Thanksgiving, Traditions, Native Americans and Evolved Self Definitions

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It’s that time of year again.  The heaviest travel day in the United States.  The time when family and friends gather to feast, mingle, catch up, argue and watch a little football. Since the expansion of social media, it’s also the time where we are reminded of the horrific tragedy that befell our original citizens, the Native Americans.  The memes are have been prepared with care, ready to remind America of just one of it’s original sins.

I get it.  As a matter of fact, I endorse the expressions of truth regarding the historically accurate facts of our nations history and hypocrisies.  Those that know me, know that I do that just about everyday.

But there is another side to this as well.  As a people, especially people who have been the abused, the tortured, the terrorized and murdered, those who have been placed in the under caste status; Those of us who have survived in spite of the fact that we are still in a battle for our lives; With our ingenuity and ability to adapt on the run, we have managed to turn what was originally a negative into our own divine positive.

I remember as a boy in school hearing that story about the pilgrims and the settlers.  I remember drawing turkeys by tracing the body and head around my spread apart hand.  Like every  other school kid, that part about the small pox blankets and slaughters were left out.  But you know what, growing up at MY house, we never talked about that crap anyway.  For my parents, grandparents, aunts and elders, it was about the fellowship around a meal that took several hours of hard work and dedication to perfect.  (Or at least try to perfect)

Listen, as a people, even as we come into new knowledge, we should also embrace our abilities to make lemonade out of lemons, sugar out of sh#!  And you know what, there is no need for us to apologize for it. One of my biggest realizations in life is that two things can be true at the exact same time.  Yes Thanksgiving as is being told to us traditionally is a farce.  One could compare it to the Nazi’s telling a false narrative of how they collaborated with Jews in Europe.  We should know that history.  Equally true, is that like many other things in life, we as a people have created our own narratives and definitions thereby turning a tragedy upon its head and making our empowering choices work for us.

I’m a social and political warrior.  Many of you are.  Even in war time, troops get leave, rest.  In order to fight the long game and not die of exhaustion, you must come away.  Traditions are neither good nor bad. They are the product of who and what we decide to make them to be.  Though I am mindful to thankful everyday, there is something good about much of our activities stopping, folk taking the time to slow down, be present and enjoy a few moments where we are all focusing on the same things.  I can do that and still fight for and stand with Standing Rock.

Bless You All~

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The Warmth of Other Suns ~ Isabelle Wilkerson

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Been reading this wonderful book about the great migration.  I can’t say enough about it. Though I am not finished yet, there are some things I would love to share about it.

I’ve heard of the Great Migration here and there.  But never thought about it in terms of the gravity and significance of detail.

Here are some interesting, Did You Knows:

During an 8 year period, 8 million people of African descent moved North and Westward from the South. Can you imagine 8 million people per year?  Most without any assurance of what would await them.  It created such a labor crisis in Southern states, that the in some cases, white police officers would literally rip the bus or train tickets out of potential travelers hands so they couldn’t leave.  Many had to sneak out as if it were the Underground Railroad, though it was during the 1900’s.  People were lynched for plotting to leave.   Many packed themselves up in wooden boxes and had themselves shipped like cargo on trains. In spite of starting from the bottom, they were the least to use welfare and public assistance than any Caucasian immigrants coming from Europe.

Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (and in many cases afterwards) if you were traveling by train from the South to the North or vice verse, a person of color would have to ride the Jim Crow train car in Southern states.  It was an intricate process.  For instance, if you were traveling from Boston to South Carolina, in Boston you would board an integrated train.  You could sit where you wanted with whom you wanted.  When you got to DC however, the train would stop and the conductors would disconnect the integrated cars and attach Jim Crow segregated cars.  The passengers with melanin would have to get off their previous train car and then enter the Jim Crow cars before they crossed into Virginia. The opposite would happen if the train was coming from Virginia to Boston or New York.  Train arrives in DC, the Jim Crow cars would be disconnected and the integrated cars attached.

The two worlds (North and South) were so vastly different, that when Southern migrants came North, it was impossible to hide.  The differences were so magnified compared to a second generation “Northerner” that there was for many blacks, a reticence and resistance of the incoming black population.  They were reminded of where they came from and what they quickly tried to forget and separate from.  There were programs and classes to teach Southerners ‘how to live in the North.’  For instance, the were told not to wear head scarfs in public.  Don’t hang out your windows yelling.  Don’t walk barefoot.  It made you stand out looking beneath the race.  The migrants didn’t know any better.  Their way of living and resources was all they had.

This book interweaves these stories around 3 individuals, Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster.  But most all of the historical figures we know of, from James Baldwin, Duke Ellington, Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, they all are the fruits of The Great Migration. New York, Newark, (Newark was heavily populated because many Blacks heard of New York, intended to go to New York, but when the train stopped and said, “You’ve arrived in Newark,” many thought to themselves, Newark… I guess that’s it!  They thought it was New York.

It literally is the ULTIMATE American story.  I highly suggest reading this book.  The Great Migration is something that every American child should learn about in school.  It’s possibly the most Unsung story of American history.  I’ve couldn’t begin to cover the intricate and painstaking details the author put forth in giving this gift of historic significance.

For more details about the author and information on the numerous awards and acclimation this work has received, click on the link.