I have a complicated relationship with the word family.
I was born into a family with a rich legacy that is mired in generations of animosity.
I’ve been blessed to have a circle of friends and loved ones that have become my family over the years.
There is the family that saved my life, and the family that’s redefining everything I thought I knew.
And there’s the riddle of the family I didn’t know anything about…and how they have haunted my entire life.
Each of these extraordinary families have their own stories, filled with joy, and resilience. Each month, starting January 2023, I hope to share them with you. Along the way, we’ll follow my search to find the family that I didn’t know existed.
Some people use this phrase ironically, as if to say, “I don’t have any dreams, my dreams are not my own, I don’t believe in dreams…” These folks are lost.
Other people use this phrase sincerely, as if all is good, fair, and just in the world. I don’t know if I believe them.
If you hear me say these words, I’m saying something very specific. My ancestors suffered fought and died so that I could have the life I’m living today. If I take their sacrifice for granted, if I do not acknowledge the price they paid, then the dream dies with them. Not only do I have a responsibility to live this life as best as I can, I must work to create a world where the dream endures.
“We represent historical forces and it is really these forces that are coalescing and moving toward each other. And it is not a fraud, forced out of desperation. We live in a disoriented, deranged social structure, and we have transcended its barriers in our own ways and have stepped psychologically outside it madness and repressions. It is lonely out here. We recognize each other. And, having recognized each other, is it any wonder that our souls hold hands and cling together even while our minds equivocate, hesitate, vacillate, and tremble? Peace. Don’t panic, and don’t wake up. Dream on. I am Yours, Eldridge” Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice
Written in 1968, a good chunk of this book could have been written this year. There’s also a lot of nonsense in it. To me, the most remarkable part is the correspondence between Cleaver and his lawyer, Beverly Axelrod. It’s not surprising that their relationship fell apart, mostly due to politics and greed. What is notable in this passage is how their passion grew out of their mutual recognition of each other’s humanity.
This is the core of all resistance; we see our own humanity as worth fighting for, and demand others see that worth. When the acknowledgment comes, no matter where it comes from, it resonates in our souls and lights fires…
“The city was thrown into a frenzy of activity a few days after the Faneuil Hall meeting, when two slave-catchers arrived from Georgia, claiming the Crafts. The black community and the vigilance community promptly marshaled their forces. Ellen was taken to the safety of Dr. Henry Bowditch’s home in Brookline and a week later was transferred to the Reverend Theodore Parker’s. William, meanwhile, armed and barricaded himself in his shop while friends stood watch. “No man could approach within 100 yards of Craft’s shop,” one reporter observed, “without being seen by a hundred eyes, and a signal would call a powerful body at a moment’s warning.” As tension mounted and it appeared the slave catchers were determined to test these defences William was taken to Lewis Hayden’s, where kegs of gunpowder were placed in the basement in anticipation of an attack. According to an observer, black homes on Belknap and Cambridge streets, the main thoroughfares, were fortified and the occupants well armed with guns, swords, and knives: “The colored population are really roused in this matter and are making their houses like barricades.” R.J.M. Blackett, Beating Against the Barriers
Too often, we forget that Black resistance existed long before the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s. This passage describes the events in Boston circa Oct, 1850, involving Ellen and William Craft, who escaped enslavement in Georgia, only to be followed by politics (Fugitive Slave Act of 1850) and vengeful slavers.