Why I don’t celebrate the 4th of July

Although the United States of America became an independent nation in 1776, those “freed” Americans continued to enslave my ancestors for nearly 100 more years.

slavery

While I see the Declaration of Independence as irrelevant to me and my history, several measures were passed between 1776 and 1865 (when the Civil War concluded) that did have a bearing on the lives of my ancestors.

12th of July 1787 – Three-fifths Compromise

In 1787, 11 years after US independence, Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved James Madison’s recommendation for determining a state’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although northerners believed enslaved Black people should be regarded as property, warranting no representation in Congress, southerners argued that Black people enslaved in their states should be counted along with the whites (in an effort to increase southern representation rather than an acknowledgement of a Black person’s humanity).

three fifths a man

The “Three-fifths Compromise” clause allowed a state to count three fifths of each Black person in determining political representation in the House. In political effect, a Black person was equal to three fifths of a white person.

This is a cross-post from my Ancestors unKnown blog. Visit Ancestors Blogging for the complete post.

Love for Charleston

I was in Charleston, SC last week.

A road trip that my friends and I planned with half an effort was meant to end in Charleston. But weeks before the trip, our plans started to waver, and we began throwing out other options for our domestic exploration. Making matters less enthusiastic, my work efforts in Charleston had become challenging and started to hurt my feelings. So I may have been the first to suggest alternatives to our road trip itinerary.

Then, a week before we were to begin our journey, nine people were murdered at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church. Charleston was attacked. With few words exchanged, we agreed on our destination. We might find no more important time to show up – just to be present. And since we were in a position to do so, we had no choice but to be in Charleston. Continue reading

And so I shall speak

I’ve been wanting to break the code on what it takes to sit with the cool kids since I was 35 (didn’t matter so much before). Countless professional development books, articles, newsletters and (free) courses point a budding entrepreneur toward networking, pitching, and generally “getting out there.” Then, tossing the essential social media into the mix, blehhhh. Networking and outreach efforts are resembling talent shows and popularity contests more each day. So as I hope for Ancestors unKnown to be noticed within a sea of noticeable work, I’ve occasionally wished for a louder voice and bolder approach. And maybe some street cred?

Short of changing my personality from introvert to extrovert, and significantly upping my coolness factor, I’ve been looking for input on how to play a better entrepreneur game.

One consistent piece of advice: be a speaker. If you give talks and host workshops, you build and share expertise, gain an audience and credibility, and (appreciated bonus!) earn some money.

Speaking

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A nomad with roots: calling all expats to research the past

Replanting your roots shouldn’t mean losing them

In March 1920, my grandmother lived with her parents and siblings in Jacksonville, FL. They shared a home with the parents and younger brother of A. Philip Randolph. She was attending Boylan-Haven School for Girls, a private school for Black girls that Zora Neale Hurston attended about 20 years earlier (and coincidentally my Mom would attend years later). She had just turned 12. Her mother had just died.

Her mother’s death was most likely a significant factor, but not the only reason for her father’s difficult decision to migrate north – just a few years before his own death in 1926. My grandmother and her family left behind the remarkable life they established in Jacksonville and moved to Philadelphia, PA.

Florida East Coast Railway station - Fort Pierce.Photo courtesy:  State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/798

Florida East Coast Railway station – Fort Pierce. Photo courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/798

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Predicting the future in the past about the present

Until I was in college and became keenly aware of my shortcomings in the study of chemistry, I planned to be a veterinarian. When I was in high school, we had two weeks for special, off-campus study for an internship or travel abroad experience. I always found a veterinarian to follow around and envy. From the emergency room to castrations and teeth cleanings, I was fully immersed in my future professional life. I was all, “shucks, this life thing is pretty much figured out.”

I had no idea I would end up living in another country, building a business that centers on forgotten family histories. But now that I think of it, there were some hints of an entirely different purpose from what I intended.

High school English class

High school nerding in English class

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Happy in The Hague

I’ve been living in The Hague (Den Haag) for more than 5 months now (whoa, what?!). It’s been enough time for me to experience a pleasant evolution of sentiment about my circumstances and surroundings. What started as a disappointed exodus from Amsterdam has turned into a delighted embrace of Agga (what the cool kids are calling it, apparently).

I first moved here out of necessity. A lack of affordable (and also bearable) options in Amsterdam led me to look outside of the city. And it didn’t take me long to find a cute little place in The Hague that was in a modest price range.

My newly adopted city was a mere 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam, which I convinced myself was nothing compared to my former daily commute by subway from East Flatbush, Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. I could get back and forth to Amsterdam with ease, even daily if I wanted.  And I thought I might want to. I had friends, favorite restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, and seemingly places to be in Amsterdam. In order to tolerate life in this new city, I would surely have to make frequent trips back to the only city that mattered. Continue reading