Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Giving Back: Beyond Emancipation

For the past few weeks I've been volunteering to help Youth from Alameda County research their family members. A Youth Ancestry Project through Supervisor Keith Carson's office in conjunction with the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC).

So far I've been working with the young adults at Beyond Emancipation, helping them piece together their family history as well as hopefully help them locate living relatives. I have to admit in the beginning I didn't know what to expect, but once I sat down with them and we begin discussing some of the things that have transpired in their lives it felt like home. Not in so much as I could relate to all of their stories, but I felt their pain and their need to know who and where they come from and if there are any relatives currently available for them to connect with. I bring their stories home with me and I admit to tossing and turning thinking about them and my need to want to help them as much as possible. Giving back does the heart good - I cannot stress that enough, truly a Blessed feeling.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mama, I Remember

Today was a BLESSED Day... I cannot explain the joy I've had today. First I attended our Society's monthly meeting AAGSNC, which had a powerful presentation by Nicka Smith on her journey to Cameroon, I wanted to be in tears, but tried to remain the big girl. :) Nicka has a gift, she has found what she is passionate about in her family research and there is no limit to how far she will go for it, a true inspiration. I'm not sure if she's put her journey yet on her family's blog, but here is her family's website: - one day I will hopefully get our family's history to this caliber - she is a true inspiration and I am glad to call her friend.

Then after today's meeting I went over to my sister LaJuana's house. Family pictures are hard to come by in my family as when my parents split, my mother left everything (just grabbed her two girls and left) so all of our family pictures were spread among many family members. Now a bunch of those family members have passed on so trying to find out who has what and how to piece them all together is a journey within itself.

Now getting back to my visit w/ LaJuana, I knew she had some pictures that were my Grandmother Alberta's (Mama) so I toted my laptop and my scanner (yes, I put my scanner in a suitcase and toted it along) one day I'll be savvy and get me a small portable one, but a sista's got to do what a sista's got to do.

So I set up all of my equipment and LaJuana brought out this album and I immediately came across a picture that rocked my heart to its core. This is a picture of my Uncle James Thomas, my Grandmother Alberta's baby brother.

I remember her showing me this picture when I was a little girl and her explaining to me that he died when he was a little boy. She had this picture low in a drawer, so I would pull it out every now and again and look at it. He was a baby in this picture, but I remember how she used to call him her baby and how much she loved him (she was 14 years older than he was) and I'm assuming during that time she was probably more of his caregiver than her mother was.

James was the baby boy out of 11 siblings. 7 Boys and 4 Girls. So when i saw this picture my heart did an immediate cartwheel. My sister LaJuana had no clue on who was in this picture, but I recognized it immediately the minute she pulled it out. I used to stare at this picture and wonder what type of little boy he was, my Grandmother was crazy about him and when she would talk about him, I could see tears welling up in her eyes, as she would tell me how she used to rock him to sleep, play with him when he was a young boy. This is the only picture I've ever seen of him and I'm sure more exist, I hope I can recognize him just by feeling him. I'm sure Mama will give me that signal.

Below is his death certificate that I obtained from Franklin Parish, LA - this was the link that let me know my Great Grandparents were actually from West Baton Rouge, LA and over time migrated on up to Winnsboro, LA.

My Uncle James Thomas was 8 years old and 7 months at his time of death and died of Diarrhea. I'm assuming he had been ill and the Diarrhea is what most likely dehydrated him and eventually killed him. When I think about this I think about how times have changed and how had this illness fell upon a young boy at the age today he'd be able to live through it, grow up into a beautiful young man, who would have gone on to start his own family, but that was not his destiny. His destiny would extend many years beyond his death, until a day his big sister, would show his baby picture to her inquisitve granddaughter who never forgot that he existed and how much her Grandmother loved him. His story will be told and kept alive, all 8 years and 7months of it.

Mama I remember and thank you for sharing him with me.