destinations? I grew up in New York with my mom and my brother and for the most part we stuck to our little family. I always wanted to be closer to my extended family and now as adults, I think it’s fun that I have cousins that have become friends. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back to the beginning or at least, what my family could find as the beginning.
Many papers and information were damaged regarding the sale of Africans in this country. I’ll probably never be able to go back far enough to capture the life of the original Africans that came to this country and became my ancestors, but This weekend, I learned this.
1865, the Emancipation Proclamation is signed granting freedom to all enslaved persons. My Great Great Grandfather, Nathen Spivey is six years old in Georgia. He is the son of Tom Spivey a slave owner from England and an enslaved woman of color, Frances. Master Spivey, as he was called, owned he and his mother Frances. Before freedom, his family is separated and sold, and as far as Nathen and Frances knew, some were sold deep south to Waco, Texas. When Emancipation came, we know that one of the first things formerly enslaved people tried to do was to find their families. Nathen and Frances were no different. With searching to no avail, Nathen grew and started his own family. What did he do? He began to name his children after the family members sold, so that if they found them, they would know family by their names. When I heard this, I wanted to cheer. How incredibly brilliant. I’m named after my Great Aunt Catherine. That’s where the tradition came from! I wonder how many other traditions we still have?!
Nathen married Sarah Kelly, another descendent of slaves and masters and together they had 12 children. My Great Grandfather Elijah had a twin Elisha. Elisha and 10 siblings moved to Oklahoma, while Elijah moved to New York City. We in NYC knew that we had cousins in Oklahoma but had no way to contact them. Because of Facebook believe it or not, my mom found a cousin, realized a family reunion was in the plans and off we set to the family reunion. I haven’t had a chance yet to really absorb it all, but even typing this, I feel myself getting tearful. This weekend I saw where my family lived in an all black town by the name of Clearview, put flowers on their graves and got to start to know my cousins who are AMAZING. Twins are rampant in my family. At the reunion, there were 3 sets, one in each generation. Also, there are a set of twins in NY that weren’t at the reunion that fit into a gap. Dear God, do not bless me with twins. Haha But seriously though, this weekend was exactly what I needed. It was fulfilling, affirming and wonderful. Also, I come from a family of seriously good looking people. I’m just sayin.
I feel so lucky. It was like coming home. This is liberation. Knowing that even though life is crazy, there’s freedom somewhere, somehow in family. It seems as though there was a missing piece that somehow fit. I remember watching Roots as a child and my mother said it was so important to know where we had been to know where we were going as a people. At this family reunion, learning so much information about who I’m descended from, I watched myself learn who I had been and who I want to be. I come from amazing, intelligent, resilient, learned people. I feel myself walk a little bit taller now than I did a few days ago.
As I said, I watched the original Roots growing up and when the remake came out I at first refused to tune in. Why would I want to re-live all that pain? But I did watch, and I cried all the way through. There was a visibility in the story. I wanted, no needed to know my family history. I needed to know that I was not just a mistake as the truth of my history is not taught in classrooms. Black and brown people need affirmation of their personhood, their history, their worthiness. I cried because I found it. Now, to do the work to keep and expand it.
Moving on, I realized that the more I get to travel, the more I learn of myself. Growing up, I was a selfish snot of a kid. I was spoiled and awkward socially and alternative black in a world where that wasn’t quite understood. But as I’ve grown and challenged myself to move out of the comfort zone that is NYC, I’ve learned that I possess a hunger. I used to always ask myself, “What are you hungry for, dear girl?” With confidence, I can now say travel. Traveling is one of those necessary things. I never got to travel much as a young person because of money. I still have no money, but I do have a lot more friends, the ability to drive and the will to make it happen. Living in other places, seeing how other people live and survive takes us to a place where the ego cannot thrive. It is wholly human. Whenever I talk to well-travelled people, there’s a wisdom present that is always so very gorgeous. I wouldn’t mind having some of that, but I also just want these eyes to feast on the possibilities. My world is not just America and the states I’ve been to.
My generation is very unapologetic, we don’t adhere to respectability politics and we challenge the world and each other in new and calculated ways. This weekend, I realized just how much I challenge not just the status quo, but those around me. I realize how much love is elusive.
I continued to read Alice Walkers’, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.” Being in a different place, the midwest, and discovering stories of integration of the area from cousins’ experiences, I came to so many questions about my work as an activist. I came across one question this weekend of rebel vs. revolution that stuck. A rebel can be crushed as they are singular with views that can be silenced. Revolution involves more than one, thereby making it a movement. Which do I take on? How? Have you ever tried to predict the year ahead and failed drastically? We can’t predict life. The pitfalls, the highs, the curveballs. I feel different after this weekend. I feel more in tune with my ancestors. With time. With past, present, and future. The older I get, the more I’m finding that Family, Freeedom and Wanderlust feed my hunger and if I keep hunting for those, I may just get somewhere.
To end this post is an Alice Walker quote from “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” that this blog was inspired by. Following the quote are Facebook statuses from the three reunion days.
Guided by my heritage of a love of beauty and a respect for strength- in search of my mother’s garden, I found my own. And perhaps in Africa over two hundred years ago, there was just such a mother, perhaps she painted vivid and daring decorations in oranges and yellows and greens on the walls of her hut; perhaps she sang- in a voice like Roberta Flack’s- sweetly over the compounds of her village; perhaps she wove the most stunning mats or told the most ingenious stories of all the village storytellers. Perhaps she was herself a poet- though only her daughters name is signed to the poems that we know.