Wednesday, April 22, 2015

About Ben Affleck - You Tell 'im, Mr. Twitty!

I must share this!
In an open letter to actor, Ben Affleck, culinary blogger Michael W Twitty, on his blog, Afroculinaria  perfectly expresses the feelings that I, and so many others in the genealogy community have experienced since learning of the decision by PBS and Dr. Henry Louis Gates to honor the actor's request to disclude information from the show, "Finding Your Roots" about Affleck's slave-owning ancestors. Twitty lays it all out, in no uncertain terms, why Affleck's move was so shamefully wrong, and how it is precisely the type of thing that contributes to our nation's struggle in healing from this horrible part of its past.

Like the letter-writer, I am a descendant of former slaves, slave owners, and even a "Negro Trader". I also descend from free people of color and Native Americans. I've been researchimg my family for 18 years, and I won't stop until all of my "brick walls" come tumbling down. I just hope that the descendants of my slave-holding ancestors won't be too embarrassed (like Ben) to come forward and with whatever information they may have about them.

Here's the link to the full article, which you can also read, below.


Kudos, and thank you, Mr. Twitty.


Dear Ben,
Its unfortunate because of a massive internet hack we are in this particular place discussing your ancestral past. It’s horrible that your private matters were exposed because of something beyond your control. That’s untenable in any situation, but we need to address something right quick…this slavery thing.  You were embarassed, and that’s reasonable given the situation and the circumstances that produced it. But Ben Affleck, take it from a Black guy; with a platform like yours, don’t you dare be embarrassed to come from an ancestor who held enslaved people. Because….We need to know.
I don’t think many Black people really understand the profound guilt, shame or embarassment some white descendants of slave holding families feel. It’s not just that many assume personal responsibility for the past or that they grasp that their privilege or power is not just based on perceptions based on skin color.  Clearly these things become suddenly very real. It’s the feeling of inheritance from slavery that immediately engenders the internal deflation of the American dream.  It’s a retroactive forfeit of meritocracy, a moment when you realize your positioning in the now is surrounded by shadows from then
Recently, I caught flack from a younger African American man on YouTube after they posted my interview on culinary justice with Vice Munchies editor,  Helen Hollyman. He said that my message of Southern people being “family” was an old, kumbayah feel good trick to ease white guilt and win favor. “Nothing makes white people feel better…” he said. I looked at his picture icon, his phenotype clearly showed European ancestry. I felt a sincere pain in my gut, both an aching ego and a deep concern for his. He didn’t get it; if he ever plans on finding his past, he will have to go through the same valley–not around it. 
To put it another way: if you don’t own your slaveholder ancestor and I don’t own my enslaved ancestors past and the slaveholders who are a part of my bloodline–we will never know the real America and we will never know or understand ourselves. Even the most Afrocentric among us cannot find our “Kunta Kinte” if we don’t know who enslaved them. We have to share our histories, our knowledge, our experiences if we want to understand where we come from. 
I don’t know about your family, but this I promise you–in the South, ancestor worship is a mainstay of many, especially white Southern families of influence and renown. As more and more African Americans get interested in genealogy, because so many of us want to know who we come from, how we got here and how far we’ve come, the dialogue across the color line is especially critical. Many formerly slaveholding families have papers and details vital to the process of climbing African American family trees. We need formerly slaveholding families to come to the fore, not hide. 
I don't do this work because I want to live like a slave. I do it because I don't want anyone to forget. Especially me.
Slavery, wherever it was, made something permanent–for good or ill-it created an alternative history of bondage, blood and bone that is inescapable. This is a fact that makes your embarassment–and those of others in your shoes–so much less helpful than owning your past. When you and others like you own it, and you share what you know–we “meet” our ancestors again. They lose their anonymity and come alive. They are healed and we are healed because we can reveal their humanity, bring them out of American amnesia, and with hope, give them honor for all they gave to all of us.  The vast majority of Black roots-seekers are overwhelmingly grateful when white members of these families share what they know. That’s not always the case–some people, in the age of digital, social-media genealogy refuse to talk to possible descendants of their family’s enslaved workforce. Others are even more disturbed at the idea they share genes and names with people of color. It’s unhelpful to us all–the way we all hide, obfuscate, disown, forget, avoid….we don’t heal, we don’t learn and we don’t move forward.
“We’re all family,” is not a cop out, nor
is it an absolution.  It is a necessary and revolutionary change from our past approach to confronting one of America ‘s original sins. It is clear to me that this is not about our feelings, our hangups, our hurts, our embarassments or our causes. It is about what we want to model for the present and the future.
I want to tell you about a young man named Keith. He was my student a decade ago. One class we discussed issues of race and culture, and I was the only person of color in the room. My students began spouting narratives about how they learned from parents or teachers at school that Blacks “didn’t want to uplift themselves like our (ethnic white) ancestors did” or that Black people “wanted to live in the ghetto or bad parts of town.” I immediately tried to quell the bs but some of my students turned defensive and even disrespectful.
Keith had enough. “Shut up, you’re disrespecting Mr. Twitty and you don’t get it.” Another student retorted, “And you do???” Keith said without flinching, “My family owned slaves, a lot of slaves, and you don’t know what that did to Black people in this country.” Keith’s paternal roots went back to a number of large rice plantations in the South Carolina Lowcountry.  
He and his family knew about my interests in the stories of the enslaved and our contribution to American food history. They let me borrow old family books and I learned more of their story. Ten years later, as I make preparations to go to those homeland of my sixth great grandmother–a woman brought from the rice growing land of Sierra Leone to the port of Charleston and her surrounding rice fields, I can think of no one I’d rather to have with me than my former student so he can see a part of my history that inextricably is his as well.
I admire your values and your talents, and hey, the Voyage of the Mimi, was a huge part of my growing up let me tell you…but know this, tell the story of that ancestor, and tell it often, because somebody out there, needs you to.
With respect,
Michael W. Twitty
Descendant of the enslaved and some of their enslavers.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Update to Funeral Programs Database

