Thursday, February 11, 2016

I Love My Family!

So, it is Black History Month. In the past, I have considered whether or not we still need 28 days (or 29 in the leap year) set aside to celebrate black history. If it were up to me, the answer would be 'nope,' but not for the reasons stated by the misguided and clueless actress, Stacey Dash. I believe our history, accomplishments and contributions to this world should be acknowledged, highlighted & celebrated throughout the year, not one measly month. But since I have not a nickel in that decision-making dime, I will embrace and honor the tradition. In celebration of Black History Month, and Buttafly Diaries' month of love, I'm going to talk about my black history. My lineage. My family.

They say you must know where you came from to know where you're going but does anyone REALLY know from whence they came? I don't know about you, but I have limited (and selective) knowledge about my family history. Some things, I learned through discussions with my elders, other things I learned from being nosy conversations I overheard and some tidbits I got from my friends/peers (who got it from their parents). Growing up, I knew I was connected to a lot of people, through family ties, but didn't always know how that connection came to be. It wasn't until I was an adult that I became aware of what was real and what was make-believe. I learned the truth. I heard the real story from behind the scenes. I was given facts that were previously hidden, lied about, changed. Facts that were refreshing in some cases, enlightening in others, disappointing at times and downright heartbreaking in a few. Some of what I learned helped me to understand family dynamics (various levels of love, respect, regard, consideration, inclusion and exclusion). Some of what I learned gave me answers I was seeking or, still left me full of questions (so that's why she never came around or now I know why he looks so different; but why didn't she tell somebody or what happened after that??). Some of what I learned had me wishing I could unlearn it (Nooooooo that didn't happen to her?! or Nooooooo my fave didn't doooooo that?!).

Of course, I'm not going to spread my family's ugly business. My Mama and Daddy taught me better than that. However, there are a couple situations that I'm sure a lot of you can relate to.

For instance, I learned some relatives weren't really related, just close family friends. It was just a coincidence that my grandmother and her best friend married guys with the same last name but were no relation to each other. I grew up calling my grandmother's best friend and her husband 'Auntie' and 'Uncle,' believing their offspring were my cousins. It wasn't until one of them passed away that I learned we weren't related after all. It was something like a heartbreak. I wanted to un-hear it, to make the untruth true. I wanted to keep my family the way it was. Good thing family isn't required to be blood related. So, after learning the truth of the matter, our attitude was/is, 'You still my cousin though!'

Or when I learned both of my grandmothers gave birth to children before they met, married and had children with my grandfathers. It made me look at my grandparents in different lights. Whereas, I once viewed my grandmothers as pure, angelic and fortunate for marrying, bearing children and remaining with one man their entire lives, this new information showed me a more flawed and beautiful side of them. They were not perfect, they were human, just like me. In that, I felt a closer connection to them. Finding out my grandfathers not only raised other men's children as their own, but raised them so well that, if one wasn't told, they would have never known the biological truth, made me have more respect for them. It made me see the love, compassion and understanding behind their strong, masculine personas. It made me love them more.

There are sad, bad and even sinister patches in the quilt of my family's history. Things I would have never thought, imagined or believed to be true. Things that nobody likes to talk about, hear about, listen to or share. Experiences that have changed the trajectory of some people's lives. Issues that could change the trajectory of some people's lives if they would face them. Situations that caused some people their livelihood, their freedom, their lives. History that cannot be relived, rewritten or undone. History that makes us who we are today.

In light of all I've learned, and have yet to learn, about my own black family history, I stand tall, strong and proud. I am strengthened by my family's ingrained support, encouraged by the examples I have been raised with, inspired by my family legacy and uplifted by the truth. I love my family and the strong roots from which our formidable tree sprouted.

Love is family and family is love.