I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and labeled “Colored” by the government.
Happy birthday to me! #knowyourbirthday
Globally linking African American families and other histories. Check out posts @goodgenesgenealogy on wordpress, fb, twitter and via email@example.com. Also check out @goodgenesgenealogy on wordpress
I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and labeled “Colored” by the government.
Happy birthday to me! #knowyourbirthday
This photo collage from my high school days in Omaha, Nebraska, is a precious find, a true jewel. The photos showcases the members of Wantu Wazuri, an organization of Omaha Central High School Black students. It was formed and mentored by our ancestor, noted educator and children’s advocate Mary Dean Harvey (later Evans).
It was Mrs. Harvey — as we referred to her then — who listened to the small number of Black students attending Central HS. We wished to be “heard” and “seen” in a more significant way while matriculating among a larger number of peers comprised of European, Jewish and Caucasian ancestry.
Mrs. Harvey saw it fit to include Wantu Wazuri in her busy teaching day that began with our meetings in her homeroom at 7:30 a.m. Looking back, it must have been quite a power move for Mrs. Harvey to gain the school administration’s permission to allow an all-Black club to form. Central HS was and remains one of the nation’s top college prep high schools with an outstanding listing of alumni. Omaha CHS alumni include famed actors (Inga Swenson, Henry Fonda, Dorothy McGuire), celebrated musicians and philanthropists (Wyonnie Harris; Peter, Susie Jr. and Susie Buffett), stellar athletes (Gayle Sayers, Ahman Green), politicians, human rights advocates and authors (Brenda Council, Dr. Rodney Wead), my grandmother (Helen Wilks Owen Douthy), other relatives and my parents (Dr. Rodney, Angeline Wead).
Mrs. Harvey chose the name of Wantu Wazuri because of its Swahilli word for “beautiful people” and linkage to a larger organization. We routinely celebrated with song, recitations, and group sharing of triumphs and struggles. It was quite a time in Mrs. Harvey’s room that established our success strategies in academics and community outreach.
What I re-learned as I researched the genesis of the Central HS name of Wantu Wazuri is that our gathering was a quasi-branch of the 1970-organized college student group by the same name at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. I am not sure if Mrs. Harvey formally connected with the UNC organization. However, I am sure the Louisiana-born educator was intentional in ensuring her Central HS students focused on positive academic and social objectives in a mirrored way as the original Wantu Wazuri organization. UNC’s Wantu Wazuri was later renamed the Black Student Union. According to its Facebook page, the UNC Black Student Union “… we’ve been observing and improving the general welfare of Black students at @uncwilmington.”
The Central HS Wantu Wazuri club clearly modeled the college organization. The CHS photograph features one of our Wantu Wazuri community service projects, a Christmas food drive. My sister, Denise “Candy” Wead Rawles and brother, Owen “Gene” Wead, and I were members of the Wantu Wazuri group. My best friends, Debbie Marshall and Leilani Garret, were also members. We were joined by other cool friends such as Drusilla Dillon and John Pennington (see above photo). I recall our Black History Month programs, wearing our African-themed clothing and singing our theme song. These memories bring forth the importance of the extended village serving as a central circle of love during those great years at Central before my family moved to Chicago, IL at the beginning of my junior year.
My sister, upon seeing the photograph that I retrieved from www.ancestry.com, told me that “it made her day.” I told her the same was true of me for findilng this gem.
History lives through the legacy of Mary Dean Harvey Evans. She not only served the Omaha Central HS students for seven years and worked in the Omaha Public School System for nearly 20 years, Mrs. Harvey was a highly regarding state leader for two governors in Nebraska and Georgia.
Mrs. Harvey continues to teach me valuable lessons. She emphasized education, contextual thinking and sharing our stories. Her leadership has added great value to my genealogy research.
Thank you, Mrs. Harvey, for providing me with this jewel of a find through the hunch that she often told us to follow. She insisted that our internal controls — our hunches — would never let us down. Mrs. Harvey, again was right.
Let the spirit of Mrs. Harvey be your guide in genealogy research.
To gain more information along the family I use our family Bibles, lots of conversations filled with questions, journals and books as seen below.
February 2023 workbook for genealogy workshop
As half of the Good Genes Genealogy Services Team, I am honored to facilitate offer our third annual Black Genealogy workshops, 10 – 11 a.m., Saturdays, Feb. 11 and 18, 2023, in partnership with Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA.
It’s free! Sign in for the virtual setting via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 861 4830 0328
Dial: 929 205 6099 US
Hillside’s leadership generously is offering our workshops for free. My maternal first cousin , Mark S. Owen, and I are genealogists and facilitators for our genealogy workshops. The workshops are open to our worldwide audience.
We specialize in “breaking down brick walls” to find the “hard-to-find” Black ancestors whose histories are usually intertwined with others from contrasting backgounds, such as former slave owners. We have several success stories in helping genealogy workshop participants and other clients to locate their “lost” loved ones. Hillside’s Presiding Bishop Jack L. Bomar, is among those who learned a “great blessing” of family history through the Good Genes Genealogy Services’ research about his family.
