Friday, April 12, 2013

Mitakuye Oyasin

We Redbones have a very strong identity with America's indigenous peoples.  However, we have no memory of being native American.  Not in our words, not in our customs, not in our religion.   The only memory of being Indian is in our genes, and when we look into a mirror, we are reminded.  That in mind, I have one phrase I want to introduce into our vocabulary.  It is Lakota.  Mitakuye Oyasin -- we are all related.  Now you speak some Indian.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Some Thoughts from George Carlin


George Carlin's wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could write something so very eloquent and so very appropriate. An observation by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower v...iewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

Monday, June 18, 2012


1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup flour
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 can Rotel brand stewed tomatoes
1 can creamed corn
2-4 cans chicken broth
1 lb crab meat
(or 1/2 lb. crab, 1/2 lb shrimp)
1 Teaspoon liquid crab boil*
salt, pepper, & creole seasonings 

The secret to all gumbo is in the roux.  A roux should be made slowly and evenly.  Different gumbos call for different degrees of dark.  This particular gumbo wants a deep, dark brown, close to mahogany.  So begin by making a dark brown roux using the oil and flour in a large cast iron skillet over low to moderate heat, stirring constantly, making sure not to burn the roux (or yourself).  If you should accidentally burn your roux, start over again.  It can take as long as 30 minutes to get a good roux.  Be patient and don’t rush it.  And be careful while stirring the roux:  it's called Cajun Napalm because it sticks and burns.  When the roux is dark enough (as dark as brackish swamp water), add the Holy Trinity and cook over a medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes.  In a large soup pot, heat corn, tomatoes, and chicken broth.  When roux and vegetables are ready, add to the soup.  Simmer for about an hour and then add crab meat and crab boil.  Taste for salt, and add your seasonings.  Serve with cornbread instead of rice. 

*Liquid crab boil is more widely available nowadays, but if you can’t find any, just adjust your seasoning by adding a couple of bay leaves, some cajun spices and some Tabasco.

 This is a Redbone gumbo.  Redbones are from the bayou country out in western Louisiana.  We’re as likely to eat cornbread as rice, and with this particular gumbo, it’s preferred.  This recipe was a gift to me from my cousin of blessed memory, Regina Sue Miller Sibley.  Thinking I needed a name with more cachet, I renamed it Tchoupitoulas Corn and Crab Gumbo.  But for the purpose of giving it to my cousins, let’s go back to calling it Sue’s Corn and Crab Soup.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

There was another commenter asking me if I had a problem with Blacks. No, not really. They got their story, we got ours. I don't think I ever deny the fact that we have African genes. But we didn't get any of the culture from the genes. I grant you, it's our loss. I mourn that daily. We had some tough times, but we did not have the "Black experience." My ancestors in this country were never slaves. Say what you will, but it made a difference in our experience as mixed-race Americans in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century inA these Americas.

Call us what you will: Melungeons, Redbones, Moors, Lumbees, it's all the same. There is very likely African blood, but we've been denying it/running from it for over 300 years, long enough that we have our own story and it ain't the more typical African-American experience born of slavery and segregation. We have nothing in common with that experience. We were on the other side. Any self-respecting American Black upon learning of this group of mixed-race people called Redbones by others would disavow any possible kinship, culturally or genealogically. We just have a different experience, and it does bug me when my story is claimed by others with no right to use it like were there own.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bearhead Creek, Beauregard and Calcasieu Parishes, Louisiana
There is no group of people known as the Redbones of Bearhead Creek, although there are plenty of Redbones living along Bearhead Creek.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Terry Jackson

We buried Terry on Friday, April 17.

It didn't rain until after we said our last good-byes to Terry. In the several hours between Good Hope and midnight, it rained six or seven inches. I sat out on Brenda's patio watching the lightning flashes and counting for the thunder the way I was taught to count as a kid, you know, "one Mississippi, two Mississippi, and so on." The lightning was never right over us, but the rain was. All of those old church songs about being washed kept coming to mind. You know, "washed in the blood," "wash my sins away," that sort of thing.

I did let the rain "wash" the sadness brought on by Terry's sudden death, at least as much as I could. I wanted to speak to Terry's family about his greatness. Sure, they know he's great, but did they appreciate the impact he had on hundreds of people close and far away? I wanted to thank him for so many gifts to his cousins, near and far. I did tell his widow that I wanted to speak, but the opportunity didn't happen.

