Mable Elizabeth Palmer — A Memoir (an excerpt)


Mable Elizabeth Palmer
Mable Elizabeth Palmer

My father’s family has attempted to demonize my mother but though she was a woman troubled by the many demons schizophrenia forces into residence inside your head she loved us more than she loved herself.

Despite some of the trauma I went through as a child over all I had a good childhood. Funny how when you get older you put things in perspective plus some of the illnesses your parents have visited your doorstep.

Mable Elizabeth Palmer — DeBorah Ann Palmer

How do you quash a lie that seems to gain new life and resurrect with every generation? The Past, we often seek to bury it but only succeed in hiding it but like the undead its gnarled dirt encrusted six fingered rips off the death shroud, tears off the lid of the casket and pushes through layers of earth to reveal itself.

Out of the smiling photos of the 50s and 60s I’m a mini-me of my Dad with his full toothy grin and that twinkle in his eye always reading to play a practical joke or mimic the scary monster from Chiller Theater but I’m internally composed of my mother’s keen powers of observation and dry humor that served her well in dealing with challenging situations.

Betrayed by the playmates of my youth Condemned to an endless purgatory search for love, acceptance & belonging.

Wandering A Wasteland Of sorrow and disappointments, seeking and desiring a bond that never truly existed. 
We who have been cast out from the tribe abandoned only to know longing but never fulfillment. Trapped by lies and falsehoods that should have long been discarded. Caught in an emotional web of deceit hoping for escape, a kind of salvation, a type of redemption. Oh where is my savior who will rescue and mend my broken soul. Locks shorn, sitting in sackcloth and ashes I await the delivering Angel of Death.

My Mom passed away in August 1998 but with all the 2012 drama I’ve felt closer to her than ever before. I believe she is speaking through me charging me to tell her story. Her spirit and mine are one flesh, our souls are reconciled one to another, the veil of death lifted for a time such as this.  The small town girl born in Davy, WV, raised in Jim Crow, Dayton, Ohio who marries the big city boy (my Dad Edward Palmer) from Harlem, USA.  The battle began when a small town country girl vs the sophistication of the Harlem Niggrati or what we now call Ghetto Fabulous.  She was the cornerstone rejected and misunderstood by her husband’s family.
Way back then they was not knowing that cells have genetic memory. The in-laws tried to make the simple girl from Dayton, Ohio into a pariah after the birth of their disabled son but the reality of the discourse was not to be. I’m here to cease the motion of 15 years of lies, fable, tall tales and innuendos. I exist to give validation to the voice that was never heard. The child Stephen fertilized with essence seed from without the boundaries had come to save us. His is the seed of many generations back, the DNA that coalesces make believes with reality. His earthly soul is subject to the confines of this life’s limitations but Stephen’s spirit soars with the Angels whose quest is to serve the Lord.

Mable was held in a panorama spun by coveted lovers, who were harlots through celibacy making death a closer journey to Heaven.
With this confession my Mother’s Soul residing within me is at rest. She rages no more, her anguish has been extinguished.

My mother and I share broken lives, shattered in similar places we cut ourselves on shards of pain, our fractured lives seeking to mend.

Now I attempt to retrieve the scattered pieces, seeking to restore the jigsaw puzzle of Isis, long in disarray, bent and twisted from misuse, abuse and false accusations. Fraying the edges making impossible even imperfect fits.
Sitting across from her flesh & blood ghost, linking hands we grant each other absolution long sought from others outside our circle but only possible for us, from us.
In retrospect I have become her, a woman of strength, fortitude, courage, virtue and character; strong willed and loyal to a point.

My mother taught us basic human decency, a trait sorely lacking in many children and adults.

After I graduated from college at age 43, actually even before that I battled depression. I’ve been hooked on all types of anti-depressants, pain killers and have an off and on dalliance with drink. By the way doctors and therapists knowingly make drug addicts out of their patients. I stopped taking all my anti-depressant medicines in 2007. As you know medical science has since proved those medications turn you into a zombie and cause depression/suicidal thoughts. I’d rather be depressed and a functioning human being than a suicidal zombie.

Now I not only understand but know what my mother felt. Even though my Mom had been gone for years I’m closer to her than ever before, because I’m more like her. In a way I am her and me at the same time.

In the ensuing years since that incident I too have battled depression. I have attempted suicide several times as recently as earlier this year. The demons are forever with me. However they are held at bay through faith in God, prayer and my brother Stephen.

Stephen has become my earthly salvation, my reason for being. How can I leave my beautiful brother alone on this earth knowing that for him the earth, moon, stars and sun revolve around me? Whenever he sees me his whole face lights up. When the workers at his residence or his teachers at his day treatment program ask him Stevie who’s that? He proudly answers my sister. One day I was feeling really down, depressed and discouraged and Stephen’s group home called to tell me they were coming by for me to sign some paperwork. I met the van outside and before the worker could place the papers into my hands Stephen leapt out the van and gave me a big hug! I was pleasantly surprised because people with autism are not really physically expressive. Stephen hugs but usually gingerly. This time he gave it his all. Somehow he must have known or God told him that I needed that hug.

