We all know the stories of our heroes from long ago that helped extricate us out of Slavery and Jim Crow, and we are blessed to repeat those stories to inspire our young. If you don’t know the stories, go to the old folks in your family and ask them about your relatives from the past. Go to the drawer where your family keeps obituaries from aunt’s and uncle’s, grandma’s and grandpa’s funeral, start there to learn. One of my curious granddaughters, when she was fourteen years old took, mental note of what the family ate at family gatherings, at dinners and holidays, and asked each of us what was in the dish, and with the information, created the HOPKINS FAMILY COOK BOOK. She gave them out to our immediate family for Christmas. We reprinted them and passed them out at our annual family reunion.
In the introduction to the cookbook she revealed her feelings about our food and how it connects the generations by using recipes of the relatives when it is cooking time for her and her newborn daughter. She writes that “Eating healthy or not will either make or break your body, and sharing and breaking bread with friends and family creates love and fellowship.” She then writes further, “Family, you can’t live with them, but you certainly can’t live without them and the love that goes into their food.”
In addition to the oral tradition that teaches us all about our family’s history, I was blessed to receive a booklet from my mother entitled, “U Namit”. It is a booklet of writings from her father (my radical Grandpa Shaw) who I didn’t get to know very well. I copied these writings and passed them out at the last family reunion.
As a note, I suggest that you plan a family reunion, even if it is only a family dinner at our home. Share whatever you have about your family and have others share. You will be well on your way to learning real Black history; yours.
My paternal grandfather died when my father was eight years old. I know nearly nothing about him. What I do know is that with ﬁve sisters, my father as the only male had to grow up quickly. I know a few stories from him but the one that sticks with me is about how he had to pull the wagon down the cotton ﬁelds rows, behind his mother with his sister, my Aunt Loyce, in it. She got out of the wagon in Oklahoma, grew up and went to Beauty school and later owned Loyce’s Beauty Salon on Santa Barbara and later Western Avenue in Los Angeles. Her shop provided a quiet place on the weekends for me to study for the Bar Exam.
My maternal grandfather was a preacher, and I am told, “a pistol”. His booklet included rants about discrimination, racism and living Black in the south. My favorite writing in his booklet is called, “When All The White Folks Are Dead.” It raises the question to God. “If we are all your children why do we have to wait till all the white folks are dead to get our blessings?” In another writing he says, “If Too Weak To Live, Then Die Quietly.”
I get the feeling that my maternal grandfather was somewhat of a scoundrel, but he loved my mother and for that love my mother mistreated her mother. My grandmother, in turn, mistreated my mother. My father rescued her from my grandmother’s house and married her when she was sixteen. They were together for ﬁfty-one years when he passed. He not only rescued her. He rescued his whole family out of the south and to California at his ﬁrst opportunity, and I thank him.
It’s good to know your immediate family history. When you know your family history, it helps you to better understand your relatives and why they are the way they are, and to better understand why you are the way you are. You can then choose to either emulate them or change.
My love for writing came from my maternal grandfather.
My love for reading came from my mother.
My love and ﬁerce protection of the womenfolk in my family came from my father.
My determination (and sometimes stubbornness) came from my Uncle Arthur.
My business sense came from my mother.
My sense of responsibility came from my father.
My sense of reality came from my mother
My values come from my entire family.