Category Archives: Williams

Beards in the Family

Dock Allen – 1839 – 1909

To read more about Dock Allen and his escape from slavery, click Dock Allen’s Story.

Husband and sons with beards.
To see more beards and hair, CLICK.

This weeks theme is hair, specifically facial hair. I only have one photo of an ancestor with a beard. Dock Allen is sporting a pretty nice one.  My husband and sons are doing their part to bring more bearded photos into my albums.

Thanksgiving – 1991, Idlewild, Michigan – Part 2

"Idlewild house in winter."
Our Idlewild House

After I wrote my Thanksgiving 1991 post several days ago, I talked to several people about what they remembered. Some remembered nothing. Several others remembered the snow, Zaron with his head wrapped in a towel and the status discussion. Someone remembered it was Christmas but I was lucky enough to have the Ruff Draft article saying it was Thanksgiving.  A reason to keep a journal or a family newsletter.

Yesterday I was reading the post “Had to Walk Home in the Snow” on the blog A Hundred Years Ago. The blog is set up so that it always begins with a diary entry by Helena Muffy in 1911 and is followed by information her granddaughter, Sheryl, has found that relates to the entry.  This entry was about Helena Muffy walking home from church in the snow. Sheryl followed with a weather service report about conditions in that area on just that day!  Sheyl was nice enough to explain to me how I could find the information for Thanksgiving, 1991 in Lake County, Michigan.  I highly recommend this blog.

According to the chart from the National Climatic Data Center it started snowing on Nov. 24 and left us 4 inches. We got another inch on Nov. 25.  By Thanksgiving there were still 3 inches on the ground. By the following Monday the snow had changed to rain and the snow was all gone.

And for my daughter, Jilo, I add these photographs of Pearl in her yellow shirt and Zeke with his head wrapped in a towel.

Veteran’s Day – James E. Williams

James E. Williams. Coast Guard 1964. 

His brother, Harold, always calls my husband, James, on Veterans Day.  Harold said that it was a long time ago and the memories almost don’t bother him now. Almost.  Harold’s hands still bleed sometimes from the Agent Orange. Both agreed they’d take “Option B” if they had it to do over again.

Family Tree of Workers – Labor Day

Last year on Labor Day, I posted a chart of 7 generations of my family’s work history on both of my  blogs. (How did I miss that I’ve been blogging for over a YEAR??)  Today I’m going to repost them with a few minor changes.  I can only find Lewis and Judy Cleage in the 1870 US Census and their marriage record.  I am not convinced that all the children listed living with them are their children if their ages are correct.  But having no other information, I put them in.  I do not know what work the children did in the future.  I think I will look for them again.  Annie Green Reed had two husbands and four more children but I left them off of this chart.  They were all laborers or farmers or housewives.  Both Buford Averitt and Robert Allen come to the family tree as white men who did not acknowledge their black offspring as far as we know.  Oral history and records of birth, marriage and death account for their making it onto my chart.  I’ve pinpointed Buford but there are several possibilities with Robert so he has no job here.  My direct line is highlighted in yellow. You can see a similar chart for my maternal side HERE.

"This family works"
Everybody Works.
"Cleage Workers"

Who Knew? Happy Father’s Day Jim!

A father’s day card for my husband.  Children across the bottom, grandchildren down the side.  Photographs and other items from our early years, 1966 to 1970. Including, the Detroit riot 12th and Atkinson, Jim in the Coast guard, Revolution Begins in the Mind poster from the Black Conscience, friends, some of my art work and a drawing of a man and child in a leisure suit by Jim, a brochure from the black Conscience Library. Jim with the red checked shirt.  Me leaning forward with the sleeveless shirt and afro.

For more Sepia Saturday posts click HERE.

