Familial

100_1209As I write this, I’m reflecting on a small family gathering we attended this past Fourth of July Weekend. The Fourth came on Thursday this year (2019), however, many folks participated in activities that extended throughout the following weekend. There have been two events that have occurred over the last year that have caused me to take much more to heart family. My mother died a year ago two days after the Fourth of July, after a thirteen-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. Shortly afterwards, her sister-in-law, who also fought a battle with Alzheimer’s died in September of last year. Following these two deaths, there is but one survivor of my mother’s generation from her nuclear family. That one survivor is my yet mentally alert and lovely Aunt Mary. She was at the gathering, though a bit restricted in movement due to her arthritis and some edema in her legs.

We live in Little Rock, Arkansas. The gathering was in Jonesboro, Arkansas, which is about a two-hour drive. It was held at my cousin Junior’s place. Junior, who’s name is Clarence Jeffrey is the son of my mother’s late brother Clarence Jeffrey, Senior. (There are a ton of names I could mention in this piece; however, I won’t mention any more from this point, since I’m not sure how everyone would feel about me using their names.) I will use some of their images though. You must get some sense of the flavor of the event.

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It was a typical, hot Arkansas day for this gathering. It had rained the day before, so there was a thick layer of humidity blanketing each of us. You could simply stand, and the sweat would come with little to no effort. Most of us disregarded the discomfort because of the joy of simply being there with family. I particularly enjoyed watching the young ones play, as if the climatic conditions didn’t matter. The fact that my cousin has a large spread on the edge of town, with large trees under which he had setup tables and chairs, was nice for visiting. I forgo the temptation to take an air conditioning break; however, some did. I found it interesting that some who went inside to escape the heat and humidity were of the generation after mine. I guess they had no remembrance in their DNA of the times my generation had lived through hot summers with no air conditioning in ramshackle houses, down dusty roads in the country. Most of my generation has done a fair job of providing our children with comforts of life not that widespread during the times of Jim Crow.

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I could ramble on and on about how much I enjoyed the gathering of family and being emotionally affected by precious it is to experience events like this, but I won’t. I was especially moved by realizing that my mom’s generation is in the last stages of the natural erasure that all generations suffer. It’s as if you look up one day and none of them is around anymore. You have but memories of them and the lessons they shared to help guide you through the same process of natural erasure. A few of my cousins and I agreed that we would do more of this, and that we would be more deliberate in making it happen. God forbid we are naturally erased before the generations after us get a chance to experience family gatherings like this one. Family: It doesn’t get any better!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Africa is calling

 

African continent

The president of Ghana, in West Africa, has proclaimed 2019 as the year of return. This proclamation is primarily directed to all people of the African diaspora (world-wide), who have ancestral connections to the continent of Africa. I recently saw Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union ambassador to the United States deliver a speech in which she indicated that the return doesn’t have to be a literal one. She made it clear that a physical return to the continent would be welcomed; however, a mindset of identifying with the peoples of Africa was strongly encouraged.

I recall when the television series Roots was shown in 1977. The series was adapted from the late Alex Haley’s book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. For all who remember this ground-breaking telecast, it stemmed from Mr. Haley’s tracing of his African ancestry from slavery in America back to its roots in The Gambia, West Africa. This television series marked an historic event in commercial broadcasting, and it affected African-Americans in ways that the producers probably had not considered before it was broadcast. I had difficulty watching it. It showed much of the raw nature of the Western slave trade, where people were kidnapped and shipped under the most of inhumane conditions to a place that was traumatically foreign.

chris and hosea in dashikis

Roots had a powerful impact on African-Americans and people of African descent around the world. One measure of its impact was the enticement by many African-Americans to name their newborns by the names of the tortured souls portrayed in the television series. Of course, the series won numerous awards; however, the lasting effects on the consciousness of people was not long-lasting.

Recently, there was another media event that captured the minds of people around the world in unprecedented fashion: Black Panther. This movie from the Marvel Universe was totally fictional, but powerful in its ability to sell tickets and ushers huge crowds into cinemas, globally. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to go into very much detail about the premise of Black Panther. A simple utterance of the word “Wakanda” will probably suffice; however, a few words might be necessary for some. Wakanda is a fictional African country that has developed technologically beyond any point achieved by any other nation on earth. This was accomplished by use of a mineral called Vibranium, a rare earth metal, believed to have extraterrestrial origins. This mineral has also allowed the king of Wakanda to apply and use super-human powers to his being, resulting in him righting wrongs just like Superman, or any other well-known superhero. Wakanda has kept itself hidden from the rest of the world by use of cloaking technology that presents a green patch of flora to any view of it from above.

I know, it’s unreal sometimes how fiction can be just as powerful or even more so than reality. Be that as it may, Black Panther had people of the African diaspora, far and wide, exuberant about seeing a big-screen hero who looks like them. Of course, other ethnic and cultural groups were just as moved by the appeal of the movie, too.

At this late stage in life, I’m convinced, without doubt, that ancestors do call. If you listen closely, and open yourself up to their beckoning, you will here them. We aid ourselves in hearing them by reading history, listening to the stories of the old ones who are still around, and being acutely interested in the roots and branches from which we sprouted. All ethnic groups can hear their ancestors calling. The real-life examples I shared above of Afrocentric stories (real and fictional) have boosted my ability to hear my ancestors. This calling is emanating strongly from the West Africa. A calling that’s telling me to come home; come and see where your roots are planted deep. Forced immigration didn’t severe you from them. Come and see before your transition to the next plain of existence. Don’t use your chronic condition as an excuse not to come.

Hosea June 2019

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.