By and By

A poem by Michael Nelder

Michael Nelder read this poem at the All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA on Sunday, May 23, 2021, as part of a Poetry Slam honoring the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.

In the church I grew up in
when we’d hear of an injustice so evil you couldn’t explain it away …
the kind that would make your eyes burn and your lungs cave in
and your inner voice begs your mind to turn off the news
because seeing one more black body, chalk outlined
on the pavement, might shatter your pop culture fantasy of life,
the same one that won’t allow you to look a homeless person in the eye,
or admit mass incarceration is slavery in disguise, or see that in this country
you only get as much justice as you can pay for…

The old, black church mothers would say to us,
“baby, you’ll understand it by and by”
my Grandad says, “son there’s some lessons
you only learn through gray hair”
The book of Ecclesiastes says,
“with much wisdom comes much sorrow…

This week was the first time I wished for ignorance,
for the bliss of a care-free, mediocre white man,
working at Starbucks…wearing t-shirt and jeans
do I have to be black hoodie all the time,
center of conversation on race among performers,
commentary for Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Mikayla Bryant
I am still sick, vomiting after taking the red pill of American History

I told my therapist to begin asking me how I feel every time
a black person dies because there is a graveyard inside my throat from all the
news I bury and never talk about

Another poet told me being black means
you are already dressed for the funeral because all you get
is funeral and repast, funeral and repast, not another funeral…

Lately, I been wanting to ask God, “if we’re all supposedly made in
your image, then why do people hate it so much they want to kill it?”

Michael Nelder (@michaelnelder) is the son of a preacher, author, and spoken-word artist.  At the United Way of Greater Los Angeles he served as Impact Speaker using the power of storytelling to bring awareness, inspire action, and raise capital to combat poverty. A love for poetry and prose inspired his TEDx talk on the power of poetry in facilitating spaces for self-discovery and identity development.  He’s been invited to speak, perform, and teach at universities, businesses, churches, and prisons. He is currently the Director of Hope for LA, a local outreach vehicle that focuses on impacting homelessness, loving foster youth, and lifting up families in need. He resides in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, where he enjoys raising his new pup, Luna. 

You Owe Me What was Always Mine

“You owe me what was always mine” is the title of Briayna Cuffie’s latest blog post on reparations4slavery.com. She is speaking to enslavers whose family records, letters, journals, photos, plantation accounts, etc. contain valuable information about the men, women, and children they enslaved.

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The Gwynn’s Island Project Reconnects the Descendants of Black Island Families to their Roots

Maria S. Montgomery & Allison Thomas
Maria S. Montgomery & Allison Thomas

Maria Montgomery found me on Ancestry.com in 2016. Our family trees overlap because my ancestors enslaved hers. We are “linked descendants”—cousins regardless of whether we share DNA. She asked if I had any probate records that might list people my family enslaved on Gwynn’s Island in Mathews County, Virginia, a five-square-mile triangle of land in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

I sent Maria my third great-grandmother Mary T. Edwards’ Civil War diary that lists 20 enslaved people seized as contraband by the Union Navy in 1863. Maria’s great-great-grandparents, William M. Smith (“Billy”) and Dolly Jones (“Young Dolly”,) are on that list.

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“There was Nothing We Could Do About it”

By Antoinette Broussard

Violet Craig Turner (1828-1906)

When I was a child, Uncle George’s stories and the serious inflection in his voice always commanded my attention. He frequently told me about my maternal great-grandmother, Violet Craig Turner, who had been enslaved until 1865 by W. P. Wallingford from Platte County, Missouri. Uncle George was my mother’s brother. He always emphasized the middle initial “P” and Platte County in his stories, and that Wallingford fathered eight of Violet’s children, including my grandfather. 

My family’s slave history was an injustice, and the person responsible was never held accountable for it. In my late fifties, with the help of a genealogist, I started to look for the Wallingford family. 

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Gathering African American Families’ Oral Histories – The Getting Word Project: African American Stories from Monticello – Part Two of Three

Part 2 of the Oral History post describes the kinds of impacts that oral history research can have, regardless of the circumstances of the family whose history is being woven together. The Getting Word project’s impacts and aftermaths are an interesting story, and I hope they give you ideas for what your research might inspire in your family and what else, beyond history, you might be able to create.

