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CV Black History Makers – Paul Gonsalves (1920-1974)

The next time someone asks you what have Cape Verdeans ever done for America, let them know that it was a Cape Verdean-American who single-handedly revived the career of one of America’s most well-known and beloved musicians known as The Duke!

 
Paul Gonsalves was born on July 12, 1920 in Brockton, Massachusetts to Joao Jose Gonsalves (1889-1943) and Maria Vieira Fontes (1888-1973). Mr and Mrs Gonsalves were from Djam d’Noli, Brava, Cabo Verde and arrived in the United States in 1905 and 1913, respectively. The family lived at 50 Sprague St where Paul was the third of four children. He had two older brothers, Joseph and John and a younger sister, Julia. The family moved to 449 Mineral Springs Ave in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1930.
 
As children, Paul and his brothers were taught to play the guitar by their father and formed a band that played traditional Cape Verdean music. This changed when Paul was a teenager and he and his brother went to see the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra in downtown Providence. He became mesmerized by the alto saxophone and decided he was going to find a way to have his father buy him one. For weeks he bewildered his parents by pantomiming playing the saxophone around the house. When one of his friends finally let his parents know what he was doing, Paul’s father bought him a used Melody C Tenor Saxophone for $59 and insisted that Paul pay him back $1 a week until it was paid off. There’s no question his parents were true CV parents!
 
Paul went on to study at the Boston Conservatory of Music and he began a career playing with the Phil Edmund Orchestra and other big bands led by the likes of Duke Oliver and Henry McCoy that were dominated by Cape Verdean-American musicians, including Joe Livramento and others. But as happened to many young men in those days, his career was put on hold when he was drafted into World War II in 1942. Sergeant Gonsalves served in the Quartermaster Corp in India and Burma. When he returned home, he started playing with The Sabby Lewis Band in Boston, where he caught the eye of the one and only Count Basie. After spending a few years playing with Basie he later joined Dizzy Gillespie until he disbanded the group in 1950.
 
The story goes that Paul was down to his last $7 when he decided one night to head down to the Birdland in New York where, as luck would have it, he met Duke Ellington. The next day, Paul Gonsalves was playing in The Duke’s Big Band.
 
At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Paul managed to get on Duke’s bad side by missing practice and being late for the performance along with a few other musicians. The Duke’s idea of punishment took the form of having Paul play a solo to “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” and not stop. So Paul played… and played for 27 Choruses!!!! The crowd included many of Paul’s family and friends who urged him to keep going and deliver the performance of a lifetime. The Duke was back and within weeks, this recording became the Duke’s biggest selling record and he was even put on the cover of Time Magazine!
 
Paul Gonsalves and Duke Ellington were best friends until they died within days of each other in 1974. His life story can be seen in a stage play by Arthur Luby, called “Paul Gonsalves Life on the Road: A Play in One Act”.
 
The recording of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” from the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival can be heard here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vnrNWyvI-U The solo begins at 3:45.
To see Paul Gonsalves play his famous solo during a later TV recording, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbjzfZSmQMM
 
I have to add that in doing research on my daughter’s paternal family tree I found that her paternal great grandfather, John Ellington, was kin to one, Edward Kennedy Ellington, also known as Duke Ellington. Since Paul Gonsalves is related to me on my maternal great-grandmother’s side, my daughter, Nia, is related to BOTH Paul Gonsalves and Duke Ellington!!!
 
If ya didn’t know…Now ya know!!!
 

CV Black History Makers : The Honorable George S. Lima (1919-2011)

George
The Honorable George S. Lima, Tuskegee Airman, Civil Rights Activist, and Rhode Island State Representative, was born to Ana Morais Silva, native of Rabil, Boa Vista and Manuel Duarte Lima, native of Quemada, São Nicolão, Cabo Verde.
Mr Lima was one of eight children born in Massachusetts to the couple who arrived in the United States around 1900.
In 1939, George attended North Carolina A&T State University on a football scholarship where he met his wife of 55 years, Selma (Boone) Lima. It was during his time here that he learned to fly planes just in time to join the Tuskegee Airmen at the break of World War II. Lieutenant Lima was one of 60 black officers who risked court martial in 1945 protesting segregation at an officer’s club on an air base in Indiana. The facility was desegregated 3 years before President Truman ordered the desegregation of all US Armed Forces in 1948.
After the war, Mr Lima finished school at Brown University where continued to play football, study sociology, founded the University’s first chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and eventually started a family in Rhode Island. An Ivy League degree in hand, Jim Crow and racial segregation could not keep Mr Lima from rising through the ranks of local AFL-CIO to eventually become the first Black Man to sit full-time on the State Workers Union.
President John F. Kennedy appointed him to head the New England branch of VISTA, a National Service program before becoming the President of the local NAACP of Providence in 1963 where he was instrumental in beginning the push for a fair housing bill which he would later pass while serving two terms as a Rhode Island State Representative.
After retirement, Mr Lima formed the Black Air Foundation, later named the George S. Lima Foundation, which aims to introduce minority youth to flying.
My cousin and filmmaker, Napoleon X, turned Mr Lima’s life into a PBS documentary, “Black Men Can Fly: The Story of George S. Lima”. https://youtu.be/J6PsHQHWFpo
George S. Lima’s legacy continues through his children and the foundation in his name. He was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2012 and in 2014, the city of Providence named the George S. Lima, Sr Memorial Park.
If ya didn’t know… Now ya know!!!!

