It’s been kind of awesome and terrible to hold these two realities together lately. I really do believe the more we investigate within, and show up willing to engage in authentic relationships, the more hope for healing we create. I feel really fortunate to have a husband and community with whom I can wonder aloud, “How shall we live into compassion and healing?” We’ve got much work to do on the whole, and I feel strongly that the work of justice is all of ours to hold. As mine and Josh’s stories merge into where we are today, it gives me great hope that we can continue to lean forward into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
Holly’s ancestral story:
In 1609 John Chandler departed the Isle of Wright in England aboard a trifecta of ships under the command of Thomas West, Lord Delaware. West received word that the nascent colony at Jamestown was not faring well due to illness and dismal conditions. He wanted to see for himself, and set three ships to sail full of supplies. John was aboard the Hercules of Rye, bound for Virginia. The boat looked something like this:
He had no relatives traveling with him - not entirely unusual as West banned women and children from the voyage having got word of “savages” and rampant illness. The voyage alone was grueling and many died of dysentery. It is said that 75% of the original Jamestown occupants either died or returned to England between 1606 and 1624. After months of travel, the fleet arrived on June 10, 1610. John Chandler was 9 years old. His is considered one of the great if not miraculous stories of the early Anglo-American colonization.
By 1618 - age 18 - it is widely assumed he received a land grant. He again beat the odds in the Massacre of 1622, when Native Americans (no doubt angry, confused, and offended by what they may have considered an invasion) killed 1/3 of the English Settlers. By1624 he was listed as a servant (which likely meant a paid personal assistant). He married widow Elizabeth Lupo and her sizable estate in 1626. By 1636 he had over 1,000 acres of farming land and became a prominent man in the small colony. He had two sons who worked, then inherited, then passed on his land and property.
His story is one of survival and triumph.
And...there is a shadow. As my Aunt put it: “With 1000 acres of land, you needed someone to farm it. Indentured servitude didn’t work because they wanted their own land. So they imported labor. Money was in land and slaves.”
My earliest ancestors owned and inherited African slaves. They came to America with a certain amount of hope and a pioneering mentality. I have benefited from their 400 year legacy that in part built on the backs of slaves.
Josh’s Ancestral story:
The first slaves were reportedly brought from West Africa to Jamestown, VA in 1619 - the same port where Holly’s ancestor John Chandler arrived in 1610. By this time John Chandler was 18 - not yet a land owner.
I know the names of my great great great grandparents, born close to the mid 1800’s in Mississippi - during slavery. Their names were Simon Lewis, born in Mississippi circa 1862, and Cecelia Charles, born in Louisiana around the same time. We can assume that my ancestors were picking cotton and sugar cane in Mississippi and Louisiana as that is where the majority of my family wound up. Before that it gets fuzzy as names were changed and I’d have to know who owned my ancestors. Meticulous records were kept but slaves were recorded as property bought, sold, and traded - not as named individuals. As far as I know, my maternal great aunt T was the first person in my family to own property in the lower 9th ward in New Orleans, LA. She bought her home sometime around 1960, almost 100 years after slavery ended.
My ancestors came to America with a certain amount of fear and despair. They were taken from their homes, taken from their families, transported to a strange land where not a single soul spoke their language. Barbara Holmes writes, “Each person lay in their own human waste and anxiety.”
Theirs are also stories of survival and triumph in the worst set of circumstances.
The query I am currently sitting with is what will be birthed as we hold both the Grief and the Hope of our shared histories? What offering do we have to shepherd us into the ‘not yet?’ Can the fractals of our existence realize they are part of a whole? If I’ve learned anything from nature and from my studies in cosmology it’s that the illusion of separation - though seductive - is false. We are already One. It’s the Truth I want to live into, but our reality is not yet there.
I hope you will listen to the entirety of our dialogue. There were some beautiful shares that came from it as well.
To listen to or download the audio recording of the conversation, click on the player below.
To watch the video of the conversation use the video player below.