Jilo 1972

I came across this photograph of my oldest daughter, Jilo, while organizing my photographs. I like the shadows.  This one was in the box marked “Detroit 1966 – 1972”.  We were living in Brewster projects.  I was teaching pre-k at Merrill Palmer Institute, which was within walking distance.  I didn’t drive and walked or took the bus everywhere.  Jim was there part of the time.  He was a community organizer, still running the Black Conscience Library and also working out of a center on 12th Street.  I wasn’t yet pregnant with my second daughter and hadn’t decided to move to Atlanta, where my sister lived.  A year later in March, I would have two daughters and all of us would be living in Atlanta.  I worked with the Institute of the Black World for awhile.  Jim got a job printing with the Atlanta Voice. When he told me I could stop working outside,  I gave notice and stayed home with my six week old and almost three year old.  It was all a long time ago.

Happy Birthday to all!!

"December Birthdays"

Photos starting from the top left:  Jim getting ready to blow out the flaming inferno that was the candles on the cake in 2002.  Jim and Warren celebrating together at a surprise party in Idlewild about 1990.  The cousins around the table to celebrate Cousin Warren’s (wearing the lai) birthday about 1958.  That is me at the far end of the table.  On the bottom row we have another table full of cousins (children of those in the previous photo) celebrating the combined party of Jim and Warren.  Jim successfully blowing out all those candles.  Last photo is Jim last year opening his gifts.

When I was growing up my cousin Warren celebrated his birthday with a family party after Christmas on December 30.  There we cousins are on the upper right getting ready to eat cake.  There was always punch, cake, ice cream and chips.  Maybe hot dogs?  Plus balloons and birthday presents.  Being close to Christmas didn’t seem to impact his birthday.  My sister Pearl’s birthday is December 7, which doesn’t seem that close to Christmas.  We didn’t do parties but had a cake and she received presents just like I did for my august birthday.

My husband, Jim, comes from a family with 12 children.  Three of them were born very close to Christmas.  Milton was born on Christmas Eve, Catherine was born on Christmas day and my husband was born on December 30.  He says everybody always had a birthday cake and nobody every got many birthday gifts so that wasn’t different.  Over the years we’ve been together his birthday has become an important part of the Christmas celebratory season.  We have cake, gifts, dinner, a gathering.  Now that the children are grown, some with children of their own and most of us are in the same city we gather for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Jim’s Birthday, New Years Eve and New Years day.  By January we are ready for a break!

Advent Calendar – December 11 – Kwanzaa

"Atlanta Kwanzaa Table"
The Kwanzaa table, minus the fruits and vegetables and plus a globe – 2009

When I was elementary school age our neighborhood was majority Jewish.  We never celebrated the Jewish holidays but we learned about them.  I remember singing the dreidel song in school and learning about the menorah.  I didn’t realize Kwanzaa was in the “another tradition” category until today, so here is my late offering.  Once again I bring you a reprint from Ruff Draft 1991.  We didn’t celebrate it when I was growing up since it didn’t begin until the late 1960’s.  Our children grew up celebrating either at home or in community celebrations.

Kwanzaa

By Ayanna Williams

Kwanzaa is a Black holiday started in the U.S.A. in the 1960s.

This year on the last day of Kwanzaa, which was New Years Day, we had a big to-do and invited Henry over.  We dressed up.  Tulani and I in sarongs.  That is material draped around your body and hung over your shoulder.  James and Cabral wore baggy pants and African print shirts.  Jilo and Ife, who were home on winter break, wore long skirts.  All the girls but Jilo, wore geles (head wraps).  Jilo didn’t want to cover her dreadlocks.

When Henry got there we were downstairs in our regular clothes so we ran upstairs and after much losing of skirts and falling off of wraps, we finally went down.  As we went Tulani played the drum, James used the shakare, Cabral strummed the ukelele and I had to use two blocks.  We chanted “Kwanzaa, First Fruits!” as we came. We giggled a little as we went through the kitchen.  Black eye peas, sweet potatoes and rice were simmering on the stove for us to eat directly after the ritual.  When we got to the living room, all the lights were off except one.  By that light we, in turn, read the seven principles in Swahili and their meanings in English.  The introduction was read by Daddy.  Nia/Purpose was read by Henry. Umoja/Unity was read by Tulani.  Kujichagulia/Self determination was read by Ayanna, Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility by James.  Ujamaa/Cooperative economics by Ife, Kuumba/Creativity by Mommy for Cabral and Imani/Faith by Jilo.