Remembering Loved Ones…

Genealogy isn’t only about discovering forgotten ancestors.

It’s also about remembering and preserving the life stories of people you’ve known your whole life.

The absolute hardest thing I have ever had to do is to put an “end date” to a loved one’s profile in my family tree. It seems so finite and almost cruel to summarize a human being with just two dates. It took almost a year for me to open my FamilyTree program and add my step-father’s death date. I remember thinking “What now? That’s it?”. What about the 66 years in between? Was this all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren were going to ever know about him? I wrote a post about him after his death as a way to personalize his profile on my family tree. That was in 2011.

On January 30, 2017, my Titia Stella died. (I wish I could stop crying because it makes it so much harder to see the keys). Her breast cancer had metastasized into Paraneoplastic Syndrome and took over her whole body. She was 70 years old but, for at least the last 20 years, she was only 49 🙂. She was the first daughter of Raimundo F. and Rosa R. Lima, mother to Charles, William Jr., and my late cousin, Stephen, grandmother to Kayla, Jordan and Aaron, and great-grandmother to Tayla.

To me, she was Titia Strella (Star in Portuguese). You couldn’t help but smile with her no matter how you were feeling before. She made it her mission to make everyone feel happy and loved. I truly believe that when God made her, He took a bit of the sun’s warmth and the brilliance of the moon and stars to create her. When you saw her or even heard someone say her name you couldn’t help but smile. She was the embodiment of a true Christian. Whether it was visiting someone who was sick or in jail, providing a place to stay for anyone who needed it, or simply lending an ear to listen to your problems to which she would respond “Oh Honey! It’s gonna be OK”.

Her fashion sense was second to none 😋 and she always had some interesting stories to tell. It was a treat to hear her tell the story af opening a bank account with $25 to buy a house. Or the dream she had of a Portuguese-speaking black dog who told her that she should move to Brockton from Wareham. She wasn’t afraid to wear white shoes to Thanksgiving dinner and I can’t recall anyone having a bad word to say about her.

She loved her sons, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved her brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins. And we all felt it.

She always said that I was her favorite niece… she apparently said that to my cousins as well. So a few days before she passed away, as the family was gathering to say their goodbyes, me and my cousins, Michelle and Sindy (the other supposed favorite nieces😏) decided to get to the bottom of this … just which one of us was her favorite?!? She couldn’t move or speak at that point so we gathered around her bed and whispered in her ears to give us a little signal to let us know who it was. In the middle of the smiles and tears, I felt the faintest squeeze of my hand…. and then she gave each of us a smile.

“Questions I’ve always had but never knew… or thought… I could ask” Series. 

(If you don’t want to get mad you may not want to continue reading) 1. Why do we refer to our Kriolu language as “Portuguese dialect”? Or a mixture of Portuguese and African?&nbsp…

Source: “Questions I’ve always had but never knew… or thought… I could ask” Series. 

Why do we still refer to our language as a “Portuguese dialect”???? 

(If you don’t want to get mad you may not want to continue reading)

Why do we refer to our Kriolu language as “Portuguese dialect”? Or a mixture of Portuguese and African?

Both terms are factually incorrect. A dialect infers mutual intelligibility. Portuguese and Kriolu are not. Secondly, Portuguese is a language and Africa is a continent! “African” is not a language… it’s crazy that I even have to make this distinction! It’s a continent…!!!!

Most Cape Verdeans understand Portuguese because it’s taught in the schools and is the language of business and commerce. It’s a second language for them. Unless Kriolu is being taught in Portuguese classrooms somewhere that I’m not aware of, it’s a safe bet that Portuguese aren’t referring to our language as a dialect of their own, as they would the Portuguese spoken in the Azores, Madeira or Brazil.

As a matter of fact, we only have to read historical texts, that they wrote in their own words, to see depictions of Kriolu speakers as dumb and uneducated. They ridiculed our ancestors and the way they spoke! It was a “nonsense” language. They NEVER attempted to identify it as a “dialect” of their language. We, Kriolu speakers, are the only ones making this argument. They don’t claim it so why are we holding on to an idea that only perpetuates colonization of our minds and identity.

