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Evelyn C. Fortson

African American Author of Women's Fiction


We are the survivors of wars, hunting parties, the middle passage, and over two hundred years of slavery. The United States of America was dedicated to God on April 30, 1789, while engaged in the stealing and selling of African people. After George Washington’s inauguration at Federal Hall in New York, he and newly elected government officials walked to St. Paul’s Chapel, where Washington dedicated America to God. The country entered a covenant that would bless and protect it if its people kept God’s statutes and commandments. Abraham Lincoln thought the bloodshed of the country’s own people in the Civil War, not slavery, broke that covenant. It is from that perspective that we were taught history in school.

We, the children of slaves, have lost our languages and true identities. Even as we have become a new people, Africans by blood and Americans by culture and the location of our birth, we are counted as the lost. The reexamination of America’s history has taught me to view it through a personal lens, not from someone else's point of view. I now understand why I feel like an interloper in a country my people helped build and whose roots can be traced to the 1700s.

The red clay soil and the Red River Parish of Louisiana, where my people were enslaved, conjure images of cotton fields and wooden houses with porch swings and screen doors that squeak when opened and bang when shut. Louisiana, even with its history of inhumane cruelty, speaks to my soul. Perhaps I’m drawn to it because my ancestors sleeps there, many in unmarked graves. Most of their stories may never be told, but we, the lost tribes of Africa, have a collective history. Reading slave narratives, books about slavery, or African Civilization allowed me to imagine what my ancestors went through during slavery and who they were before. I see myself in the accounts of their lives and understand some of the psychological issues we face today because of the lies we were told about ourselves, and the trauma inflicted during slavery and after. Our history has to be specifically sought after and curated to undo the damage caused by the racially biased education we received as children. We have to look deeper than the water-downed versions told in schools.

We may be counted as The Lost, but we don’t have to remain there. Genealogy research and DNA testing allow us to find out what countries our ancestors came from. History books written by African and African-American scholars tell us who we were. We have to become proactive in teaching our children about our history. My adult son and I often suggest books for each other to read, and we engage in lengthy discussions regarding everything from religion to cultural appropriation.

I’m convinced that by learning the truth, we will find our way home, whether it is in the United States, the Caribbean, or Africa.

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Please don’t wait, give me my flowers now so I can appreciate them. Tell me how much you love and are proud of me while the words can uplift. Please don’t wait until I can no longer hear or feel your words of encouragement. Eulogize me while I yet live; leave nothing unsaid between us.

I require my flowers now because I cannot take them to the afterlife. Like all living things, humans need to be fed to thrive. Self-affirmations are great but cannot compare to the earnest words of someone you love and respect.

Think of that woman that you call Sis and speak a word over her to help her rise from the ashes of her mistakes. Help her face one more battle, one more struggle until the war ends.

Give her her flowers today and see how they will refresh, revive, and restore her soul. Watch her shoulders relax and her breathing ease, if just for a few moments. Let her bask in the warmth of knowing someone knows how hard she is fighting to make it in this world.

It was the last night of our family vacation in the mountains, and we decided to eat outdoors next to the bay. My ten-year-old grandson said grace. He thanked God for the food and the trip, but the part of his giving thanks that pierced my heart the most was his asking God to not let us forget this time we spent together.

My father had dementia before he died, and it broke my heart that he didn’t know who I was. The last time I saw him, he called me by my youngest sister’s nickname, and my mother, who sat beside him quietly, provided him with my name.

Looking into my father’s eyes during that visit, which was the last time I saw him alive; I could see his confusion and fear. My mother sitting by his bed seemed to give him comfort, as his children and grandkids, who were now strangers to him, took turns visiting him in his hospital room.

When my grandson asked God to not let us forget our time together, I thought of my father and all the camping trips, Christmases, Thanksgivings, road trips to Louisiana, birthday parties, and the times we sat on the floor in the living room and read snippets of the Los Angeles Times out loud to each other. Since my parent’s death, I’ve asked God not to let me forget my time with them. The feel of my father’s skin when I kissed him on his cheek, and the warmth of my mother’s embrace is fading, but for now, I still remember.

That night sitting under the stars having dinner with my son and his family I prayed that we would all remember the lives that we had lived and each other.

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