Sunday, December 15, 2013

A December Letter To Mama: Missing You

                                                                                                                                   Missing You:   
 It's been tough here. I sure miss you and I also miss all those family members and friends that you surely have run across. 

I wonder if your sons, your parent’s, your aunts and uncles are close by and are you sharing the same room in that mansion you are living in.
Mind you Mama, I am only wondering right now (smile)

For some reason my eyes drifted to a book on the table and I picked it up.

It was The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus. I turned the page to see what the word "miss" meant. 

The one thing I read and connected to was the definition that stated “to feel the absence of ”

 I can relate to that even though 1994 has been an awful long time. Not a day goes by that I feel that absence and miss that nearness of you. 

This time of year always gets extra rough for me. For a long time I did not want to participate in cooking or getting ready for the holidays but slowly but surely I am coming out of that bag.

I can only imagine how you all feel, all happy and stuff. Not really having to do anything but sing all day long and keeping your wings clean. I wonder if you learned to play the harp.  

Down here we have to get our music at several different venues like I Tunes, U Tube and Wal-Mart. I still love my Old One Hundreds and my Oldies But Goodies Rythym and Blues. 

The wings are a different story I want you to know. We either cook them ourselves or go to a place that sells them for sixty-five cents apiece. That’s too dang high if you ask me.

I am going to try and make Gumbo for Christmas. I have often said that you and your mother make the best Gumbo in the whole wide world. Your mother did beat you making it though. That lady could make gumbo with her eyes closed. Taylor has asked if I would show her how to make it. 

We often think and laugh about that time the sound of something cracking came from your bedroom. 

Because we were taught to knock before entering, we never could catch you in the act of making that sound. I remember we used to put our ear to the door and as soon as we heard that crack and crunch we would knock real fast and open the door. 

All we saw was you lying in bed reading a book with that smile on your face.

We knew what it was though…. we looked in the Gumbo pot and noticed those big snow crab legs dwindling down one by delicious one.

We saw only those little blue crabs and shrimp for tomorrow’s left over dinner.  

Funny how we could not catch you but you always caught us doing something we did not have any business doing. 

Missing You:   

Just yesterday on the news they were talking about Santa Claus and what color he was. 

Shoot I remember one year on Christmas Eve, we were told to go to bed and go to sleep because Santa was on his way. Well we were still in there giggling and talking when we heard a scratching sound coming from the window.

Me with my non scary self, opened the curtains;  and who stood there laughing and saying Ho, Ho, Ho, you kids better be sleep before I come back. Standing there with a no presents for us threat bigger than life was Santa Claus !

Talk about six kids scrambling under the covers and got quiet as a mouse, well that was us. Sleep came real quick.

We never, that I remember, thought of anything different was wrong or questioning why the change of the complexion of Santa. It was something that we did not notice.

All the Santa’s that my brothers and sisters and I saw in the NCO clubs on the Air force Base at Christmas time were white. 

The Santa that came to the window that night was black.

I think back now and believe to my soul that our parents knew that when we came of age and matured we would know the reason for his small part in our life at a young age.

We were also taught the real reason for the season and that has never wavered.  

Missing You:  

I know you remember that cactus we had disguised as a Christmas tree. 

We had that plastic cactus sitting in a pot for years on the table by the front door.

Money was scarce that year and we could not afford a real tree that we so often had. We put a Christmas bulb around that cactus, wrapped the pot with Christmas paper and was just as excited when Santa visited and left what toys he could that year. 

I know you have to remember when Bruce wrote that letter to Santa and drew a stamp on the envelope. The letter did not get very far because the mailman put it right back in the mailbox. 

That mailman could have taken that letter; I am sure he knew there was a special place in the post office for letters like that. Especially addressed to the North Pole.

I could go on and on about our Christmas stories when we were kids because they do put a smile on my face. Such happy times that I would never trade for anything.

We did not have the snowflakes to fall just before Christmas, or lakes that iced over to use as a skating rink, no chestnuts to roast over an open fire.

We did have apples and oranges, candy canes and three or four different kinds of nuts.

Oh and Mama our biggest joy was that we had you and that was enough for us. 

