I will celebrate June this year by marking my wedding anniversary in New Orleans and Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the birthplace place of my paternal African-American, Native, Creole and Scottish ancestors.
My documentary From Shanghai to Harlem, traces my family’s migration and immigration to Harlem. But, researching the film has taken over my life. I became obsessed with my mother’s Chinese Caribbean family stories via Trinidad, Guyana, Venezuela, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
Genie bloggers (genealogy) had warned me about obsessions. Once you discover a valuable piece of information, you go crazy looking for more. I found my mother’s grandmother in Cedrus, Trinidad. She had arrived from Venezuela, Orinoco River region. That caused me to look for her 14 siblings throughout South America.
Regretfully, all of that maternal searching and detective work led me to neglect my Southern roots. So, in honor of Father’ Day, I look forward to learning more about my paternal ancestors beginning this June.
My father, Alfred Burton Smith, was a baker and a musician—piano and violin. I always wondered about our music, dance and entertainment genes. I was trained in piano, viola and dance too. Is there a music or a dance gene? Science says No! But how do you explain family traits? Is there something in the New Orleans water? The NOLA Mardi Gras Indians and Caribbean Carnival have similarities that make me happy. So, I am always digging for ancestral cultural celebrations.
My paternal grandmother Madame Tempy (Stuart) Smith was a piano teacher in Ocean Spring and New Orleans. My uncles and aunts were all classically trained in music and dance. Was there one ancestor who started it all?
Food ways fascinate me too. I am eager to explore food and culture connections. My father was a baker by trade. That explains why I’m so picky about pies. But, why did we eat red beans and rice on Mondays? Where did gumbo come from? What about the herbs and seasonings and cooking techniques unique to this region? Maybe I should go on a diet before my trip.
Then, there are other June themes that intrigue me: Juneteenth! How did the slave masters get away with that one? And of course, recent graduation ceremonies and hurricanes are part of my June experiences.
Finally, professionally, I am excited about attending the Blogging While Brown Conference at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Black Culture, June 21-22. I look forward to meeting bloggers both new and experienced, and improving other social media skills including twitter, instagram, tumblr, pinterest and more.
How will you celebrate June?