About a month ago, I made a commitment to updating my (Mostly) African American Funeral Programs database every Friday, however, for the past two weeks, my Friday schedule hasn't allowed for it.  In fact, the weekends have been so busy, I haven't been able to get to the database at all.  I've figured out that I need to just add the information to the database whenever I have the time, and then schedule the updates to come out on Fridays.  Umm... yeah.  So, the brain is working on overload right now.  But, it's still working!

So, even though today is Sunday, I've found some time to add to the database, bringing the total entries to 200!  It may not seem like much, but given the time it takes to input the information, I'm happy with it (for now).  Today's additions include persons from North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, and New Jersey.

Here's today's featured program!

Plans are in the works to turn the database into an actual website, and to eventually scan the programs and make them clickable, but for now, if you see a name of interest, simply make a request in the comment section, and I will scan, and send it to you!  (Be sure to include your email address.) Alternatively, you can email me, directly, if you'd like to make your request privately.

The following new surnames were added to the database, today. 

Until the next Friday update....

Permalink to this post:  http://genea-related.blogspot.com/2014/03/update-to-funeral-programs-database.html

Friday, February 21, 2014

Funeral Card Friday - New Programs Added to Database!

New programs have been added to my (Mostly) African American Funeral Programs database.  Surnames added today are as follows:

Today's featured program is that of Mr. King A. Williams.

As always, I am happy to scan and email copies of any of the funeral programs in the database.  All you have to do is email me at yarsan@aol.com with the name of the deceased, or make your request in the comments section, below.  Just be sure to provide me with your email address!  Also, in some cases, I have multiple copies of a program, and will happily mail out an original, if requested. 

Funeral programs are often rich with genealogical data!  Be sure to browse my entire database for surnames of interest.  You might just find an ancestor waiting there!

Happy ancestor hunting!

