Monday, January 21, 2008

Who Cracked the Door and Let in the Light?

When I've gone to family reunions in recent years I've been reminded of the reality of the history of the civil rights struggles in the middle of the last century as sitting amongst us is one of our family members who was a central figure in that struggle.

His right, in 1962, to attend the southern university of his choice required then President John F. Kennedy to have to call out federal troops and U.S. Marshals. That simple right was violently opposed and challenged by the state's governor and its people, and resulted in some of the most tumultuous, riotous days of this nation's history as the struggles for his rights played out.

In 1967, a photograph of this same relative being shot in 1966 as he led the civil rights march entitled "March Against Fear" from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi won the Pulitzer Prize for photography (Photographer, Jack R. Thornell of Associated Press).

That this family member, James Meredith, opened doors for those of us coming behind him in search of the educations not only of our ability, but also our choice, goes without saying. That this family member has continually reached out to us individually and collectively to encourage our efforts as we reach for our own goals and objectives is unrelenting. One of the first letters of support and encouragement I received when my first book was published was from James. One of my greatest treasures will always be that letter as it reassured me that "I had a lot to say that the world needed to hear". I believed him and as a part of that belief I have never stopped trying.

But before civil rights there was Reconstruction and my husband's family played a key role in that lofty endeavor.

His great, great grandfather was a member of the 1866 Constitutional Convention and a number of successive legislatures, but it was his son, born in 1859, who took the new possibilities for freed black people and maximized on them and built a legacy of success that still resonates from Atlanta to Los Angeles for its ferocity.

Lieutenant-Colonel Floyd Henry Crumbly, a member of the Tenth U.S. Calvary, and honored veteran of the Spanish-American War, followed his military career with a thirst for business that in the mid 1880's turned a $300 line of credit into one of Atlanta's first black-owned grocery stores and him into one of the founders of Atlanta's prestigious Wheat Street business center.

Within months Floyd Henry (after whom my husband is named) had paid off his loan and initiated purchase of the building he operated out of. A year and a half later he paid that building off and purchased the one next door. It was a momentum that he didn't believe was just for himself, and as his prosperity increased, so did his commitment to his fellow man.

By 1890 he became the chief organizer of the Georgia Real Estate Loan and Trust Company, along with a hand full of other successful black Atlanta entrepreneurs of the time. He is credited with bringing into reality and serving on the board of trustees for The Carrie Steele Logan Orphanage which focused on the needs of African-American orphanaged and abandoned children who previously had been left to forge for themselves. In 1892 he was selected as a director of The Penny Savings Bank of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and, based on his outstanding military career, was appointed and Adjutant of the staff of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Grant by the Governor of the State of Georgia.

Floyd Henry Crumbly founded the Negro Historical Society of Atlanta, and, eventually he moved to Los Angeles, California. His contributions in California were many as well as noted in F.H. Crumbly, "A Los Angeles Citizen," The Colored American Magazine (September 1905). Some of his letters to co-harts such as Fredrick Douglass and Booker T. Washington are also a part of their collections in the Library of Congress.

It is a pleasure to be able to point our children and grandchildren to the accomplishments and contributions of their bloodlines - particularly these two - and to remind them that none of us arrive at our destination alone. We are there because of the efforts, the thrusts, the sacrifices, and the tenacity of others who cracked open the doors and let in a little light to shine upon our path.

This knowledge is particularly poignant on this celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday.

Note: Books by and about James Meredith and FH Crumbly are available from many sources online.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

5000 Words a Day

Today I need to make sure I write my 5000 words if I hope to meet the deadline I committed to earlier this week. And tomorrow, and the next day, the next day, and the next. It shouldn't be an issue since I've taken a lot of time to reorganize and schedule. I've made sure too that I don't over commit, or set unrealistic goals for myself because what I seek from here until eternity is balance and peace in my world.

As far as the visual arts are concerned, I've been invited to exhibit in a couple of gallery shows in the early spring. One I'll be exhibiting my jewelry and the other I'll be exhibiting my dolls. Several of my paintings were also included on the Mipoesias Art cover recently, which was really a good thing. So, I'm also busy designing a host of new jewelry pieces and dolls, but, for the moment, I've put my paints and pencils down.

I moved my studio/workshop up to the third floor where the light (especially the north light) is awesome. Once upon a time the third floor was a ballroom and another room was said to have been the original owner's children's classroom - this house is over 100 years old - so, on occasion, I let my imagination loose and imagine the parties, the people in their high spirits and finery, and the children who were once occupants. The energy sometimes is almost palatable!

I'm making sure I give back more too. I've added a couple of civic activities and I'm trying to keep both my eyes and my heart peeled for real people in need that I can somehow assist. It's time.

There are one or two areas I'm weighing - activities that it may well be time to relinquish, but that have been very meaningful to me in the past. I'm trying to listen closely to my spirit in these regards, and, whatever that final spirit led conclusion is I'll follow.

All in all it is good. All in all I am blessed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Oops! Hubris!

I deleted and edited my year end blog entry! Seems I might be have been guilty of a wee bit of hubris. I stand corrected!

The New Year has been exceptionally kind! Much to be thankful for. Hope yours is beginning that way too!


Oh, my goodness! What a year this has been for me. That I am here, on this last day of 2007, with my head up and my heart in tact is a miraculous, miraculous thing! It is testament that there is a good and merciful God, a power beyond my comprehension, who has cradled me, rocked me, sustained me, and restored me through valleys as bleak and opaque as India ink.

I lost my brother Leroy in 2007, and close family members Helen, Albert, Joan, and several other friends near and dear. There were days I thought I could not possibly make it through, but I did! I did!

And, there was a major literary disappointment that seemed so unnecessary because the professional involved was so unethical. But, then, maybe, rather than be disappointed I should be rejoicing. All relationships are not meant to be. I wish her well. I wish goodness and success for her in everything she does just as I wish those blessings for myself in all I do.

But life has its balances too, at least in the literary world. Another professional has been such a pleasure - running with a project I thought was lifeless, and landing it in the lap of one of the major players at one of Hollywood's top three talent agencies! He shocked us both with his desire to pitch it! And though he admits it is a difficult project, he still wants to hold on to it. Who would have ever thunk it??? Thank you!!! You go girl!

So, I release 2007 for the unknowns of 2008. I enter this new year with respect and awe and the reality that every moment will hold its own mysteries and I will just be along for its unfoldings and its journeys - if I'm blessed.

I thank you all for your friendship, for your kinship, for your love, and for your support. And above all I lift you high in my prayers this coming year. Get ready! Here it comes!