My Great grandfather John Johnson (Big Momma’s husband), transitioned in 1972, the year I was born. If I could go back and have a conversation with him, I’d ask what his thoughts were as an 18-year-old black man entering the U.S. Army to fight in WW1, joining a segregated unit to go overseas when he didn’t even have full political or social rights here at home.
My children surprised me this past weekend by flooding me with video and photos from their trip visiting my mom last year. I cried when I saw the photo of my G-son who desperately wanted to see where his ancestors were buried. Being the Griot of the family, he has heard their stories all his life and has also been fortunate having a face to go with those stories thanks to the photos I’ve gathered over the years. He was particularly interested in Big Momma, who would be his Great Great Great grandmother (who’s headstone he’s standing next to). I suppose his curiosity is due to her living 100 years and with his love of history, reflecting on society along with all she witnessed and overcame during her time (like the pandemic in 1918). It occurred to me that this was nothing to be sad about. It is actually quite a blessing for us all to share in this experience. So rather than cry, I decided to celebrate the history of my ancestors with a poem.
Beneath the gravel over a century of fortunes rest, to make you proud, I'll do my best.
Your resilience proved there's strength in numbers, Johnson's working as one, embracing roars of the thunder.
From a time vows were honored, "'til death do us part", side by side headstones reflect your mark.
Descendants now reap rewards of your sacrifice; I thank you for baring seeds that gave me life.
I, a hallmark derived from karats of my ancestors-each unit designed with purity, never taking for granted the value of knowledge passed down to me.
Wars, civil rights, equality-regardless of the cause, I admire the gifts captured in the stories of your scars.
Generations of precious gems-who thrive and shine like diamonds, your legacy remains unmeasured; therefore, I shall not weep for my family of buried treasures!