Love  and miss you

Your daughter Vicky

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Road May Be Rough, The Reward Great In The End : Episode 6

The last episode of the PBS Series of  Many Rivers To Cross:  A wonderful experience to blog about through my eyes. 

We the people in order to form a more perfect union

Establish Justice

Secure perfect tranquility

Do provide for the common defense

Promote the general welfare

Secure the blessings of liberty 

Do ordain and establish this constitution to the United States of America 

River of Gratitude: Into this life some rain must fall

Tears of my parents and grandparents falling like rain. 

Thunderous sounds of my ancestor's spring forth a river of resilience

Synopsis: Episode one through six:

Many trials and tribulations but we survived

Rivers crossed because of our will to survive

To God Be The Glory for He gave us the ability to survive

Cross over those bridges built with the strength of our forefathers and foremother's quest to survive

Monday, November 25, 2013

Many Rivers To Cross Episode 5: What's Going On


 A Picturesque View of the 60’s in these United States of America


Marchers in Phoenix Arizona

The Shirelles singing " This is Dedicated To The One I Love"  

Taking a short break in Da Nang

Pen in hand writing a letter to his mom 

                                                                                                                                                                                      When our "Soldier Boy " went off to VietNam  we wished them well and God speed.

Soldier Boy Oh, my little soldier boy, I’ll be true to you.

Marching in Tallahasee Florida 

If you were a young teen lady in love and made a habit of running to the mailbox looking for a letter you know the song by The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman” had you spinning.  

Stand In's waiting to be seated in Virginia. When we can't sit we will stand until we can. 

We did it our way

Carlos and Smith 1968 Olympics 

45 and 78 RPM’s going round and round 

In Phoenix students marched on the State Capitol to protest unfair Housing Accommodations

Excerpt of the last paragraph from the Chicago Daily Defender 1962

Signing off: I can’t stop loving my ancestors

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Many Rivers Episode 4: Should We Go Or Should We Stay?

My response to Episode 4 Many Rivers To Cross: Making A Way Out Of No Way.

I started off with a small poem I wrote and then highlighted a few of my ancestors that made a difference in their communities and in their own personal lives.

Should We Go or Should We Stay?

How can we make a way out of no way?
Got to buy me a pick, a shovel, a small plot of land
With the Grace of God, I will do what I can.
                                                                                                                         Forces are against us, white sheet and hoods                                      
Looking at every truck that comes through our neck of the woods.
Right and left in the day go the sway of our head
Praying and praying we don’t come up dead. 

As we lend our ears to the sounds that say Get up!
Don’t even bother to dress, they are on their way
Peeking out the window late at night
Consoling our kids who are shaking with fright
Peace be still

Should we go or should we stay?

Can we hold our heads up high as we walk down the street?
Being men why should we shuffle and look down at our feet
We love our women;  yes, we too love deep
Trusting and protecting as we tip toe through the waters of life

Should we go or should we stay?

Trouble the water, down in the lower South
 In this new day of reconstruction
Or take a trek where life springs a new beginning
As we wade in those troubled waters
Regardless of where we stay
We will make a way out of no way.

Jimmy The Ugly Crow:

My aunt Ethel's grandfather Richard Chapman family had to endure this awful charge and continue to make a way out of murky water.

Most of my ancestors chose to stay in Texas for whatever reason. They lived in counties like Galveston, Fayette, Liberty, San Jacinto, Grimes, and Harrison. However many of their children moved to other cities as they got older. 

Texas had numerous teaching jobs that needed to be filled as more and more schools were built.

Uncle Owen Daviss had several teaching and principal positions. Kenedy School was one of the ones he was troubled with towards the end of his career in that town.
This is a letter that my uncle Owen sent to a Mr. Jacquet telling of his concern about not only him losing his job because of desegregation but for all the other Negro teachers who would be displaced. 

The Bad: This letter below tells of his concern in 1955 of the aproaching storm. 

Here is a portion of the letter as he breaks down the stream of unfairness.

 The response Uncle Owen received was cloudy and stagnant:

Breaking down the bad came down like a rolling waterfall.

