This past weekend at the 66th Annual Taylor Family Reunion I introduced myself with a lengthy description of my parentage. Distant cousins nodded with familiarity as I shared that I am the granddaughter of Olivia Blanding (Russell), great-granddaughter of Rev. LB Russell and Mariah (Taylor), and great-great-granddaughter of Granderson and Mary Eliza Taylor.
With seven generations of descendants of my great-great-grandparents gathering in one space for a weekend of family time, I was reminded of an essential African communal truth. Lineage is important.
I attended my mother's family reunion annually as a child and return when the opportunity presents itself as an adult. Even with that regularity, I still find it impossible for me to know the names and faces of all of the cousins to whom I am related, of which I am certain there are almost 300 living. I lean over to my mother to get clarity on how exactly this specific person is my third cousin twice removed but welcome them warmly because after all, they are family, and they greet me in kind. We are a large and extended village, and despite all that western culture has done to diminish the importance of the African family and the African village, we have managed to survive and sustain for almost seventy years. We thrive.
We are fortunate because we have something that many Africans in america are disconnected from. We have a sense of from where and from who we come. We have history; we have ties which bind us; we have clear and established Ancestry. We have this because the children of Granderson and Mary Eliza charged themselves to get together every year and refused to allow themselves to become disconnected and adrift. We have this because someone recalled the importance and the necessity to keep the records, to remember the generations past and pass down tradition to the future.
Seshat is the divine force that asks us to write things down, not just for ourselves, but for posterity. Seshat charges us to never disregard anything, because something that we think is frivolous now (like dinner between siblings) can turn out to be monumental and life affirming for generations to come. Seshat tells us that everything that we do, think, and speak today is going to matter tomorrow, and thus it is essential that we are mindful about our thoughts, careful with our words, disciplined with our habits, if we are to create lives of power and possibility for ourselves and our children. Seshat teaches us to measure thrice and cut once.
It is not too late for we Africans to keep better records for our future. We simply must decide to learn the message of Seshat and think about the kinds of things we want our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to know about who we are. What are the things that will inspire them to embrace tradition, to achieve great things? What are the things that we can give them, starting now, so that they too can realize that they belong to something bigger than just themselves, so that they can know from where and from whom they come?
Passing down the family traditions and teaching the youth of their lineage starts by making the decision to get together every week/month/year and not compromising or missing an occasion because something else comes up. Tradition can grow, it will grow, with commitment, resilience, consistency. Reestablishing traditional African family values is something we must choose to do, no matter how difficult it feels, no matter how busy we are, no matter what may seem to get in our way. We must begin keep the records, even if no one kept the records for us, because if we don't create them or sustain them, there will be nothing to pass down. We must choose to be as Seshat, the master planner whose records become the foundation that greatness is built upon.