We all have different ways of processing death. In my multi-cultural existence here in California, I have sang several dozen varieties of the same song. After a few, we develop a few favorites. I like it when family and friends are invited to speak spontaneously of the deceased. Terry's service did not provide that opportunity. I was very disappointed. I did not feel slighted, just disappointed.

The young man who delivered the eulogy was a nephew. I didn't get his name, and I didn't get a copy of the program. He was great, but talk about country! He began by reading the eulogy from the funeral home's website, word for word. Bless his heart, he hadn't a lot of experience at reading in front of a large crowd, but you know what? He did great! After he finished the reading part, he started talking about his uncle Terry, and as he talked, the Spirit filled him and he gave a passionate testament of love for his beloved Uncle.

I was a pall-bearer. It is one of the ways we honor the dead. It goes back a long way in our cultural history. It allows us to honor our friend by taking responsibility for the body. It's mostly symbolic nowadays, but it wasn't that many years ago that pallbearers would be those in the family and friends and neighbors that would dig the grave, build the casket, and cover it. Now it's largely symbolic. BUT, I would have been proud to take a shovel, build a casket, carry it to the grave, cover it, and do what I could beyond that to comfort Terry's family. The symbolism was very strong in my heart and mind on Friday. There was something right about seven of Terry's friends, family, and me, taking the casket out of the Hearse and carrying it over to the grave. Even as symbolic as it is these days, it still takes physical strength to lift that heavy casket and carry it over to the grave.

The minister who preached Terry's service was Michael Cole, a young, handsome, Pentecostal preacher who is married to one of my Redbone cousins. He told the most delightful story about an interaction he had with Terry. Michael worked at the Singer Pentecostal Church for a few years. In those years, he had several opportunities to interact with Terry. He told this story. One Sunday, after services, he noticed Terry had a big smile on his face, and the twinkle in Terry's eye told Michael that it had something to do with him, so he asked him what made him so happy that morning. Terry's answer: "I love a short-winded preacher!" I liked the humility Michael Cole brought to his part in the service, as he worked through his own feeling of loss.

Terry was a powerful person if one measures power by the effect one has on the lives of others. Terry was not drawn to the Internet because of something lacking in his own life. Terry was drawn to the Internet because he had an abundance in his heart that he felt compelled to share. While he was kind to strangers, once the bond of kinship was established, he became fiercely loyal in his affection.

His most generous gift to us was the tombstone project. Erlene and Terry traipsed through thickle and briar, snakes and mosquitoes, high water and flood, to photograph and catalogue the tombstones in almost every cemetery in southwest Louisiana. No matter who you are, you could go to the site and find a picture of the tombstone of your Redbone ancestor. Thank you, Terry. May your name be blessed by dozens of generations to come.

It is said that only the living suffer death. The dead themselves are at peace. It is we the living who suffer loss. There's a lot of us living who are hurting right now. God sent us an angel to dwell amongst us and we took him for granted too many years. We are all poorer now with Terry's death.

A couple of years ago, Terry wrote this:

In telling these old stories of these folks, there is one thing that is
confirmed time and time again for me about a wish I have had all of my
life. That wish being, that I would have been able to just meet and
sit and talk with these people of mind for just a week. Just imagine
the history and details of the different stories and tales we have
heart that has been told over and over. We could have learned the
truth, too. I would be willing to bet that the truth wouldn't be far
from the way we know the stories today.

We buried Terry at Good Hope Cemetery. There are six generations of his ancestors buried there. I want to imagine them sitting out on God's front porch in their rocking chairs, laughing and remembering their stories. Terry's going to get a proper welcome, I know that's a fact. While he's going to want to hear their versions of some of the stories he's heard, they're going to want to hear him telling about growing up in Redbone country in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 10s. Oh sure, they may watch down and look out for us, but nobody told a story like Terry. They're going to want to hear his version.

Rest in peace, Terry, rest in peace. I am a better man having known you.

It's going to take me awhile to get over losing you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Royce "Terry" Jackson
August 5, 1958 - April 14, 2009
Rest in peace, dear cousin, rest in peace. The world is a poorer place now without you.