For the Seafood Lover in Me.

I watch a lot of TV, and most commercials I am able to watch for a little entertainment and keep it moving.. in fact a lot of commercials I do not even watch, because I always have 2 or 3 shows on deck. Except for those evil advertisements that begin with an ocean and then phase to a cracking crab leg, with butter drizzling off the juicy crab meat.. then fades to sizzling scallops sliding onto a plate with the juiciest tender rock lobster tail you've ever seen in your life.. They continue to show you perfectly blackened fish and shrimp and buttery garlicy scampi that pulls me close to the commercial.. because I think that somehow I will be able to taste the food if I get close enough, the same way I thought that if I looked hard enough at the bottom of the TV I would be rewarded with a small peak below the waist during the D'Angelo video. These sinfully delectable commercials make me not even consider my account balance and search frantically for my keys and purse so I can rush out to the nearest Red Lobster because Lobsterfest, ShrimpFest and SummerFest are always for a limited time only and can I live with myself if I live without the taste of those scallops and crablegs on the tip of my tongue... I dont think so.

Back to my roots

This summer I decided to take on the task of researching my family tree, because my family is kind of old. My mother had me when she was 30, her mother had her when she was 42, and so funerals are not so much a rarity in my life. I've seen both grandmothers pass, an aunt and two uncles and in a much more unexpected way, my father as well. So I knew names, and I have childhood memories of these people, but unfortunately time didn't give me the blessing to really pay attention to those stories of where we came from. I heard Rome, GA and Mississippi, but never had those huge family reunions that a lot of black folk have that give them that link to the past.

Drawing more branches on the family tree was both a thrilling and devastating experience. I found names and places, aunts and uncles that I've never heard of and people who worked hard and went to school. I found out that my great great grandfather knew how to read after slavery. In fact, looking back to 1837, I did not find anyone on my family tree who didn't learn how to read and write and that was a joyous surprise. I found fun names like Lula, Jones, Anna Belle and Wallace, they worked as farm hands, tilemen, coal workers and students. I found myself searching through the census and finding the places they lived and googling them today... calling my mother to plan trips down South.

After I hung up the phone with my mother, I sat and looked at the tree, looked through names and documents and soon found myself devastated. Devastated that this history had been hidden from me. Not just the history of my family, I could forgive the repression of my individual limbs. I was sad and angry that those thousands of people who were freed from slavery are not remembered as hardworking men and women who valued education and hard work. Those survivors of slavery who became free and then worked hard to leave their children in a better place than they were. I think of my grandparents who during the Great Migration came to Chicago and became coal miners and tile workers, my grandmother who became a nurse. That is the legacy I wish we all remembered of the Freedmen.

We hear historic stories of individual African Americans who were educated and made great strides at the beginning of the 20th century, but unfortunately we see what the did as out of the ordinary, as if the rest of the Black families were shucking and jiving and eating watermelon. Or maybe we dont take the time to think about them at all, because they have been successfully erased.

And maybe we are lucky because ignorance is bliss, if you don't know how great your legacy is, then you dont have to live up to anything and if you attain mediocrity, then you have done better than half of the images you see of African Americans. In a world focused on material wealth, we understand the disadvantage African Americans have because due to oppression and discrimination, we have not been able to amass enough wealth to pass it down from one generation to the next. But we unfortunately have allowed other to dismiss what we do have, and that is a sense of determination, pride and purpose. The determination of our ancestors to do better, to put on step in front of the other and make a way for our families when every obstacle was against them. And they did it! If our individual history was not stolen from us, I think that for us to succeed would not be an aberration, it would simply be expected, because throughout the years, we always have.