Because I still want to share my experiences with you, here are my social media favorites and my online diary.
August 12, 2015
This Summer was the unoffical 30th Anniversary of the Smith Family Reunion! We celebrated in New Orleans! I had a awesome vacation. I looked forward to it all summer, esp. visiting the Whitney Plantation. The Whitney Plantation had me all wrapped up in my feelings before and after the visit. The Whitney Plantation is the only museum dedicated to honoring the lives of African American slaves. It is said that restoring the property spanned over a decade of time. To learn more about the history of the property, go to http://whitneyplantation.com/history.html. New Orleans boast many different plantation day trips but this is the only one which talks about he daily life of those who toiled the soil. The guides were very informative and speak in great detail of the coldness of human slavery. At the end of the tour, there is a wall where you can leave a message about your experience. One patron sumed it up well when he said "I have not been so violently and passionatily touched by the sacrifices my ancestors made for me." The feelings for me are mutual, Mr.Bulluck Sr. On that note if you visit New Orleans, the Whitney Plantation is worth the drive. Here are some of the highlights of my vacation: https://goo.gl/photos/PoEFVXq4tnwmnaxU7
July 27, 2015
As you can see the resume button has been removed from my website. I have landed my newest opportunity for learning at Waukesha Transit. These last couple years have moved so so fast. In the last three years, I have divorced, recovered, my daughter graduated from high school and I resigned from my long term employer, moved to a new city and started another job. That may have been a run on sentence but it is a lot and it’s true.
I remembered telling my friends that when my kid graduated from highschool, I was going to leave Madison. Ideally I wanted a new start down south, like in Alabama. I remember a couple of times, my future departure being the butt of many workplace jokes. Most would laugh and say “are you crazy, Rukiya? You make good money. You ain't going nowhere.” Ironically I left Madison this year but I did not get far, just to Waukesha. Waukesha is just about an hour outside of Madison, WI. However, Waukesha has been just far enough for me to continue to dream. Now my dreams are even bigger. I hope to travel, and grow in transit and most of all travel within the profession. I also look forward to growing my newsletter Making Connections, to include an community outreach arm. I am a hopeless romantic, I dream of retiring in the south with a loving husband sipping lemonade under a sweet smells of a magnolia tree. That last line was some movie-ish shit, right??? Right!
October 13, 2014
Feelin' some type of way...
African Americans have went from the back of the bus to driving the bus, and some will even run the bus company. I won’t speculate if the Freedom Riders knew their protest for unrestricted service in transit would have evolved into the opening of employment, within the profession but society will forever be indebted for their positive and reaching impact.Today segregation has been replaced by acts of discrimination, while ushering in a new wave of vernacular such as racial disparity and white privilege, to shape the cause. No matter what you call it the characteristics are the same, it’s ugly and it hurts us all. So we must stand up for what is right and acknowledge wrong when we see it. Check in our bias and do the work that is required to make equitable and positive changes for upward advancement of people of color in the professional ladder of transit. What are you going to be accountable for?
Coming from where I am from:
On my visit to BMAX, Birmingham Public Transportation System I was encouraged to see a staff that was not short of ethnicity. I knew before my visit that, BMAX has their first female, African American Executive Director, Ms. August. I guess there was still something in me that was suspect. I approached a couple of drivers for an interview and they were happy to talk with me. After some of the drivers were warmed up to me, I asked if they had any supervisors that were of African American? The drivers looked shocked, and replied they have plenty.
Coming from where I am from, we have only one of each, African American woman and 1 Asian American male, supervisor(s). What are those odds when 20% of our workforce is persons of color. The African American supervisor has held her position for over 29yrs but remains entry level. When I thought about this fact, I felt some kind-of-way and it wasn't good.
I left in high spirits, remembering why I visited BMAX in the first place, which was to gather info and stories for my transit newsletter; Making Connections. By capturing personal transit stories while encouraging of others as they encourage me, -I WAS MAKING A DIFFERENCE.
Finding my purpose
This summer I visited Birmingham Alabama to learn more about my familial roots. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents origins are in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I don't know what I thought I would uncover, but in my pursuit for information, I found courage. In my opinion, grandfather's Lovell side of the family was well documented. However, my grandmother's Lillie history was a mystery.
Even thought my grandparents had divorced many years before they're deaths, I was pleasantly surprised to find out my grandfather's cousins held some of the answers of my grandmother life, including pictures. In this old school kind act I found a real sense of family and community.
Some of the stories my cousin Michelle told me I swear I never heard before. Michelle fussed at me and said "Coffee, the family history was told every family reunion! You just weren't listening, too busy being a kid and running around like the rest of us. Us, kids who live here in Alabama heard the stories all the time." Of course I argued her down until she pulled out the Family Reunion VHS Cassette Tapes and there I was running around looking like a 80's kid.
My Alabama family told me stories of my grandfather whom was a WWII Veteran and Deacon Lovell Smith. I was delighted to learn about his activity in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Story goes, that he shuffled his neighbors back and forth to work in the back of his pickup truck during the boycott. There was also a cousin Emma Wilkens and she was the personal secretary to the Civil Rights Leader, Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth.
As for my grandmother, I reconnected with her nephew, the son of her half-sister Bessie. I learned Lillie Mae and Bessie Mae lived many years on the same block. They raised their kids in very close proximity to each other and were the best of friends. Years later, my grandmother moved her family up north to Gary, Indiana. While in Gary, Indiana grandma Lillie furthered her education and got involved in her community.
I came home renewed, and with restored faith in my purpose. My purpose is to make things better for the next generation to come and to never forget where I come from. Personally, I decided to take it a upon myself to also research, document my grandmothers life. I also hope to bring both paternal and maternal genealogy projects into the digital world, for the next generation to come.