To any of the doctors who might be reading this today and originally diagnosed Stephen back in 1963, Stephen has a job which he loves, enjoys living in his group home, participates in many social activities, has had girlfriends, etc… Yes Stephen has broken barriers. The barriers of doubt and labels from the medical community and from society.

My Mom Mable Elizabeth Palmer finally received the medication she needed in 1995 after my Dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. My father Edward Palmer passed away on May 13, 1995. Mom and I were left with each other. The medicine cleared her mind so we could really get to know one another. I asked her why. She said I was overwhelmed. I understood. By then I was an adult woman in my 30s. My mother and I made peace with each other and became good friends. Alas this paradise of togetherness only lasted three years. Cancer claimed Mommy August 2, 1998 sending my life into a tailspin from which I’m just now beginning to recover.

 

Jephthah’s Daughters


Jephthah’s Daughters.(Click here to read more)

Shall we regard our girl children as Jephthah’s Daughters?  How long will we continue to perpetuate the adage, “Women love their sons, but raise the daughters.”  Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed in life but success comes through accepting responsibility and learning to be accountable.  Any child male or female who constantly lashes out at authority figures in a bid to always be “right” is a child bound for prison or the graveyard.  Stop making girls the sacrificial lambs!!

Ladies, let’s love our girl children and stop putting them on the altar in order to save a son who does not wanted to be saved and does not think he needs help or worse some no account man who should not even be a part of our households to begin with. Let us not return to ancient times when girls and women were thought of as little more than chattel or commodities to be bought and sold. (See below for more details on ancient economies)

Girl Sacrifice

“One of the unusual things about the Bible is that it preserves some bits of this larger context. … It would seem that the economy of the Hebrew kingdoms, by the time of the prophets, was already beginning to develop the same kind of debt crises that had long been common in Mesopotamia: espe­cially in years of bad harvests, the poor became indebted to rich neigh­bors or to wealthy moneylenders in the towns, they would begin to lose title to their fields and to become tenants on what had been their own land, and their sons and daughters would be removed to serve as servants in their creditors’ households, or even sold abroad as slaves.

“[This is what the biblical book of Nehemiah is referring to in the passage,] ‘Some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them.’ One can only imagine what those words meant, emotionally, to a father in a patriarchal society in which a man’s ability to protect the honor of his family was everything. Yet this is what money meant to the ma­jority of people for most of human history: the terrifying prospect of one’s sons and daughters being carried off to the homes of repulsive strangers to clean their pots and provide the occasional sexual services, to be subject to every conceivable form of violence and abuse, pos­sibly for years, conceivably forever, as their parents waited, helpless, avoiding eye contact with their neighbors, who knew exactly what was happening to those they were supposed to have been able to protect. … http://www.delanceyplace.com/view_archives.php?2009

Donations to this Ministry for the Housing Fund can be made in U.S. Funds via money order or bank checks made payable to Rochdale Village Inc. 169-65 137th Avenue, Jamaica, NY 11434, Account No. 083-11G-16924 or directly to deborah.palmer280@gmail.com via Paypal.  Thank you and God Bless.

Female Ancestor from my Dad's side, Name lost to Time

The Cruelty of “Christianity”


The Cruelty of “Christianity”

Tekahionwake

“Oh, why have your people forced on me the name of Pauline Johnson? Was not my Indian name good enough? Do you think you help us by bidding us forget our blood? By teaching us to cast off all memory of our high ideals and our glorious past? I am an Indian. My pen and my life I devote to the memory of my own people. Forget that I was Pauline Johnson, but remember always that I was Tekahionwake, the Mohawk that humbly aspired to be the saga singer of her people, the bard of the noblest folk the world has ever seen, the sad historian of her own heroic race.”

Nobody knows my name or the real me except Jesus and him alone. Some ancestors unwillingly pulled from the breast of Mother Africa the others walked the “Trail of Tears”. Both had forced upon them the indoctrination of Euro-centric Christianity to the detriment of each noble culture.

A few months ago I traced my maternal ancestry back to Mozambique. When I made that discovery something in my spirit clicked and I knew that one day I had to return to the birthplace of my Great, great, great, great, great Grandmother, her birth name lost to time and eternity. Other ancestors born in this great land have yet to be revealed. Many times I wonder, “What was my African and/or Native American name.”  The names of Finney, Halstead, Gordon, Palmer were all given by some distant slave-owner. Who were they and who were they 500 years ago?

