For the last few months, I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with some amazing young people in Oakland and Berkeley through the Ancestral Project, which was the brainchild of Alameda County (CA) Supervisor Keith Carson. This project was established to help youth in the area realize the benefit of learning about their ancestry and those who paved the way for them to be where they are now.
I have learned so much through this process, but one of my key takeaways is to always meet people, especially youth, where they are. Learning how to put your own agenda to the side so that you can be eye level with someone will allow you to do more than just teach them something. It will allow you the ability to share tools and knowledge that they can take with them and use in their lives forever. Our youth are yearning for this information; we just have to know how to present it to them in a way that they can value and digest. Use technology, what they already know, and expand upon that. They will eat it up!
I’ve been able to forge some awesome relationships with nearly 50 youth over my time with them. I remember how resistant they were when we first started; how they thought it would be boring, that they wouldn’t get information from family members or find anything. Now I see a complete difference; how they show those “boring” census schedules with pride and vow to hang them on their wall as a reminder; how they can go back 3, 4, 5, 6, or even 7 generations in their own family. Despite hardship, relational challenges, and the day to day, they persevered through and made this project more than I could have EVER imagined. I owe them so much.
“My sessions with Beyond Emancipation was one of the most fulfilling programs I’ve participated in. It was amazing to see how despite the challenges these young adults have experienced, there is still hope and need for kinship in their eyes, be it current or from the past. This hit me especially because I’ve had much loss in my family and that was actually my reason to stop “thinking” about researching my family and actually doing it, which has turned my life around in ways I cannot put into words; and to see these young adults have that same wonderment in their eyes lets me know that it is worth my time, worth the effort because in the end they (and we) will build new relationships. It is a wonderful thing, I cannot stress that enough.”
– Felicia Addison, AAGSNC Member
Jill Tucker from the San Francisco Chronicle covered our program and her article is printed in the May 13 issue of the paper.
Additionally, Carolyn Tyler of KGO 7 News also covered the program. The segment was aired at 5pm on May 12 and can be viewed here along with a text transcript.
The program will culminate in an event on June 4 at Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley, CA.
A special thanks to the following people for their help and support which lead to the success of this project:
Sup. Keith Carson’s Office
Aisha Brown , Sup. Keith Carson, Hannah Greene, and Reginald James
African American Genealogical Society of Northern California Volunteers
Felicia Addison, Judith Collins, M. Howard Edwards, Annette Madden, Bill Melson, Vernester Sheeler, and Alvis Ward