Sankofa Genealogy workshop attendees are asked to purchase the companion workbook. Go to our website and select “Genealogy Store.” You will be able to download your copy after selecting the book cover image (see below) to pay for your book. All proceeds offset our free and low-cost, year-round genealogy consulting services.
Mark and I are also the co-authors and Veverly Byrd-Davis is the book designer and illustrator of the cover.
As a preview to the first workshop, we will explore the “natural” and online ways to find your ancestors whose heritage is from the African diaspora. Participants will also learn helpful tips and receive encouragement from the valued benefit of locating and celebrating our individual and collective Black family ancestries.
Olivia J. Garland did just that and pushed memories from her childhood to discover a forgotten cemetery where her great-grandmother, America Virginia Fields, was buried in Henrico County, Virginia.
Garland remembered the rural path to funerals that she traveled as a girl. Garland’s remembrance of those county roads in Virginia and her interest in locating her great-grandmother’s grave, led to the uncovering of a “buried” cemetery. The great-granddaughter of Fields, also utilized land records, historical and cemetery records, volunteers and her determination to find the final resting place of her precious relative and nearly 20 other persons.
The campaign to locate others buried at the site continue.
Her story is encouraging to those who believe they’ve reached brick walls in Black family research that cannot allow for great outcomes. America Virginia Fields
Pay attention to the conversations, remembrances of childhood experiences, Bibles, diaries and other family materials.
Camden, Tenn. – About 340 miles northwest of Atlanta, lies a small community with a big heart that was originally named “Tranquility.” The community counted as one of its more than 3,000 residents a special lady, Delia Mae Tharpe, mother of Dr. Jack L. Bomar, Executive Bishop/Senior Pastor of Atlanta’s Hillside International Truth Center.
Ms. Delia, as many called her, was funeralized on the third Saturday of January admist a mountainous cool afternoon. It would have been an ordinary “homegoing” service, except Ms. Delia was anything but ordinary. Her extraordinary life on earth for 81 years is one for the history books. I barely knew Ms. Delia, meeting her perhaps once. Yet, nearly 55 persons, including my mother, Angeline Wead and me, traveled five hours each way to share with hundreds of others to celebrate the life of this lady.
What caused us to travel early on Saturday morning and return late that evening, is what I will share later in this blog.
Delia Mae Tharpe, September 28, 1941 – January 14, 2023
Just one day earlier, was the funeral for my maternal cousin, M. Madeline Wilks Matthews, who I’ve known all of my life. Her service took place in St. Louis, Missouri. My mother was the eldest cousin to Madeline. I was asked to write her obituary, which was delivered to her church secretary with all the love and care that I could deliver. Madeline was a bright light who was on this earth 93 years.
Margaret Madeline Wilks Matthews, Aug. 30, 1929 – January 7, 2023
The lives of Madeline and Ms. Delia were different and yet there were a few similarities. Both ladies lived full lives, sang in their church choirs, held many positions in church leadership, and each worked more than four decades in their respective fields. Madeline did not have children; while Ms. Delia bore nine children and had many grandchildren. Madeline was active in politics and in her retirement years, she gained additional education and served as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional in special education.
In short, I am proud of Madeline’s accomplishments that began in her college prep Omaha Central High School years where she excelled in academics, music, other creative endeavors, and as student government leader. As a young high school graduate, she was denied employment in her hometown because she was Black. That’s why she ventured south of Nebraska to Missouri where she lived the next nearly 80 years and endured the sadly typical ups and downs of trailblazing, independent thinking and working women.
Madeline in high school
Ms. Delia’s life couldn’t have been easy by usual, societal measures. She was a “dedicated and hard worker for more than forty-three years at Henry I. Siegel, ‘the H.I.S. factory’ in Bruceton, TN as a press operator,” according to her obituary. She bore nine children and raised them in humble conditions with such love, leadership and purpose as shared with laughter, sympathy tears and memorable message.
Her life was inspiring as experienced by hundreds in the near standing room-only chapel where the roomful of upright flower displays served as fragrant reminders of the depth of her influence in this hamlet of about 3,000 residents within 5.7 square miles of the Tennessee hills.
So impactful was Ms. Delia’s life that a young lady who was seated behind me said that she attended the service even though she lived in the area, yet did not know Ms. Delia “that well.” Eula Eikerenkoetter, widow of the late, popular minister, “Rev. Ike,” was there. So were several messages of condolences in the form of proclamations and recognitions that included many Atlanta City Councilmembers.
A guide for genealogy researchers
Family genealogists can learn many lessons from our new ancestors while honoring their time on this earth and their vibrant spirits. The obituaries, the services are the beginning of sharing the legacies of the families. Usually, many blanks are filled in that often break through the typical brick walls found in Black ancestry pursuits.
It’s 2023. Just in time for New Year’s resolutions to enhance our families’ five-generational check as supplied — for free — by the U.S. National Archives.
This is step one (1) of a multi-phase prep for the Good Genes Genealogy Services’ 2023 workshops and webinars. Stay tuned!
My big brother, Gene, and young sister, Missy, in our yard in Omaha, Nebraska sometime in 1967 or 1958.
Our Wilkes family gathering sometime in the 1920s.