Legacy, Longing and The Lake

Image from a letter written to Riley R. McGimpsey, my great-great grandfather, 119 years ago

Ancestors and family are subjects I often write about. Like here and here. So I was excited when a reporter from The Charlotte Observer reached out last week for my input on a piece about Fonta Flora, the storied community of my paternal great-great grandparents.

“There once was a vale of peace and beauty in the NC foothills, the story goes, where crops grew tall and neighbors both black and white lived in harmony. Even its name sounded lush: Fonta Flora.”

The newspaper article includes an account from my family’s oral history that I shared. Below is an excerpt.

“Just the connection to the land and what’s under that lake is strong and really powerful for all of us,” (Valaida) said. “There’s also the sense of loss, in my mind. After the Civil War, for families that had been enslaved people, even though we didn’t have grand plantations like in other parts of the South, people still struggled to make lives for themselves in a new place, and work for decades. And then to be uprooted.”

The full Observer article by Bruce Henderson is found here, and it features a beloved family portrait from around 1903.


Wondrous Women

I paid tribute to the women of my family tree who sprouted me and help keep me rooted, nourished and strong. I cherish and love them everyday!

So Grand

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Pictured on the left is my maternal grandmother Lucille Geneva, who would have turned 99 years old today (November 2). She’s seated with sister Pauline on the lawn of the family home in Randolph County, North Carolina. Below is a photo her husband, my grandfather James who would have celebrated his 94th birthday on October 29.

During my time with them both, we shared grand times and a wonderfully grand love. Missing you two!

Granddaddy

Apple and Tree

Daddy as baby sailor suitValaida:AllenDad photo

My raconteur ways,

sense of style and wanderlust

came, it seems, natural.

‘Mothering Teacher, Teaching Mother’

Lisa and Momma

“Long before Hillary Clinton wrote a book, Mrs. Fullwood knew it takes a village to raise children. Her daughter and I became best friends in kindergarten, so Mrs. Fullwood has been part of my life for ages and she schooled me on many lifelong lessons.” — Lisa Moore, from the Giving Back story “Mothering Teacher, Teaching Mother”

You can access and read Lisa’s full story via the QR code below. Happy Mother’s Day! 

qr7_MotheringTeacherTeachingMother

Treasure

Me, dad, mom and sis

found, on road to Outer Banks,

vaults of inner bliss.

ava wood 

A History of Giving

Soon after my elder cousin Nettie’s passing about two weeks ago, I spoke with my mom to arrange coming home for her funeral service. Later that morning a reporter from The Charlotte Observer called, requesting an interview on my family history and genealogy for a story he was writing.

While initially reluctant, I began to feel a heightened sense of legacy and responsibility to share a family history that Cousin Nettie committed her life to teaching me, her children, my cousins and the people of Burke County.

The Observer ran the story on Sunday, in observance of Black History Month, and I’m honored to have shared some fascinating aspects of my family, about the lost community of Fonta Flora and stories of my great-great grandfather Riley McGimpsey. Below is a link to the story, which also includes a family story from Giving Back photographer Charles W. Thomas, Jr.

Read Research into African-American families shapes 4 Charlotteans by Mark Price, The Charlotte Observer, 2 Feb 2014.

My drawing of North Carolina's Table Rock in the Linville Gorge area with my family tree that we used for the t-shirt at the 2013 Fullwood Family Reunion

My drawing of North Carolina’s Table Rock in the Linville Gorge area with my family tree that we used for the t-shirt at the 2013 Fullwood Family Reunion

‘No Man Is An Island’

Referring to my Lab’s name Bali, I used to quote John Donne (see below) and joke that while “no man is an island,” a dog can be. My work in the international field took me to the paradise isle of Bali, Indonesia on numerous occasions, and it became a favorite vacation spot and the place of many sweet memories. So when I brought home my six-weeks-old puppy a decade ago, her name had already been chosen years prior.

After naming her for an island, I soon learned she would become anything but. For ten years Bali and I were in essence inseparable, and today I lost a piece of me. A furry “clod” of the best kind has left my world…and tonight my heart feels shattered.

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Rose Gardener: Maldonia’s Story

“The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.” — Chinese proverb

With the John and Maldonia Fullwood Family Reunion coming up this summer and my dad’s birthday this week, sentimentality and family pride have been stirred. The portrait below is of Mary Maldonia McGimpsey Fullwood, my great-grandmother who was born 132 years ago. She died before I was born, yet I have always felt a deep connection to her because of my father’s profound affection and memories of his grandmother, as revealed in the story that follows. Maldonia was a mother of 10 children and I recently posted stories about some of them here, as well as a story about her dad here.

Mary Maldonia McGimpsey Fullwood, circa 1945

Mary Maldonia McGimpsey Fullwood, circa 1945

ROSE GARDENER
by Allen Fullwood
A story from Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists

Cherished times grew plentiful on the front porch of my grandmother’s home. My sister, cousins and I spent a large share of our childhood playing up and down Bouchelle Street and around Mama’s house. Mama Fullwood is what the other grandchildren called her, but to me she was always just Mama.

Mama’s porch was a beloved gathering spot for extended family while I was coming up. During the long stretch of summer in the South, you could find Mama sitting in her favorite chair, uncles and aunts perched on the banister and visitors often overflowing to the lawn. One too many cousins and I usually pressed our luck to sit snugly together in the porch swing that hung by a slim chain. As passersby neared the house, Mama would invite them to come up and sit a spell. Unless something was pressing, refusals were few.

At the corner of the porch sprung a beautiful rosebush that bloomed bountifully around Mother’s Day. It was sort of a tradition for neighbors along Bouchelle to stop by Mama’s house Sunday morning or the day before for a red blossom clipped from her rosebush. This simple gift was emblematic of her generosity, and I can picture her smile as she graciously gave each rose.

Monetary wealth was not found in our family, yet Mama earned a reputation for being a generous woman who loved her family deeply, served her church devoutly and gave to all freely. Her manner of treating people provided lessons everyday about giving of yourself, your time, your energy and a kind word. When called to give material objects including money, she taught us to give ungrudgingly.

Mama cared for her family like she tended her rosebush. She exposed each of us to the light of church and faith, rooted us in tradition, nurtured us with encouragement and was prompt to prune us when we grew unwieldy and wild. Her good deeds were a trellis during our upbringing. She likely smiles among the clouds as she watches the seeds of her generosity blossoming today.