Then we read the meanings explained in plain English that Jilo had written.  After we read the principles and lit all seven candles, Jilo read a story she had written about Kwanzaa with all of the principles included.  We then ushered everybody into the dining room while chanting the principles and their meanings.  Well, that was the plan, but nobody but us kids knew so the adults just sat there and watched us.  So we finally just got up and told them to come to the table.

After dinner Henry told tales about when he was a kid and about his uncles and cousins.  Some how the conversation went from reminiscing to the state of the world today. He and Jilo had quite a discussion that lasted for hours.  At the end Henry went home and we all went to bed.

Christmas Cards

Card made by me long, long ago

My family did not send out Christmas cards when I was growing up. Probably because all the relatives lived in Detroit and we saw them during the holidays. We usually had a good number of cards to display across the mantle though because my mother was a teacher and she brought home all the cards her students gave her. I did make some cards in elementary school that I found in my mother’s things. My grandparents aka Nanny and Poppy received cards from friends they kept in touch with from the days they lived in Montgomery. Often these were photograph cards. Because they kept the past years cards in a brass Chinese bowl on a table in the front room, under the table actually, I watched some stranger kids grow up from year to year.
 
When I grew up and moved out of Detroit I started sending and receiving cards. When we didn’t have a mantle we displayed them across the top of the bookcase that ran across one side of the living room. The years two of my daughters had paper routes we had lots of cards. For some reason I’ve saved these along with the family and friend cards. Every year when I go through them I think I should glean these but I don’t.

"Cards in Chinese Bowl."Cards in brass bowl "Ruff Draft Christmas Card"Ruff Draft Nov/Dec 1994

 For five or six years when we were homeschooling our family put out a monthly newsletter. It gave the kids a chance to use their writing skills and gave the family and friends a chance to see that they weren’t growing up illiterate. We would add a Christmas message on the back page. That is about as close to a Christmas letter as I got.

The most meaningful card I’ve saved over the years is the last one my mother-in-law, Theola Davenport Williams, sent me the Christmas before she died. It included a letter on the inside. I re-read it every holiday season. I wish we had traveled to St. Louis that season to visit but we didn’t.

"Inside Theola's card"

"Last card from Theola Williams."


 

Making Christmas Ornaments

When I was growing up we had the ornaments that my mother bought over the years.  I don’t remember making decorations in school.  Maybe because the elementary school I attended was mostly Jewish or maybe in the 1950’s we didn’t make decorations.  I don’t know.  We didn’t string popcorn or cranberries.  Wait!  I think i remember a construction paper chain my sister and/or I made.  It was short in length and in use.

"Painting Christmas Decorations"
Daughter and granddaughters hard at work

In 2008 my sister and I decided to get our children and grandchildren together and decorate ornaments for the Christmas tree.  I ordered clear plastic bulbs and craft paint and brushes.  My sister offered her house.  On the appointed day we gathered for pizza, eggnog and decorating.  The table in the dining room was covered, another table was set up, t-shirts and aprons went on over clothes and the fun began.  Everybody, including interested adults, painted several ornaments.  They popped open and the insides were painted then the ornament was popped back together.  You can see in the photo that they were bright, clear, colorful.  Unfortunately what you don’t see is that the paint never dried.  It puddled on the bottom of the ornament and if there were multiple colors, which there often were, the puddle turned a muddy brownish/gray.  We hung them on the trees anyway and packed them away hoping they’d look better the next year.  They didn’t, although I think they were dry.  I wonder what the grandchildren remember about it.  I’ll have to check this year.

The finished ornaments before they melted.