Continue reading “Gathering African American Families’ Oral Histories – The Getting Word Project: African American Stories from Monticello – Part Two of Three”

Spontaneous Solidarity

Police guard the entrance to City Hall after removing protesters against the new police union contract in Portland, Ore., on October 12, 2016. the contract was approved by City Council this morning. (Photo by Alex Milan Tracy) [Photo via Newscom]Serial, unpermitted marches; a die-in on a major bridge; even overnight encampment at City Hall did not get #BlackLivesMatter concerns into meetings with the Mayor/ Police Commissioner in Portland, Oregon. Instead of allowing public testimony on a secretly negotiated police contract, the City repeatedly ordered police suppression. One bone was broken; throngs were subjected to chemical weapons, nearly a dozen were arrested on 13 October 2016.

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Science May Enable Reparations

Reviewing a Book Review

beaconlogoA few days ago, I got an email from a friend who has become a leader in the field of researching African American family histories, up to and beyond the “brick walls” of slave lists that do not give names and the unwritten records of births, deaths and marriages. This email contained a link to something published by Beacon Press in “Beacon Broadside.”

With this double endorsement, I immediately clicked through.

alondranelsonWhat I found was Sharon Morgan’s review of Alondra Nelson‘s new book,  The Social Life of DNAfull of tantalizing information and pieces of Ms. Morgan’s own family research story. I learned that besides the documentary investigations she does so well online and in county courthouses, Sharon has long been researching DNA connections to her family’s roots in Africa. From Sharon’s overview of points in Ms. Nelsosociallifeofdnan’s book, I learned about an exciting and compelling new application of DNA research. The Social Life of DNA includes a discussion of how DNA profiles can be applied to making successful reparations claims.

Without hesitation, I bought the book!

Read the review.  Then read the book. And finally, come back here and share your comments!

 

BLEAK HOUSE – LINKED FIRST BY PLACE, THEN BY HEART (3)

Part 3 – Connecting with the Descendants of the Bleak House African American Community              

Part 1 narrated what happened when Alice and Jon Cannon bought Bleak House, the remnant of Bleak House Plantation, and then found a book with the names of its enslaved residents. Alice was galvanized into learning about those people and finding their descendants. Part 2 tells what she learned about them as talented, self-determining individuals, some still in Virginia, others farther afield.

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Talking About Slavery TODAY

BitterSweet: Linked Through Slavery is trying an alternative form of posting. For the first time, we offer a compilation of five people’s responses to a single question. We hope you enjoy the post, give it comments, and feel inspired to respond to the next question. Note: The authors’ names are shown as they requested.

Question: Why is it important to write and talk about the US history of slavery today?

It is necessary to talk about the history of US slavery today, because without truth there can be little or no reconciliation.  Some of us learned that from people in South Africa.

It helps all of us, on both sides of the color line, to talk about the truth of slavery, as experienced by the enslaved, and as experienced by the slaveholders.  By taking personal responsibility for our own feelings, and sharing them, by talking and perhaps by also writing about them, we are helping to create a healing of this deep wound that still lingers in this country. By listening to each other we increase the healing.  And we don’t generalize or stereotype; we speak from our own truth, one by one.

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BLACK RUG/WHITE RUG; A DIALOGUE AMONG THREE LINKED ANCESTORS

By Joyceann Gray, Sarah Brown and Monique Hopkins

Joyceann Gray, Monique Crippen-Hopkins and Sarah Brown are “linked through slavery”. Joyceann and Monique’s ancestors were enslaved by Sarah’s ancestors, the Washington family. When Sarah published her most recent post, about her connection with Monique’s family, Joyceann spoke out about her feelings about the piece. The three of them decided that the Facebook dialogue that followed was important, and would be valuable as a post of its own.

Read Joyeann’s blog for her full story:  http://jgraydiscovery.com/

Read Monique’s blog for her full story: http://genealogybreakingdownthewalls.blogspot.com/

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