I love reading autobiographies. I've always been interested in the stories of some of the people that I look up to. I like to see what happened in their lives to shape them up to be the individuals that they have become.
I can remember about 7-8 years ago I attended the week's festivities leading up to the annual Trumpet Awards in Atlanta. At that point, they had this event set up where various black authors would come out and introduce their books and discuss them with the media and others involved in the Trumpet Awards. I thoroughly enjoyed these events and bought several books which were autographed by the authors.
One year in particular, Vernon Jordon had his book featured. While speaking on it, he stated that his story wasn't the only unique one. He said he thinks everyone has a story that should be written down, even if it's just for family history.
As he talked I began to think about my mother. I had been hearing some of the most fascinating and intriguing stories all my life about how she and the Dillard Family had grown up on Chestney Rd. I always thought she should have written a book. Between her and some of her siblings, they would always tease each other saying their story could make a great book or movie because it is unbelievable. Theirs was of 12 kids growing up in a 2-bedroom house in poverty on the outskirts of Macon, GA with very little parental guidance knowing not where their dinner would come from day to day.
After hearing Vernon Jordon speak I went home and told my mother what he had said. Again, she agreed. She said, "One day I'll sit back and try to put all of those memories together and write them down."
A few weeks later, I was creating a family tree just out of curiosity. I called my grandmother from work while on my lunch break and asked her for some details about people I didn't know. She reminisced and told me several stories in which we both enjoyed. She was a great storyteller. I wrote lots of it down. Then as I got deeper and deeper into her past she stopped and said, "Kenney, I ain't thought about some of this stuff in years and to be honest, I don't want to. Ya'll think the stuff ya'll doing today is new, ya'll ain't done nothing that ain't been done 10 times worse. We had some rough days, and a lot of those folks weren't worth a nickel, and honestly, I don't even wanna talk about it no more." And just like that, the conversation was over.
Years went by and I never asked about it again. My grandmother died soon after. I mentioned it to my Uncle Lee and some others and even wrote some other stories down. I had planned on shooting a documentary one day of my mom’s family. She saw what I was doing and liked it.
About 2 years later, my mom got sick with cancer and struggled with it for about a year before dying. Nine months later, my Uncle Lee died too. All 3 of the people I got most of my information from were gone.
Before my mom got too sick, she attempted to start writing her story. She only got a few pages. But they are pages I hold near and dear to my heart. Every once in awhile I look at the stuff I wrote and get upset that I didn't do more when I had time. Now I think about what Vernon Jordon said and I have to agree 150 percent. Everyone has a story. We are so intrigued of these Autographical books and movies that continue to surface of entertainers. These are only good stories because the individuals became famous.
Aren't there folk in your family tree that you wish you knew more about? One day you might be that one. With the use of computers, flash drives, lap tops, I Pads and so much other technology, all it takes is a little time to yourself per day and a good memory. Your family deserves to know the inner you. Everyone has a story. What’s yours?
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