#OAKLAND “Take care of your own backyard, you just might find your Ancestors. ” ~Claude Waters, Jr/R. Calloway
Is what my Grandfather used to say, I added the end of this quote as this wisdom did exactly that. So on a Saturday’s outcast of a day, atop a hill on Lincoln ave, is the 15th constructed temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, its cornerstone May of 1963, still one of Oakland’s prominent Landmarks. Among other buildings on-site is a jewel of an edifice, The Family History Center , a branch of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This Center is where my celebrated Genealogy Guardian & mentor, Ms Electra Price served as a volunteer back in ’89. For over 15 years her trailblazing works created pathways of greater discovery in African -Ancestored Genealogy, pioneering the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (Oakland based) and Afrigeneas.com. Ms Electra is also the grandmother of my beloved Dance-kinship, Ms Leah Kimble-Price, LMFT.
Now that bit of history speaks volumes of living and Ancestral kinship. Imagine what your Ancestories will speak?! If you are searching or seeking and want to get started, look in your own backyard –up the hill though, and STILL OAKLAND.
workingmylines.com “Electra Price” Regina “Califa” Calloway
———————————- Oakland California FamilySearch Library Genealogy www.oaklandfhc.org
African American Genealogical Society of Northern California www.aagsnc.org
Interview theme “Whose Do You Belong to?!” conceived by Regina Califa, #Dancestory Project Curator, hosted by Wanda Sabir New Orleans native and celebrated International Journalist/Activist of Wanda’s Picks.com [originally recorded 08.07.15]
“Dancestory” is a guided movement source of embodied knowledge – UNEARTHED. It incites exploration of cultural pathways and Ancestral histories, bridged with field-research and Technology.
Give praise to the Life of our Ancestors imbued with infinite wisdom to UPlift our own. Honor breath -speak their names for the vitality of yOUR existence for they are with you, GIVE light towards their ascension for the healing.
Adjoin in Familial – Communal kinship increasing the power of these riteful works making what we do powerFULL. Egun iba’se Egun ire’o *a dupe Baba Yagbe Awolowo Onilu for the added fuel of inspiration.
My Grandmother Mama Elsie is the Family History keeper on my maternal side – She has a mind keen like machete for these details. Thus as a result, generations of names are noted to record on both the COLEMAN and CULVERSON side of her lineage – WEST CARROLL PARISH LOUISIANA along with a legacy of Annual Family Reunions. On December 20th, our Family was bestowed with the esteem honor to elevate Our Family Matriarch celebrating 90 years upon this earth! A stellar initiative launched by her children a call to task for us grandchildren and the greats to follow through and a lesson for the great-greats to observe this all important rite. Over 100 attended in gathering December 20th at San Leandro’s Marina Inn in California from near and far warmed by long-time friends and Community kin. And you can imagine the food and faire that took place. We were ALL moved, graced and adorned by an abundance of wisdom of the day. I am still FULL and now introduce to you…
Elsie is the daughter of Mabel Coleman and Grover Cleveland Culverson, born in Darnell, Louisiana December 24, 1924. She is the granddaughter to James Gabe and Hattie B Coleman on her maternal side and Papa Mel and Edna Gulley Culverson on her paternal side. Elsie attended and graduated Magnolia High School in Pioneer, Louisiana, then proceeded to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Later she migrated to Oakland California and obtained employment as a Storekeeper Manager at the Oakland Naval Supply. Soon after she attended Merritt College and received a Business Certificate in Accounting.
Her work history includes various employment with the Federal Government such as the Oakland Army Base and Internal Revenue Service working clerical for 12 years and for Alameda County Social Services as a Social Eligibility Tech, with her final working stint at Alameda County Medical Center as a Patient Billing Technician for sixteen years, ultimately retiring in 1989.
Elsie was married to Claude Waters Jr. (deceased) for over 52 years. She is the mother of five children (one deceased), thirteen grandchildren, twenty-three great grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. Elsie served on the board of directors and regional club council with her retirement union. She was an active member of the International Training Communication Council, Regional Club and held the office of President, as well as other positions.
“God has blessed me to travel to many wonders of the world (international abroad and domestic) with my Family and fellow travel companions, Bertha and Brenda Byes, Evelyn and Jimmie Wesley and Mr. Benny. We’ve traveled to places such as Cairo, Egypt, Ghana, Sedona Arizona, Cuba and Canada. We had many wonderful adventures such as riding camels and taking a cruise across the Nile River.”
Never forgetting her roots, Elsie often traveled cross-country, back to her native Louisiana. Mama Elsie’s highlights in the last few years were her travel to the Philippines accompanied with grandson Jon. Elsie had the privilege of a travel excursion to South Africa with her cousins and the choir from the Church of Eastbay. They had the very special honor to meet Nelson Mandela and his wife. It was a great excitement to South Africa for the sights, culture and lifestyles of the people.”
Her hobbies include reading, music, fishing and cooking. She also enjoys attending her home church, Acts Full Gospel, nurturing her Spiritual relationship with God. Mama Elsie shares:
“I am blessed that the Lord has spared me to be able to see 90.” “God Bless and keep you all, continue to enjoy your Life, counting your blessings along the way.”
originally scribed by: Katie Waters, daughter
edited/updated by: Regina “Califa” Calloway, granddaughter
foto: @realsway on Instagram, grandson
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.comcensus 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 Homelessnessadvocating 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…