About These Scrapbooks

Page 2 - Continued

    As those four original websites took shape, I noticed an ever-increasing pile of unintended by-products of my research below the Mason-Dixon line. That residue was factual, sometimes in-depth and others anecdotal, instances of unadulterated racism in all its various forms - suspicion, harassment, intimidation and assaults by whites on black individuals, neighborhoods or communities.  I accumulated that information, not knowing what to do with it, in spite of the anger and frustration that it engendered. Those “notes”, ranging from civics clubs’ refusals to allow black award winners to attend their own recognition ceremonies to lynchings of young black boys for trivial offenses grew so large that I eventually considered the need for a container website to share that aspect of southern living for my natural, but perhaps naïve, young, black audiences. The collection eventually grew so large that I began detecting repeating themes of racist paranoia and black hatred behind those atrocities.  I knew in my heart that a website was in order, however raw, however horrific and however embarrassing for apologists for white supremacy because, without it, my completed websites would have been mis-leading and incomplete.  Thus, the Southern Afro-America website was born as the official repository and reminder of the ever-present hostile, filthy threats and sometimes bloody actions, that permeated the lives of my southern ancestors, if not regularly in their foreground, then always in their near background.

     After conceding that Virginia records will likely never yield details of my paternal grandparents’ slave ancestries, I created the Dudley and Sears scrapbooks, which are not websites but mere web pages falling well short of even approaching the wall of slavery, much less penetrating it, as done on the Whitworth side. After developing those seven website views or chapters of my southern roots, I was faced with two issues.  The first was the problem of managing the messaging and delivery of these unique scrapbooks to distinct, albeit overlapping, audiences. The second was ascertaining the congruence of seven divergent scripts that easily stood alone, though not so well together despite the obvious common threads of race and community. The elixir of storylines of black heroes and heroines did not mix well with the vinegar of white terrorism, particularly since the latter dealt with tragedies of the vanquished while the former celebrated the lives of victors in the South’s omni-present social tensions.  However, an epiphany occurred one day as I reflected over my journey to those seven scrapbooks that completely resolved my dilemma.  

    On hindsight, I realized that my passion was neither genealogy nor black history as I had always assumed, for I suddenly saw them as the same thing - not at all different. Rather what had driven me was “other-discovery”, defined as the curiosity to learn one’s origins and the sources of one’s providence. Other-discovery, alter ego of self-discovery, yields solutions to two of life’s most intriguing riddles. First, it solves the riddle of opportunity, i.e. whether one’s opportunities for success in life are provided by fate, by self or by mentors, living and dead.  Second, it solves the riddle of discipline, i.e. whether one is fated to exploit opportunity (luck) or self-motivates to meet opportunity’s tests or is mentored by others to clear opportunity’s hurdles. Other-discovery is, in fact, the ink of self-discovery’s sketch that delineates fingerprint, footprint and DNA of character revealing who we are.