AfriGeneas BookClub Chat Log - Wed 15 May 2002
[Wed 15 May 9:pm EST 2002]
Host Geder> 
Welcome to the Afrigeneas Online Book Club Chat. I'm your
host/facilitator, George Geder.

We meet monthly on the Wednesday following the Tuesday Afrigeneas/Barnes &
Noble Offline Book Club meeting. Times are 9:00pm eastern / 6:00pm Pacific

Tonight we are discussing the novel 

'Claiming Kin,Confronting the History of an African American Family'
by Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs. From the back cover; "Daddy's death elevated minor comments into monumental pronouncements." Insignificant meetings became important because they were all I had. Times we shared, and thought we'd share again, became final events. The church service was one of the last times I stood with my father..... His death left me without his voice, his words, without the story of his life". Please welcome our guest Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs!!! > Afi, the floor is yours.... Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Thank you all for coming and thank you all for being interested in the book I'd like to talk briefly about where I see my book fitting in with African American genealogy The book isn't the story of my family. It's the story of the emotional impact of my genealogical research And as I wrote, I realized that Black genealogy has a larger significance than just finding facts and names and dates If anything, we who practice genealogy are practicing Kujichagulia - the directive toward self-determination. You know we talk about this a Kwanzaa, when we recite the 7 principles. But Kuchijagulia is extremely important. It's our insistence upon defining ourselves, naming ourselves and setting our own direction. I think that, through genealogy, we are determining who we are in relation to our past. Sometimes it's painful. Especially when we hit that wall in 1870, and have to struggle to go beyond it. Or when we find those ancestors on an inventory and realize that slaves were commodities. But we keep going. I've realized how important this search is because I read the postings on the bulletin board. I think it's important for us to identify with our ancestors, and through genealogy, we are doing just that. But I want to make another point. We have to realize that our ancestors were enslaved. We are free. In fact, our actions - our search for our past, our obsession (sometimes) with reconstructing our history bit by bit are the actions of a liberated people. If we were still in survival mode, we wouldn't have the mental room to realize the necessity of our search. And a final thing. For us, genealogy is an intensely spiritual experience. We have - and are - cut off from our history. For a long time, we didn't know how to process the fact that we are the descendants of slaves. Some of us still prefer to stress our African roots, to the exclusion of our AFrican-0American ones. But I think that, through genealogy, we can put the pain of the past behind us, without leaving the past behind us. I'm finished. What do you think? K Wyer> Why cut off from our history? Why do we deny our American roots or exclude them? Is it just painful or is it just easier to start in Africa> Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
I think there's the stigma of slavery, especially for those who came up during the 50's and the 60's and had to endure the three word descriptions of our past. LaVerne> I search for my roots because although they weren't important to our slave owners, they are important to me. Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Well, LaVerne, I think our roots were sometimes important to the slave owners. Seems like certain slave owners preferred folks from certain ethnic groups in Africa, for the technology we had. Geder> I need to know because at one time my grandparents, g-grandparents, etc. were young and now they are gone. Who were they, what were they, and where they were born. A tree without roots will not stand. Once you know, what do you do with the information Geder> I think I will celebrate myself. I will share my knowledge with my children, grandchildren, and family. Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Right. Did your parents, etc. talk about their ancestors? K Wyer> Afi did you start to write this book as a psychological journey? Or was it just going to be a factual story about your family...where you could write a detached chronicle of their life and t imes. Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Wow, you want the entire story :) This book started as a how-to on performing gospel music. Then it became a set of essays on gospel music. I was writing the chapter on "This may be the Last time" Geder (Host)> Interesting! Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
When I realized what I was really supposed to be writing about [SOME TEXT WAS LOST DUE TO A DISCONNECT] Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Then it became a set of essays on gospel music. I was writing the chapter on "This may be the Last time" When I realized what I was really supposed to be writing about Host Geder> Interesting! K Wyer> Afi, earlier you mentioned a larger significance in just finding facts (Black genealogy) What do you mean? Geder > Afi, can we learn more about the history of our Ancestors through the history of gospel music? Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
I meant a larger significance than just finding facts. I think genealogy allows us to put a face on the past. Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg> Now for George's question: I was going to do some essays about emotional associations with gospel music and spirituals. Who they remind of us; rituals that they recall which we've forgotten. At my father's church, there's a ritual handshake that goes along with the singing of certain spirituals. K Wyer> I recently spoke to a white genealogist who was surprised to find out that we use many if not all of the same genealogy resources and then the dimension of slavery to find our ancestors. What do you say to that? Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Well, they don't really understand what slavery means to us. And really, they don't understand us. But I like genealogy, and especially this site because we're showing the country that slavery can not be pushed into the closet of the past. When I first started investigating my roots, white librarians, etc. were of little help when it came to resources for slave research. I'm finding that's changing. Geder (Host)> When they look at slavery (whites) do they see the same things, research wise, as we do? Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
I wonder myself. I think they are beginning to see their ancestors' role in the institution, especially when they find those documents like wills, etc. that list slaves. Geder (Host)> And does our research look through their eyes? Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
I don't understand the last question, George Geder (Host)> By that I mean, when we pick up a history book by a white author...There are so many on the library shelves... I was reading one book stating that the federal government justified slavery using the 1840 census records, at that time... LaVerne> I had better get some sleep so that I can get up for work. Thank you all for taking time to explain the book. It sounds interesting. LaVerne> Good night all. K Wyer> Does our research look through their eyes? What an interesting question. I'd say that we do but sometimes our perspective is blurred by our frustration and anger. It is not so much what the white author writes, but his interpretation. It is difficult to stand outside our experience and look at history... the only that. [SOME TEXT WAS LOST DUE TO A DISCONNECT] Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
I'd consider it if I were you. You have a strong foundation for a good story. K Wyer> Thanks so Afi tell me more about your book Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
My research challenged all my assumptions about my identity: Familial, racial, cultural. You know how genealogy is.. Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg> We find out something, draw a conclusion then reject it when we find out something else. Geder (Host)> True dat! Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
I'd say the most important part of the book is Part 4. Because of my research, my ancestors started to alking to me! I eventually left the traditional Black church and became metaphysical. I also began to practice the Yoruba religion. It allows me to commune with my ancestors. Geder (Host)> Metaphysical? Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
I belong to Unity school of Christianity. Metaphysical means we deal with the spiritual aspect of God. Geder (Host)> I see Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Seems like we're winding down. Any more questions? K Wyer> A million but maybe we can have another chat session when you are not so pressed for time. Are you doing a book tour? Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
I wish! St.Martins has done some minimal publicity but I'm doing most of it myself. That's why I'm so thankful for you all K Wyer> Who is your agent? Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Her name is janell agyeman Geder (Host)> Your book is a must read! Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Thanks a lot. I've gotten lots of good feedback on it. I just hope it helps folks see how affecting genealogy can be. I really believe we're commicating with the past. K Wyer> Maybe we can chat about your getting the book published steps etc for our readers on Writers Forum or Book Forum Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
K, I'd love to do that! Or, I can post some steps for folks to think about. Getting published is only half the battle.. Geder (Host)> We're in agreement! Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
The other half is marketing. I didn't realize how much work I'd have to do until this book came out! K Wyer> Good Luck and take care. Afi-Odelia E. Scrugg
Thanks to all of you, and especially AFrigeanas! Geder (Host)> [We'll let this point be the official end of the chat, for logging purposes..] Geder (Host)> And thank You Afi!

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