Like Tekahionwake I live my dichotomy every day even in my spiritual life wondering about the respective faiths of my African and Native American ancestors. Thinking about how their own unique worship was torn asunder only to be replaced by a Euro-centric “Christian” god who relegated them to a lesser status, below that of their European captors.

Children of an accursed Ham? (Genesis 9:20–27) I think not for the descendents of the great Realm of Ethiopia have risen again to the rightful place in the Diaspora.

Matthew 12:42

New King James Version (NKJV)

42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

The cries of my people would not be extinguished. The voices of my Native American ancestors called to me for redemption. Through an experiment called Carlisle Indian Industrial School History, really internment in re-culturalization concentration camps Richard Henry Pratt sought to erase the cultural identity of Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other tribes through forcing children into complete immersion in Eurocentric culture and identity, effectively erasing their own. Take away a person’s language and belief systems, telling them that how God created them was wrong and had to be fixed only serves to create indwelling images of self-hatred within those lost children. If eradicating my indigenous and African American culture, traditions, ethnicity and exchanging them for dominant white culture will I be closer to God?  Will Jesus accept me in this new form?

As I gaze in the mirror as many Native Americans did 150 years ago neither my face nor my features as God made them can be erased. The efforts on the part of European conquerors failed. Nor were the colonizers able to erase the connection to the Great Spirit as he was known long before the white man touched our shores.

White man you tell me that only your version of Jesus can save my soul and deliver me from sin. And just what is my sin? Being born with a brown face, high cheek bones, full lips, long flowing Jet Black hair or locs that rise to kiss the sun. Does my sin lie in the dances my people perform to honor my ancestors and Mother Earth who gives us all sustenance? Am I or my ways at fault because we revere Nature as opposed to destroying the land, fouling the waters, polluting the environment in a never ending obsession to conquer, convert and control? Now who is the savage? Who is the so-called heathen?

Oh European who comes bearing the sign of the cross who is this God of yours that lifts up your customs and traditions but disparages mine? He is not the Jesus depicted in your Old Master paintings from Italy, Spain, France or the Flemish Masters. No, more than likely he was a swarthy man with kinky dark woolly hair, skin darkened by constant exposure to the sun. Jesus was someone whose looks paralleled the populations most of the indigenous tribes of Africa, North and South America.

Revelation 1:14-15

New King James Version (NKJV)

14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;

We Sisters and Brothers from what you named the “Third World” now know that Jesus came for us just as we are. God accepts us in all the richness with which he created us. We Black and Brown followers have redefined and returned Christianity to its original intent and meaning.

No longer do we walk the “Trail of Tears” or the Via Dolorosa. Now we stand together arm in arm marching onward to Zion that beautiful city of God taking our place among those who have been redeemed.

 Female Ancestor from my Dad's side, Name lost to Time

Nina Simone – If He Changed My Name

Cathay Williams — Civil War Shero & Buffalo Soldier


A friend of mine introduced me to Cathay Williams, the first African American Woman documented to have served in the Civil War. She was also a Buffalo Soldier.  I hope to discuss this for a Black History Month program talk sometime in the future.

Cathay Williams - 1st Woman Buffalo Soldier

Bob Marley — Buffalo Soldier

Cathay Williams or William Cathay (Cathey)
Private, Thirty-eighth U.S. Infantry 1866-1868

http://www.sangres.com/history/cwilliams/index.htm
http://www.buffalosoldier.net/CathayWilliamsFemaleBuffaloSoldierWithDocuments.htm
http://userpages.aug.com/captbarb/femvets2.html

http://dashingclaire.hubpages.com/hub/First-Female-Buffalo-Soldier-Cathay-Williams

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  Here is a very short story about one of my ancestors who fought bravely for freedom.

In December of 1863 my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Halstead, who lived in Tarrytown, New York, traveled to New Haven, Connecticut to join the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry.  On his Volunteer Enlistment papers it notes his occupation as a farmer.  He enlisted for three years and was discharged on the 24th day of October 1865.  He married and had five children.  William Henry Halstead passed away in 1888 and was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York.  His wife moved to New York City with her five children.  Her children grew up in Harlem and belonged to various organizations such as Odd Fellows, Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Daughters of New York.

One of his descendents was my grandmother Eva Sophronia Gordon Palmer who was born in 1892.

My Maternal Ancestry Tree: The bond and bridge that enable me to crossover from America to Africa


Friday, December 02, 2011

My Maternal Ancestry Tree: The bond and bridge that enable me to crossover from America to Africa

Maternal Ancestry Journey

Isaiah 54:1-3

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Perpetual Covenant of Peace

1 “Sing, O barren,
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD.
2 “ Enlarge the place of your tent,
And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
Do not spare;
Lengthen your cords,
And strengthen your stakes.
3 For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
And your descendants will inherit the nations,
And make the desolate cities inhabited.