Why do we insist on calling the language that embodies our “Caboverdeanidade” something IT IS NOT!?!?!

Even if we hold on to the false narrative that we speak a “dialect”, why can’t it be a dialect of Wolof, Fula or Serer? Those were the mother tongues of the majority of the blacks that set foot on the islands as enslaved captives.

So much has been done to erase our black history and ignore the contributions that our ancestors made. Can we really continue to ignore that they made significant contributions to the language we use to identify ourselves?

Kriolu is not a dialect but a “Creole language”. It basically means that vocabulary from various contributing languages were combined with a grammatical set of rules that some believe we are all born with (Bickerton). In our case, the grammatical system is primarily based on the Mande language and other West-Atlantic languages, according to Dr Marlyse Baptista, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan and Cape Verdean American. This (very simple) definition implies and demands that there is more than just Portuguese contributions (or Spanish, Italian, etc for that matter) in Kriolu.

I am very sure that Blacks weren’t a literal “silent” majority in Cabo Verde to the extent that their native tongues were not an integral part in the creation of Kriolu. To ignore this fact is to perpetuate an already egregious insult to our ancestors. They deserve to be remembered just as much as we remember AND celebrate our European ancestors.

What we speak is a LANGUAGE… it is NOT a dialect, nor a slang and definitely not some nonsense jargon.

I understand the legacy of colonization is to blame, I just don’t agree with perpetuating my own colonization.

When I speak the language of my ancestors, I honor them.

N ta papia Kriolu, e bo?

Everyday Life 

This is one of my most prized possessions. It’s an old photograph that belonged to my great-grandmother. She’s the one standing second to the right.


I “informally” inherited it, as I had all of her photo albums filled with photos that were often “indefinitely borrowed” from other people’s albums. I laughed when I found some of my old photographs I thought I had lost long ago in one of her albums. Most of her oldest photographs were of our ancestors wearing beautiful clothing, posing or maybe sitting in an ornate chair with a drawn background,  and always with the same emotionless stare that made you wonder if people back then even knew how to smile.

This is one of my favorite pictures because it depicts the rawness of the everyday lives of our ancestors. The women are all wearing hats or lenços. But for as long as I knew my great grandmother, she would quickly remove her lenço if she had visitors or was about to take a picture. It surprises me to see her here with a hat on her head.

I can’t help but notice that the two people standing on each end aren’t wearing shoes. But what’s more interesting is that you can’t see anyone else’s feet. Did they have shoes? Or were they just too embarrassed to show their bare, maybe worn feet for the camera? The women weren’t dressed in their very best, they weren’t posing by a fancy piece of furniture with a drawn backdrop. They weren’t all wearing the same somber stares. These people are actually smiling in this picture! Even Bibi looks like she’s struggling to contain her smile. And what is in that mug the woman standing next to Bibi is holding? Could a little grogue have something to do with those coy smiles???

When I look at photos like this, I wonder about who these people were, what their personalities may have been like, and how they were all related to one another. I notice what they’re wearing, their poses, their features including skin tones. I wonder if they were standing in the back or to the side because of their color or if it’s just a coincidence.

Photos like this can tell us more than what our ancestors looked like. For instance, the women standing in the middle of this particular photograph may be family elders and therefor placed in the middle as a symbol of respect. The way people are placed within photos may give clues to their status within their family or community.

I can spend hours pondering their individual stories!

Although I knew Bibi for the first 30 years of my life, I have come to realize that she never spoke much of the harshness of life in Brava. But this photo reminds me that she and her aunts may have been wearing black because within a span of less than 10 years she had lost both her parents and her husband. And it wasn’t very many years before that her grandparents and many other family members had died from starvation during one of the worst famines to hit Brava in the 1890’s.

I’d like to imagine this photo was taken taken on a sunny day by water, maybe in Feijão d’Agu. I imagine that Bibi and her family decided to perhaps forget all of their worries by spending it together, telling stories, with a picnic on the beach. For at least one day, the camera captured a moment of happiness.

I’m so grateful to have this treasure that allows me a glimpse into the everyday lives of my ancestors. I can’t help but feel blessed by my very comfortable life in the suburbs of Washington, DC in contrast to the stark depiction of life in this photograph. I am truly blessed.

The Ancestors Are Smiling

Soooooo….

When I’m not doing genealogy, I’m a Speech Pathologist. A few months back I had a conversation with a patient and her family about genealogy and started helping them with their family tree. I traced them back to a former slave named Charlotte who bought a bunch of land after Emancipation and the civil war. The family still lives on this land today.