Permalink to this post:  http://genea-related.blogspot.com/2014/02/funeral-card-friday-new-programs-added.html

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Funeral Card Friday - (One Day Late)

Last week, I called myself making a commitment to updating my database, "(Mostly) African American Funeral Programs", each Friday under the meme, "Funeral Card Friday".  Well, as you can see, I've already failed.  Not only didn't I update the database and write this post yesterday, but the thought of doing so never even crossed my mind!  Apparently, this is yet another indicator that I need to start writing down each and every thing that I say I'm going to do, as this is not the first faux pas I've made, of late.
Anyway, the second I realized it, I got busy.  Another 50 names have been added to the database, representing deceased individuals from the North and South Carolina, New York, Massachutsetts, and New Jersey.  Newly added surnames include the following:
Please take a look at the database, where maiden names and names of spouses are also given. In addition, you will find birth and death dates and locations for each of the deceased, as well as any nicknames or titles.  Remember, funeral programs are rich with genealogical info, so if you are researching any of the surnames and/or areas noted in the database, and you'd like to know more, or get a copy of the full funeral document, just let me know in the comments and/or email me at yarsan@aol.com with your request.

I hope this will help someone!  Happy genea-hunting!


Permalink: http://genea-related.blogspot.com/2014/02/funeral-card-friday-one-day-late.html

Friday, January 31, 2014

Funeral Program Friday - (Mostly) African American Funeral Programs Updated!

Well, wouldn't you know it.  As soon as I went and changed the name of my database to, "African American Funeral Programs", I found one in the collection for someone who wasn't African American! I had a feeling that might happen, and I was a little concerned about it when I renamed the collection.  Although it's likely that the majority of the programs in the collection will be those of African Americans, I certainly don't want to limit the service that I'm trying to provide by not including someone's funeral program, based on race.  It just "ain't that kinda party" (lol), as they say!
So...... I've decided to alter the name of the database, once again!  Since the programs are not all from NC (as I'd originally thought), and now, at least in one case, they are not all for African Americans, I will now call the database by this name: "(Mostly) African American Funeral Programs".  We'll see how that goes!  :)
I've also made one other decision regarding this database.  I am now going to make a commitment to adding new programs, and announcing them on this blog every Friday, under the meme, "Funeral Card Friday", which is used by other genealogy bloggers to post content on their sites.  So, hold me to it, folks!  Every Friday, (Mostly) African American Funeral Programs will be updated with new names.  Check back, weekly.  You might find that information you've been looking for!

The following surnames were added today:
* Not African American
Just click on the link to check out the database, and remember, if you desire to have an copy of the full program for any name, just send me an email (yarsan@aol.com), or request it in the comment section, and I will happily scan the program for you.

Permalink to this post:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More Funeral Programs in African American Database

More funeral programs have been added to my database of "African American Funeral Programs".  Yes, I've decided to change the name of the database. Since it seems that all of the programs I have at this time are those of African Americans, it seems to be the best name to give it!

I've also decided to start listing the surnames of each additional set of programs I add, when I announce them on the blog.  Here are the surnames that I've added this evening:

The entire database can be accessed by clicking on this link: African American Funeral Programs . As a reminder, I will happily provide any information you'd like from any of the programs in the database, or, if you'd like, I will scan any program and send it to you, electronically.  
Please spread the word about this database.  My collection continues to grow, and I will continue to add to this database, at least weekly!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Names added to NC Funeral Programs

Well, it's been a while, but I've finally added about 60 more names to the spreadsheet.  It's pretty time-consuming, and I just haven't had much time! 

The earliest funeral program I've come across is still the one from the 1940s, which I shared in the previous post, however all decades since then are represented in the collection, with persons who were born as early as the 1870's. 

Readers, please share the link to this page via social media, especially if your network includes researchers with roots in North Carolina.  So far, all of the programs are for African-Americans, but you never know who might have an interest in who! :)

Today's featured program is for Beatrice Holcomb, a distant cousin of mine, whom I never had the pleasure of meeting.

As a reminder, I will gladly scan and mail any of the programs out.  Just contact me via the blog for details. :)

I will try to post more names, very soon! Here, again, is the link to the spreadsheet.


Oh! I forgot to mention that I just added the column for place of birth today, when I was for than halfway finished added the newest ones. I'll have to go back and pull out all the others to add the places of birth. Can't do it tonight, but it will be soon!

Permalink to this post:  http://genea-related.blogspot.com/2013/12/names-added-to-nc-funeral-programs.html