It’s been awhile. I know.
Between going to and recovering from the Essence Fest and going to my family reunion, I’ve just been all over the place. I’ve also been all over the place emotionally.
Going to my family reunion totally reenergized me. This always happens when I go and spend time with my family or go visit good friends (or they visit me) or if I go to a professional conference.
Sometimes you have to get with like-minded folks to recharge your batteries and help you refocus on what’s important to you.
I spent a good portion of last week on a mission to trace back my ancestry so I could present the results at the family reunion and I was successful.
I was able to trace back as far as the slave owner (great, great, great grandfather) who kicked off the whole party with according to records an unidentified negro woman. From there, I was able to look at census data to find out more about his son, who was born in 1839. It was insane looking at census data from as early as the 1870s and seeing my family and how they grew, and overcame a lot of difficulty as America was establishing itself.
Old census data used to show whether or not people could read or write. As time went on, you saw in my family, that the next generation always improved and more people started reading, writing and going to school and fewer children were farming in North Carolina full time.
I got to see how family members moved out of the house, or in some cases moved back in, and how they all stepped up and took care of one another, or even shared their homes with others, or boarders who also worked on the farm.
I was happy to report all of this information and had a number of family members approach me, thanking me for sharing. Even the dj came up to me and said he wanted to trace his family history after hearing my report.
I was totally inspired by the story of my family and how strong they were. Black people in the U.S. tend to know they came from slaves, but to see their names written down and to make the connection from their dates of birth, it drives it all home. It was very, very real and so were their hardships. But we stayed together and we stayed strong. Could you imagine?
Another thing that made me emotional was spending time with my nephew. He’s really awesome and to see the blend of all of us in him and his personality was cool and scary. It appears he is competitive and a perfectionist and determined and type A, like me.
We had a rock climbing wall and he was determined to get up it. But it was pretty tough. Well after my sister and I had given up, he was still talking to that rock and trying to figure it out. Keep in mind, we were in the sweltering heat. We had to talk him off the rock and convince him to take a break and get some water. Because it was not safe to keep going like that without hydration.
Another thing stuck out to me. The men in my family. I really, really, really enjoyed seeing fathers playing with and just loving on their children and grandchildren. In some cases, there are some men in my family who are taking care of children who aren’t even their own. In one case, a cousin introduced an adult daughter he didn’t know about who found him through Facebook and met for the first time that weekend.
I was proud to see my dad, who is 62, beating the pants off of people, playing basketball.
So at any rate, there were moments that I wanted pundits from Fox News or ignorant people who don’t interact very often with black men or don’t care to know their story to see these men in my family being so loving.
You could see all of these mini moments of men flirting with their wives and girlfriends, dancing with them at the party, playing games with their kids or sharing an ice cream.
I’d been mad and through with black men too. I was so annoyed with dating them and almost marrying one. But to hear my brother-in-law and nephew trade jokes and wrestle and hug, and to see he and my sister laugh and smile and offer to take turns rubbing each others feet after playing tennis, I wasn’t even jealous (which sometimes I am).
I was happy to see these snapshot moments and feel the love in them.
So now, I’m feeling super mushy. Oh boy.
And after having a spirited conversation about relationships between black men and black women and why we are having so much trouble, I do not pity black men and I won’t give trifling black men a pass, but I’m starting to sympathize a bit more.
I’m starting to check myself. I have decided to spend this week going out of my way to show my black male friends and family more love and encouragement. It’s so funny how things line up.
On my way back from New Jersey, I called up an old friend who I used to work with. He’s a newspaper editor and we had lunch. He told me stories of some of his work difficulties and difficulties trying to raise his teenage daughter. As I listened, I thought about the conversation I had about black men and their struggle. In his work environment, he has to fight against being the angry black man, and when he expresses himself passionately or is confident about his work, people see him as a threat or confrontational.
He knows he’s treated this way. But he also knows he is good at his job. He shook his head and took a deep breath. He said he wasn’t going to do anymore, or do any less, he was just going to do his job and ride it all out until his daughter graduates from high school. I could see he was tired. I sat across from him and I felt his frustration and it upset me too.
So that’s the plan. All of this week and further on throughout (I hope) I will not focus on my struggles as a black woman. I have plenty. This week I am going to show appreciation, more sweetness to the black men in my life and the ones I happen to meet a long the way.
I sent this text to one of my best, black, male friends.
I love you and I’m proud of you. I want you to know I am here for you and I pray for your strength and success and protection as you navigate this world.