Ago Ire’o Monday – ’tis the Season for a plethora of reason to keep cultivating OUR story. Former Bay Area folk, Sis Nicka Smith is a maven in the field with a powerful creative platform through her lens. Get to know her deep works as Family Historian and Educator – I enjoy her staunch advocacy in keeping our stories relevant and us in the know.
I am moved and grounded by reading a good book. As much as I love to surf the web, research online or build social media formats, I love the adventuresome qualities of of collecting books of interests and find that buying or gifting books is an invaluable investment. In my Genealogy works before there was internet, I frequented libraries, museums and institutions for information in researching my Family History, while learning about historical elements associated with my heritage. With the introduction of Technology and subsequent passages of the Freedom of Information Acts, [FOIA] Genealogy has become a billion dollar business captivating our attention, our minds and in some cases eclipsing invaluable connections like face-to-face contact, while shortening the attention spans of some presuming that they “don’t have time for reading.” Libraries, Museums and Historical Institutions are the great halls of information equally valuable as our online technological cohorts.
Most recently, I was an organic conduit for bridging a trio of these components:
Read a Book
Save A Library
Dr. Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau Rest in Power Dr. Fu Kiau Bunseki
“The ancestors are not dead. They are not gone. Their energy is…”
[Sunrise April 9, 1934 – Sunset November 29, 2013 ]My Tata takes his seat upon the throne in the realm of the Ancestors. Kongo Cosmology has been a grounding force in unearthing vital keys of my Ancestry, healing and honoring the rhythmic cycles of life and therefore the universe. One moment with my Teacher Dr. Fu-kiau, was like sitting in a world of libraries; each word uttered represented several novels filled with mysteries of sacred knowledge made accessible to its front door. He ushered scores of students and naysayers into dimensions of enlightenment surrounding deep wisdoms of our ancients and its transcendental effects upon our lives today. Born in Minianga, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dr. Fu-Kiau was one of the foremost scholars of African Spiritual traditions producing a cadre of books serving as primers for deeper study into these traditions. As one of last initiated of his generation into the coveted Lemba Secret Society, the foundation for many Diaspora tributaries of Bantu practices, has been pivotal in unearthing cultural heritage customs, ties and traditions still retained amongst Omo-Afrika of Cuba, Haiti, Brasil to name a few, including the United States.
At the gate, Dr. Fu-kiau ignited within me personal empowerment with an awakening purpose to seek, honor and achieve that for which already belongs to me by birthright, profoundly emphasizing its inherit ties to the Universe and beyond. As I am still processing his transition, my thoughts swiftly begins navigate strewn works for which I must begin to tie — bit by bit, honoring every breath, I accept the pact made so long ago. Matondo Tata, Matondo Nsambi *Simba Simbi*
[ in kinship the link above offers tribute to Dr. Fukiau, by Eyon Biddle, Sr @biddleisbold ]
Oct. 8, 2013, California — This walk of my life strongly reflects an aspect parallel to my Father’s journey, post fatherhood. Before I knew him as my Father, I learned that he was born in Summerfield, LA, the youngest of 4, migrated to California at a young age with his Mother and Father, who later separated. In high school, he met my Mother on rebound and patiently courted, charming her into dating and eventually on “their 1st time” — then there was me. I learned that my birth was filled with the trials of a young Mother, classically partnered with a man facing the daunting responsibility of Fatherhood, both determined to “do the right thing.” And thus, the two were married 2 months before my birth. They loved, learned, struggled, and endured trials and triumphs to the tumultuous. Both were Louisiana reared in a traditional custom of staunch Family support by Grands and Greats to Uncles and Aunties. My childhood was school everyday to church all Sunday; planting peas, making preserves to sewing and starching a shirt; running track to running the household chores; Friday fish fry to Family Reunions; from Black Power to Vietnam; cake walks, frog legs and “roaches” the kind that walked and the kind that made you “talk funny”. My parents eventually divorced when I was 5 years old. –Bless them
At 5, with broom and belt in tow, I became instant lil’ mama, as I begin sweeping the house warning my brothers to behave — accepting a high sense of responsibility becoming independent and self-sufficient by default. Often times my Father would resurface in my life phantom-like to instill the “fear of God” in me, and remind me to never forget to take care of my younger brothers. While my maternal Grandparents were like my second parents on loan, my paternal Grandmother was a brash, wig wearing’, God-fearing’, church-going, haughty high-cheeked Lady who did not take to repeating herself. She still lives where I grew up and had remarried a good-natured man named Brown, he transitioned some years back.
