I always struggle to write, I think mainly because a lot of the things that I’ve gone through have been pretty miserable. It’s almost like ripping off a bandaid before the wound has healed, however, I’m going to try and throw some bits and pieces of sunshine into this post. The month of June was for the most part pretty damn amazing. I got to spend a lot of time going to different beaches and being the mermaid I am. I went to Oakland a lot and danced till my feet hurt, I took in sites in San Francisco and talked way too much about my personal life after maybe one too many vodka tonics. I held hands in The Castro,  I  switched my hips to Bay bounce at my first Pride and ate way too much barbecue at my CaliBae’s house. It’s been one new experience after another and I’m majorly grateful to have reached the tender age of 31 this year! I can’t say enough how wonderful it feels to have these many beautiful experiences.  But with the good, there is always a little bad.

The day before my birthday my uncle passed away and it took a really huge toll on me, my entire life my father has always spoken so highly of my Uncle Harry. He would light up when talking about all the wonderful things that my Uncle accomplished. Those accomplishments include: Being a founding member of the Black Panther Party, Being one of the first students to desegregate The University of Memphis, Having a long and successful career as a professor at UCLA, and of course being a loving big brother to my father. Harry always lived on the west coast and besides a few phone calls I never really got to spend much time with him. My first time meeting with him in person was about 5 years ago when I and my then-fiancé decided to take a trip to San Francisco, I called him up and to my surprise, he sounded just like my father. The resemblance was uncanny and his humor was sharp. He took me to get Chicken and Waffles and gave me a mini History lesson about the Truly Family. It was because of him I knew the origin of my last name, which according to him came about some time after slavery. During those times most newly freed slaves would hold to the last name given to them. That name usually being the last name of their oppressors or their occupation on the plantation. That’s where names like blacksmith come from. However after some slaves were free they got the option to change their last names, For example, a lot of former slaves changed their names to Freeman or Freedman. That last name still being extremely popular in southern POC families. Anyways my great-great-great-grandfather decided he wanted a last name with some power so he chose Truly.  Harry telling me that story will always stick with me for two reasons: One is that it’s powerful that my family’s last name wasn’t given rather gifted to us by my ancestor who endured a life I couldn’t even imagine, and Two because it was so beautiful to connect with my family. In that moment I was so elated to be sitting down speaking with my powerful elder Uncle Harry.

As I reflect on my life and the life of my ancestors, I’m so grateful to have those powerful people protecting and guiding me every day.  I can only hope that I can be a support system to my cousins as they deal with such a heavy blow. I visited them in Oakland the day after my birthday and the pain in their eyes was all too familiar. I kissed and hugged them and let them know that I’d be there if they needed a shoulder to lean on. I don’t know the pain of losing a father but I  have felt the loss of a brother, and pain like that is sharp and stays forever.  I just hope that whoever is reading this has gotten a tiny peek into how much my Uncle will be missed and how he touched the lives of not only my family but the world.

-Allyson

Lutheran Social Services of Northern California