In the Spirit of Black History Month“I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
By Richard Winston III PHR, CCP
“I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
My Great-Great-Great Grandmother “Caroline” (above) who was Native American Indian and African-American
During Black History Month, I regularly reflect on the strides and struggles of my ancestors. It brings my soul much comfort and reenergizes my desire to fight for equality not just in my own community but within all communities on all shores. I am thankful for the national observance to reflect on the communities of color from which I spring forth. I am appreciative of the opportunity to meditate on my multi-cultural and blended origins.
Through her, my linage is associated with the Indian reservations located in Southampton County, Virginia and the Ridley plantation, a site linked to the great Nat Turner Insurrection near Courtland, Virginia (New Jerusalem).
It’s through my ancestors’ stories that I am reminded of the courage of my people and the way my relatives went on to overcome and achieve great accomplishments such as the noteworthy William Henry Ridley, Esq. Often called, “Lawyer Ridley,” William was “Delaware County’s first African American attorney,” whose office once stood at 1707 West Third Street in Chester. Like any trailblazer, the legacy he left cut a path through the nearly impenetrable forest of the obstacles of his time. He was a pioneer in the field, paving the way for men and women of color who, too, sought their sights on a career in the justice field.
His parents were known as Cornelius Ridley and Martha Jane Parham former slaves on neighboring plantations in Southampton County, Virginia. Separately, they escaped during the Civil War, and later reunited.
I also reflect on the lives of much more recent ancestors such as my paternal great-great grandmother Jennie Cole (Ford) (left below) and paternal great-grandfather, the Reverend Frank Winston Sr. (right below) and how their determination for a better world lead to the very freedoms I possess today.
My paternal great-grandfather a native of Caroline County, VA, was a graduate of Wilberforce University, the nation’s oldest private, HBCU named to honor the great 18th century abolitionist, William Wilberforce. Rev. Winston became a prominent Baptist minister and over many congregations and local community leader throughout the central Virginia region.
I give thanks each February to those within my bloodlines that took chances and struggled to break down barriers of inequality so that I could have a right to freedom.
I also extend my lens of reflection to include historic African-American LGBTQ revolutionaries such as American novelist and social critic, James Baldwin who sacrificed his life so that I might live freely. Currently, on my nightstand is “Giovanni’s Room” a magnificent storytelling by Baldwin.
Lastly, I normally end the month by celebrating self and looking towards the future. My birthday is February 29, and I typically celebrate that rare day that occurs every four years in tribute to my heritage. I also take time to embrace and experience many freedoms by doing what they couldn’t do as freely as we can today such as traveling.
Richard is Advancement Project’s Human Resources Manager.