Low and bitter as if he knew all they went through instead of playing the blame game on that bridge over troubled waters.

After all that was said and done Uncle Owen went on to be one of the best educators in Grimes and Liberty County Texas.

One of my collateral great uncles Wash Lester  helped to build numerous Rosenwald schools in Harrison County.

Relatives went to Bishop and Wiley College. One uncle Rev L.R. Taylor was a trustee at Bishop for years before they moved the school to Dallas. He was also a Moderator for the Texas Louisiana Baptist Association.

My paternal relatives attended  Praireview and Texas Southern and taught at schools like Paul Quinn in Waco.

Harry Daviss went to Texas State University for Negroes

Some went on to attend Meharry in Tennessee like my great grandfather J D Daviss and came back to Texas to practice at the Houston Colored Hospital as well as private practice.

Those who migrated and chose to stay in their perspective states:

A better life was made for and by them as well as their offspring.  From Pullman Porters, School Principals, and just plain hardworking men who took care of their families in hard times and good times.

William D. Williams:    New York
Lloyd Williams:            Washington
Lee Williams:               California
R.D. Burks:                   California
Jerome Burks:               California
T.R. Daviss:                 Colorado
Moses Davis                 Colorado
Wright C Daviss:          Oklahoma
Floyd Mitchell:             Oklahoma
Harry Davis:                 Kansas

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Many Rivers To Cross Episode 3: Oh Freedom!

Someone told me once that darn near everyone had an ancestor that fought in the United States Colored Troops. While I have not made that connection yet, I do have more than a few “troopers” that I admire, be it for the betterment of the cause of humanity or just because they are who they are.

The Women:

My first pick is every single one of my female ancestors who survived the brutal acts of slavery.

Secondly, I cry out to the mothers who saw their loved ones off to war, some who never returned, and some who returned with the full effects of the war with missing limbs and missing thoughts of why they survived.

When the New York Union League Club proclaimed their support for the men of the 20th United States Colored Troops, I can imagine their gut wrenching pride and tears. 
The club was made up of women whose relatives and neighbors were getting ready to head out to war.

They presented the flag/ banner and stated that it was an emblem of prayers, freedom and faith.  The love of a common country and the devotion to the country was imprinted in their minds.

Excerpt from article found in the New York Daily Tribune March 7,1864

These women loved their sons, husbands, uncles, nephews and neighbors

These women stood tall swelling with pride 

Thirdly Isabella also known as Sojourner Truth

Born a slave in 1777  she was a strong force in fighting for the abolishment of slavery, temperance and suffrage. Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth after she became disillusioned with a Mr. Matthews who ran away with money his followers had invested. She was a devoted follower of him and his wife and was accused of being involved in the trickery.  Promising to clear her good name she made a pact with herself to spend the rest of her life fighting slavery. Mrs. Truth lived to be 106 years old.

One of my favorite speeches was Ain’t I A Woman found in the 1992 issue of The Guardian.

Last but not least Fannie: Love Letter Straight From My Heart, keep us so near while apart

Theophilus and Harriet Person Perry lived in Harrison County Texas.  When the civil war came Theophilus took Norfleet, a bondsman of his father Levin with him as his man servant. Fannie was also enslaved by Levin Perry and was Norfleet’s companion. Harriett went to stay at Spring Hill, Levin Perry’s Plantation.
As we know, the enslaved more than likely did not pen this letter however someone wrote it for her with the intention of it getting to Norfleet, the love of Fannie's life. 

Here is what the letter stated dated December 28, 1862     

The original letter is located in the Person Family papers housed at the Manuscript Division at Duke University in the William R Perkins Library                                       

The Men: Texas State Legislators: Reconstruction Era

These are a few of the brave men who served in the Texas Legislator during reconstruction.

A. B. Houston Bassett served in Grimes County and lived near my grandparents James Penn and Gertrude Sims Daviss.

David Abner Sr, served in Harrison County Marshall Texas the home of my maternal ancestors.

Ed Patton served in San Jacinto County and was once married to Easter Thornton in my Williams line. 

        A Song for the seasons past: Oh Freedom sung by Shirley Verrett