Although well-versed in Family History on my maternal side, I’d always wonder where my paternal grandparents came from and what was their story. Although my Grandmother and Brown were very good to us, she was very protective about talking about the past and didn’t speak too favorably of my biological grandfather. It wasn’t until after a severe stroke that, my Father’s “road home” revealed a potential loss to gain access about this side of my Family history. However, at that time, my priority was to make certain his transition would be in the best care, knowing that he was well loved. These preparations availed him the most fortunate moment before his passing — a reunion to make peace with the only Family he created. After 30 years, we’d convene by his bedside: my Mother, his only wife and his 3 adult children.
On October 8, 2009, about 4-something in the morning, my Father took leave in peace and in sweet ease, with his children lightly sleeping at his bedside. We spearheaded his Home-going ceremony, which was attended by both sides of his Family, friends, Homelessness advocates and scores of cousins. The most profound presence at the ceremony, was his grieving mother who was compelled to sing an impromptu hymn to a now captivated audience. Her haunting message in the midst of the song – “… the bell has rung children, playtime is over! Time to come on in.” I was pleased to receive a letter from my paternal Uncle’s church in Houston, as his Sister the Evangelist delivered “The Word”. One of the most heartfelt moments at the Home-going was a down-to-earth letter submitted by an older cousin read aloud by my younger Brother, before the church; It revealed a rare glimpse as to what Our Father really thought of us — in some cases unbeknownst to us.
Of Heart and Home: In 2009, I also took leave, feeling somewhat displaced and needed to truly grieve as one of my cosmological poles had now fallen. During this period, in some ways like my Father, I submitted myself to a vulnerable path, accepting a vow of benevolence, and wanted to increase my action of faith, determined to shake the sediment of emotional transgressions inherited by Family ties. With faith forward, I needed to strip and re-visit the depths of me and as a result my landscape changed swiftly…including home. In the beginning, I found the most comfort in a friend’s car, couches, palettes, or sometimes a prepared room honoring my path. Along the way, I cleansed, listened and mirrored testimonies a many, from West Oakland to Harlem, New Orleans and back. Often reflecting and wondering if the works “took” – wondering, “ How is Daddy? or “Is he close? ” or sometimes thinking, “…maybe I don’t want to know.”
Picking back up “the lines” of my Family History from past research, I began honing my skills participating in a workshop in Harlem at the Schomberg Research for Research in Black Culture and the New York Public Main Library, conducted by the local Black Genealogy chapter Jean Sampson Scott AAGHS-NY chapter. Upon first investigative attempt, not only did I come across a record of my Maternal great grandmother for the first time, later upon Ancestry.com census records, I’d quickly unravel at least 4 generations of patriarchal Calloways, whom I never met nor heard of except for my grandfather when I was two — I was completely stunned. Ever so critical, the code had been cracked. Since then, I have discovered scores of Calloways, centenarians even and enjoy a close relationship with my Father’s brother, my Uncle James.
On this 4th Anniversary in observation and reverence of my Father’s transition, I infused the sparkling highlights of the ocean’s waves — I listen, petition and speak, marveling at the enormity of its breadth and depth where Souls dwell, pacts are made and Mami washes woes away in exchange for well wishes — T’ache’o. I smile, because even at 5 years old, I knew my Father had to go and I mentally held space for him. It’d be 4 years later after his death, that I’d recognize that my culminating trek today, somewhat remarked an aspect of my Father’s path (metaphorically speaking) who once said to me, “…you know I just had to drop out of the system and deal with myself.”