 

Mable Elizabeth Palmer
Mable Elizabeth Palmer

The eternal question, Who Am I? Many of us find the answer within our respective Family Trees.  It was obvious to me that my ancestry began in Africa, but where in that great continent did my ancestors originate.  But for me as an African American some of the branches were broken off and gone missing. 

Thus began my quest to not only discover my maternal lineage but my genetic link to Mother Africa.  Hidden within the larger search to trace my family history on my Mom’s side was the greater goal to honor my mother and complete myself as a branch of the family tree. DNA can now unlock the secrets and the past giving voice to generations of women, the collective matriarchy that ultimately formed me.  Living in a society that often devalues, trivializes and cuts Black Women down, within my personal family history lay the opportunity to validate and reaffirm self.

Family Skeletons Revealed

Hattie Finney Banks was my grandmother.  Hattie and Mattie Finney were twin sisters.  Mattie Finney moved to Illinois and married a man named Harper.  I always wondered what became of Mattie. My grandmother Hattie Banks never spoke of her twin sister Mattie.  I always thought that was unusual but I did not ask any questions.  Did not want to pry. 

About two years ago my brother Stephen and I spent Thanksgiving with our New Jersey cousins.  My Aunt told me a family story which might explain the split between the sisters and why they never again contacted each other.

My grandfather Hugh Banks, Hattie’s husband murdered Daniel R. Finney.  So Hugh Banks killed his in-law, his wife’s close relative. Hugh Banks died in prison sometime around 1940.  My Aunt went to the funeral.  She does not know the reason why Hugh Banks murdered Daniel Finney.  All this took place in the 1930s.  After the funeral Hattie took my Mom, Mable, her sisters and moved to Dayton, Ohio.  Hattie told everyone including my mother, her sisters and me that Hugh Banks had died in a coal mining accident. 

I suppose she had to make up a false story and hide the truth because of embarrassment, shame or just wanting to forget.  From what little my grandmother Hattie Banks told me Hugh Banks was a violent and abusive husband.  I guess when she moved to Dayton to be with her brothers Clarence & Willie she just want to forget the past and start with a clean slate.  I can’t prove it but somehow, some way this murder was probably behind Hattie and Mattie breakup.

23andme Ancestry

Good Ancestor News: Found out this week that through my maternal line my ancestors were from Mozambique. I belong to the maternal haplogroup L3e2b1a.

I also probably have some Nigerian ancestors. My maternal genetic makeup is 85% Africa, 12% Europe and 3% Asia.

Our ancestry and genealogy are traced through mitochondrial DNA which is only passed down from mother to child. This is fascinating information. By the way the study affiliated with Dr. Henry Louis Gates is free and they are targeting African Americans. I’ve wanted to have my DNA traced for several years and when I saw the ad in Ebony or was it Essence along with the word Free, I immediately signed up. I was so thrilled to find out this news. Now along with my African co-workers feel a more direct connection to the Motherland.

Naturally, I’ll never be connected to Mother Africa the way in which my co-workers from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Mali are since they were born there and have a direction connection with the culture, language and respective tribes, I feel now more of a blood tie. Now I can plan for my pilgrimage to this country of my ancestors in the next five to ten years.

I’ve shared my findings with a select group of like-minded co-workers and when I return to work on Sunday will continue to do so.

As I previously stated, Hattie Finney Banks was my maternal grandmother. I’m in the process of writing a book honoring my mother, Mable Elizabeth Palmer, Hattie’s eldest daughter. Right now I’m trying to locate the birth certificate of either Hattie or her twin sister Mattie Finney. I want and need to know who their mother, my great grandmother was. I need that piece of information for not only my research but for my literary work. I know plenty about my Dad’s family history but almost nothing about my Mom’s side. Also there is something in me which needs completion.

When I look in the mirror I see Mable Elizabeth Palmer. I see unknown people from my collective past begging me to tell their story. I must answer their cries to be heard. Before I travel to Mozambique, South Africa I’ll have to visit West Virginia and examine birth, death, prison and military/Armed Forces records that may be available.

Then in 2012 back to Ancestry.com for more research on my maternal family tree.  My maternal ancestors from Mother Africa call me and I willingly answer the call.  Our patriarchal society bows down to the greater stronger Matriarchy for only females carry the mitochondrial DNA that enable all of us to trace our roots and find our origins.  The Journey continues!!

http://www.23andme.com/

National Geographic also offers a similar test but it costs $99.95. That will have to wait until I receive my Federal income tax check next year. I want to see if genetic lineage test comes up with the same result as 23andme. I would think that for $100 the testing would be more wide-ranging and comprehensive. My goal is to find out more about my maternal lineage. My ultimate goal is to deepen my connection to my mother, grandmother and of course Mother Africa.