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The Negros Can Now Vote in Virginia: The Power and Freedom of Voting

The Negros Can Now Vote in Virginia: The Power and Freedom of Voting

I am still attempting to wrap my mind around the #SuperTuesday results that’s occurred in 2016.  The country is divided, and I’m baffled that people are not exercising their right to vote.

I know it’s a choice for you to vote. I guess because I know my history I look at my right to vote as a privilege to do so.  The right to vote was not always accessible to my community, and the road was quite tumultuous getting there.  So, I’m sorry when you tell me that you decided not to vote I’m quickly throwing you the infamous **side eye.**

I’ve probably told you the story before about my grandfather, and how important it was that everyone connected to him exercised their voting rights.

I can remember being a little girl and my grandfather providing each grandchild that turned 18 with the paperwork so they could register to vote. My grandfather was very active in politics and a strong advocate for equal rights.

I would like to dedicate this post to those that strongly believe in exercising that right, and respect the legacy of those individuals that died for our right to vote.

Below you will find photos of the 7 page document of “Colored Negro Men” of Midlothian, Virginia and their Voter Registration Signatures in 1870.

Even though decades later there would be many obstacles to overcome in order for all of us to vote in this country.  I wanted to provide a snapshot of how it began for the Negro Men in Virginia shortly after emancipation.

Please be advised that the voting rights were for men of color, not women.  Women’s right to vote was not until 1920.  That’s right, fifty years after these signed documents were submitted in 1870.

That’s another lesson, for another day!

Negro Voter 1870 Negro Voter VA 1870

From Fist Pumpin to West Philly: Fresh Princess of Books!

From Fist Pumpin to West Philly: Fresh Princess of Books!

I think it’s safe to say after the last three weeks I am exhausted!  The pack/unpack cycle has concluded for at least a month, but I’m definitely grateful for the Historical Tours w/R.J. that were completed.

You know I love a good road trip.  Can you believe of my many road trips on the east coast I’ve NEVER been to Philadelphia?  I rode through Pennsylvania heading to Virginia but never visited any historical sites in the state.  Our nation’s first capital, and I finally made it!

It was chilling cold the first day in Philly so my friends and I decided to venture out on Sunday afternoon.  Our first stop was the Art Museum, and also the scene for the famous steps from the Rocky Movie.   You know we had to go to the top right?! Lol.  RockySteps2

The view from the top of the “Rocky Steps” was amazing.  We hung out at the top because it was the perfect photo op for anyone who conquered the stairs!

Rocky Stairs
Rocky Stairs (Philly Art Museum) – View from the Top

Of course this stop wouldn’t be complete without posing with the statue!

Rocky Pose

By the mid-afternoon we worked up quite an appetite marching around Philly, so we decided to go over to the Reading Terminal Market.  There was so much to choose from but how could we come to Philly without getting a cheesesteak.  Sure, my friends from the area told me to try Jim’s or Ishkabibble but Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagie and Cheesesteak was President Obama approved!  Since my former alias is Carmen Sandiego I was definitely down to try.  Placed my order, took my Ace of Spades card, and waited patiently for my order.

Yum.  Aces of Spade card for my order wearing one of my fave nail colors, Essie - Mint Candy Apple
Yum. Aces of Spade card for my order wearing one of my fave nail colors, Essie – Mint Candy Apple

No need to snap a picture of my food.  We were thoroughly satisfied.  I’ll check the other places out to compare the next time in Philly.

I saw a story on Facebook about one of the oldest African American bookstores in the country was located in West Philly, Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop.  I was excited to stop by, drop off my book, and patronize the business.  We met the late owner’s daughter, Ms. Yvonne Blake.  Her father, Mr. Dawud Hakim began selling books from the trunk in his car in 1959 before settling in it’s current location on 52nd Street.  Can you imagine the history that has been exchanged in that space for the last 40 years.You can honestly get lost in there with the collection of books that is offered in the store.  It is truly an amazing treasure to have in West Philly, and I wish more bookstores like that one existed all over the country.  When you are in Philly be sure to stop by Hakim’s and it’s possible you may see a familiar book(s) in there very soon!

Hakim's Bookstore

 

 

The Blueprint: How to Reach for the Moon…

The Blueprint: How to Reach for the Moon…

Dreams can sometimes seem impossible. Or does it only seem impossible because everyone says that it is? As I stated before I’ve heard others attempt to downplay my hopes and dreams but also had to realize you’re not able to share your deepest thoughts with everyone.

This morning I thought about Miss. Barbara Johns, a 16 year old girl from FarmVille, Virginia was the driving force behind the desegregation of the Moton School.  The Moton School was apart of the Brown vs. Board of Education case. I was able to visit the original Moton School in 2012,  but revisited the statue in Richmond to remind myself when things seem impossible, continue to reach for the moon!

Turning 32 on Monday, and clearly defining your dreams to yourself can be scary.  Sometimes you may doubt if what you’re doing is the right thing.  I often wondered if our ancestors felt the same way.  I’m sure there were times when they wanted to throw in the towel.  They didn’t receive the support they may have wanted from their peers.  Or, maybe they were putting themselves in danger to make a way for others, and contemplated if it was worth it.

I thank God for the examples of Barbara Johns, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth to name a few.  Along this journey of entrepreneurship I wanted to give up, and just say I’m going back to what I know.  Then I’m convicted because I know God put me in this position for a cause that is bigger than me.  I’m going to hang in there, because God is not finished with me yet!

The Mourning After…

The Mourning After…

I spent some wonderful summers in Richmond, VA as an intern.  I learned a great deal, featured in the local newspaper and news station.  It was truly an amazing experience.  #SteeleThankful for it.  I wanted to master the art of reading 19th Century manuscript before I departed my final summer in Virginia.  It wasn’t until I came across primary documents with black borders that I became more intrigued.  My good southern friends would refer to it as, “mourning” stationary/letter.

What is a mourning letter you ask?  A mourning letter in the 19th Century was stationary paper with black borders.  For example, the border would symbolize if the person writing the letter has experienced the loss of a  loved one.  The width of the border depended on the sender’s state of grief and/or the timeline of the passing.  Basically the  current emotional state of the sender.  The letter (featured photo) that was written by Mrs. Jefferson Davis (First Lady of the Confederacy) addressed in August of 1899 shows the presence of the black border.

From research I was reminded of the death of the President’s daughter, Varina “Winnie” Davis in 1898.   In true super sleuth, Archivist mode we are able to piece the story together of how Mrs. Davis was dealing with the grief internally from the width of the borders on her letters, and of course the letter itself.

(Sidenote: Have you thought about why its customary to wear black to funerals?)  There was documentation of a woman who wore black for years after her husband died.  Proof that she grieved for over five years!  Interesting, right?

After during research in the archives and losing my father in 2013, I found myself ironically wearing a lot of black clothing. Well, I still do, for other reasons. Lol.  It didn’t hit me until my  last year of school that I was not allowing myself to grieve.  Similar to the people that were writing with the black borders in the 19th century, and wearing black garments, I had to realize that the void of losing a loved one will always be present.  I must allow the borders of my own stationary paper to become narrow.  People have to go in order for us to grow.  I must continue to grow in strength.  Mind, body, and soul.