I’d find out later that he was a “mover and shaker” of the Coalition on Homelessness advocating for housing, shelter, Street Sheet program and affordable SRO’s for people in need, and so much more. I remember 2 months before his final departure, he’d painstakingly share how he’d watch our evolution, the shame of not being present, his pride and regretting the time wasted to make it right. As I witnessed this narrow opening of painful truth, he shared that we had made it upon our own merits and felt he could not take any credit for that, except that we were Calloways. He had always been proud that his offspring would be the crowning glory of his legacy on earth.
[smile] This re-tell for me used to be heart-wrenching to share. However, learning that the heart is a working vessel, I’d strive to become stronger in love, light and of sweet ascension – today regaining a stronger sense of home, with his Ancestral presence ever so strong, in truth testament. ~Thank you Daddy, Love, Gina…
~The after-life dream~
Him: [retort] Whose do you belong to?
Me: [bewildered] You Daddy
Him: Alright then… [storms out]
REEEEE-MIIIIX – Genealogists serve in a multitude of professional arenas. In the capacity as Curatorial Director, I was privy to participate in the stellar artistic works and exchange of Muisi-kongo Malonga’s “Kimpa Vita” creation. Daunting, yet always guided we prayed, researched and gathered oral narratives from Congo to California, combed scholarly works and built compelling stories focused upon 3 iconic travesties of justice involving African American Women. The particular stories chosen, we felt resonated with the movement and demise of our central figure Kongolese Matriarch and Warrioress – Mama #KimpaVita of old Kongo Kingdom.
The solo chore-opera first debuted as an excerpt, at San Francisco Counter Pulse Performing Diaspora 2nd 4-day weekend showing, witnessed by 3 sold-out audiences. Wearing the “Directorial” hat was like balancing a 50lb laundry basket upon my head. Yet through stealth training and mentorship, I focused on balance determined to obtain evidence unearthing associated documents. To my surprise, my discovery included rare graphic depictions concerning these African American Women dating back to as early as 1865 for one, an actual audio recording of American Folk singer Woody Guthrie, and a state sponsored historical marker citing the lynching rampage of the times in 1918.
Born 14 months after the Laura and L.D. Nelson lynching, Woody Guthrie’s own father, then a local politician was actually associated with the lynching and the heinous crime of these times, ultimately chronicled into a postcard. Guthrie wrote a song called “Don’t Kill My Baby & My Son” and gives his crackling retell of story along with the accounts leading to the Nelson lynchings. The song wails in agony…
Not content to believe that Ms Laura’s story starts with lynching and ends with death, I further discover a blog dedicated to her aptly named “The Nelson Lynching of 1911 @Okemah, Oklahoma” also bearing genealogy research for Laura’s husband, giving some idea as to how the two came to be united and ultimately divided. [see link below]
I remember thinking the whole time, “Who are the descendants of these matriarchs and what are the surviving legacies arising from their marked death?” Equally thrilling was to discover active initiatives and commemorative efforts that raise awareness and bring to the forefront these injustices, engaging ongoing activism that combat violence against Women. The #KimpaVita project speaks veneration, and is a powerfully artistic offering to elevate these Spirits through Muisi-kongo’s dynamic mediumship for birthing the stories. Regarding the reveal of these historical accounts concerning the African American Women, it exposed such an inherit ignorance about an abominable era of American History and at the same time de-mystified Mama Kimpa Vita, provoking more people to want to know herstory deserving to be known through her own rites – WAH!
And my #DANCESTORY2013? Its been a fast track, as I’m currently preparing my case scenarios for further research and engagement with genealogy kinship. About the next leg of travel, I’ve added #AK to the #MSY sojourn! I invite You to join the sojourn and support the project that invokes more stories deserving to be preserved, starting with my own. Updates right here: http://bit.ly/1e56YML
~Regina Califa Calloway
nzo.califa Dance Works
“Working Da Lines: Dancestory2013″
About the Artist: Muisi-Kongo Malonga