This post brought to you by MassMutual. The content and opinions expressed below are that of A Dash of Soul.
I am excited to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month by sharing my very own #JourneyOfYou story. Black History Month is always a great reminder for me to reflect on where I am today and where those before me came from. As a Black American my family has a such a rich history and I am so glad to have the opportunity to share a glimpse of that with you today. Let’s start from the beginning!
Those are my parents, David and Marlil. They were both raised in California and got married there in the 80’s. Their union brought together two families with very different stories and histories. My dad’s side of the family is very diverse, with roots everywhere from Jamaica to Germany!
Above is a photo of my dad’s family before he met my mom. His entire family is still in California where he was born and raised.
That photo is of my dad’s parents, Irene and Clarence, with my brother and I in 1997. My grandmother Irene was born in Louisiana, and both her parents were a mix of Native American, African, and Caucasian. My grandpa Clarence on the other hand wasn’t born in the States! His parents, who were Jamaica-born, actually moved to Panama where his father worked on the construction of the Panama Canal at the turn of the century. My grandpa was actually born there in Colón, Panama in 1910, but conditions in Panama were rough. After a little internet research I learned that over 5,000 workers died from disease and accidents during the canal’s construction. Even though most of the workers were Blacks, housing wasn’t provided to Black workers and so most of them lived in tents and tenements in the area. To provide a better life for my grandpa and his sister, their mother ended up moving them to California. In California he met my grandmother, whose family had moved there from Louisiana. Which brings me to my mom’s side of the family, who also had Southern roots!
On the left in that photo is my maternal grandmother Dorothy and her mother Mary, whose family was from Alabama. The South didn’t have many opportunities for Black families at that time and so my great-grandmother’s family moved to the Midwest during the Great Migration. If you’re unfamiliar with the Great Migration, it was a period in the early 1900’s during which 6 million Blacks moved from rural areas in the South to more industrial cities in the Northeast, Midwest, and West. My great-grandmother moved to Cleveland, Ohio where my grandmother was then born and raised. Granny moved to California and became a missionary to Haiti, where she met my Haitian grandfather Anthony! And she raised all her kids in California, which is how my mom and dad ended up living in the same city. After I came along in 1988 we stayed in Southern California for a few years.
That’s me with my Granny around 1990! I think they loved California, but my parents wanted a safer and quieter place to raise a family than Los Angeles, so we all (including Granny) moved to Georgia! A few years after moving here they had my brother David, and then several years later came little Ashley.
It’s amazing to me to look back and think about how many journeys my family members took that led to me being were I am today. My grandparents have all passed away now but we will keep their stories alive through our memories and the great photos that we have of them. I’m happy to still call Georgia my home and I can’t wait to teach my children all about their Black heritage and their family history one day! Our history makes us who we are and I feel so grateful for my beautiful family.
I hope you’ll join me and MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month this February. Follow along and share your own story in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter with MassMutual using #JourneyOfYou.
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