Part of this research traced back to a place called Piscataway.

While trying to find my way to a new patient’s home the other day, my gps brings me down a wrong road and guess where I find myself???? … The historic village of Piscataway!!! So I figure “What the hay” and drive up one of the plantation looking driveways and knock on the door.

A sweet looking lady answers the door and after I tell her what I was researching, she invites me in! Then she gets on the phone with the president of their small historical association and has me speak to the person so I can find the plantation where Charlotte once lived. And would you believe she knew exactly where it was!!!!

After I get off the phone, the sweet homeowner apologizes for not having offered me anything to drink. She says she had just gotten home from the hospital after suffering a stroke and her memory isn’t so good. I point to my scrubs and tell her that I’m a speech therapist and I see patients like her in their homes and that I will be there next week for her first session.

I always knew speech therapy and genealogy went together perfectly! 😊

The Cardoso Family from Santo Antonio, Fogo

I first met “Pa Bedju” in 2000, the great-grandfather of my, then, soon to be born son. A normal part of any introduction in Cape Verdean culture is to ask about what family you come from. I remember saying that I was the grand-daughter of Nho Popinho de Mosteiros.

Pa Bedju’s face lit up and he said something like; “Ka bu fra ma bo e neta de Popinho! / Don’t tell me you’re Popinho’s granddaughter!”

I remember the wave of nausea that overcame me as the realization hit me that if he knew my grandfather, they may be related… Which would mean I was related to my child’s father 😦

“Nos era grande amigo! / We were great friends!”.

Luckily, the two men had been childhood friends with no family connections that I have been able to find, lol!

My son is now 15 and Pa Bedju is no longer with us. And as I reminisce about that first meeting, knowing that my son is the great-grandson of these two best friends, I am honored to include the story of Filenio “Pa Bedju” Cardoso in The Creola Genealogist.

image
Filenio Cardoso (1911-2006) and Etelvina Barbosa da Silva (1906-1995)

Filenio Cardoso was born on January 18, 1911 in Santo Antonio, in the parish of Sao Lourenco, Fogo. He was the son of Eusebio Cardoso and Ana L. Amado. Filenio was married to Etelvina Barbosa da Silva, born on May 29, 1906. She was the daughter of Filipe Barbosa da Silva and Francisca Correia.

The full surname for the Cardoso’s of Santo Antonio is de Jesus Cardoso. Eusebio was the son of Filenio De Jesus Cardoso (son of Manuel de Jesus Cardoso and Francisca Borges de Souto Cardoso) and Maria de Jesus Barbosa (daughter of Martha Monteiro Robelo).

There is a family story that Pedro Monteiro Cardoso, poet, who published the first book of Cape Verdean poetry in 1915 was a family member. Pedro was very outspoken about African – Cape Verdean identity and signed his work as “Afro”. He was the founder of several journal publications and author of at least fourteen books.

image
Pedro Monteiro Cardoso (1883-1942)

Pedro was born on September 13, 1883. Some sources say he was born in 1890. He was the of Manuel Benecio Cardoso and Ana Teodora Monteiro Barbosa in 1883. While researching the records of Sao Lourenco, I found a record for a Gertrudes Benecio Cardoso, daughter of Felipe Benecio Cardoso and Filomena de Jesus Cardoso in Santo Antonio. This is a very small village and the chances of this being the same family as Pedro’s is very likely.

This is only the beginning of my research into my son’s paternal family tree. Some of this information may have to be revised in time but that’s part of the fun of genealogy!

 

 

Just A Thought…

It’s “Black History Month”, the shortest month of the year dedicated to the history of Black people in America.

As a child of Cape Verdean immigrants, some may say that I don’t have a direct connection to the history of Blacks in America, slavery, Jim Crow or even the Civil Rights Movement.

To those people AND my fellow Cape Verdean-Americans, here’s a little reminder…

Cape Verde was once the hub of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Where do we think some of the enslaved Africans who worked tobacco and cotton fields came from??? They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and cousins to the very ancestors that worked sugar cane and coffee plantations in Santiago and Fogo and salt mines of Maio and Sal. Come on now, People!!!

And while I haven’t (yet) found a direct ancestor who picked cotton in the fields of Mississippi, I do know of my great-grandmother who picked cranberries and blueberries for pennies a week in Cape Cod. I know that she and other Cape Verdeans weren’t allowed to live in certain areas, use certain bathrooms or sit in certain seats. And they certainly weren’t allowed to vote.

Cape Verdeans were here before America was America. Cape Verdeans helped build this country and defend it in the same segregated military. It was a Cape Verdean who was the first Black representative of the Maryland Assembly in 1642! It was a Cape Verdean who became the first black Federal Judge, Hon. George Leighton (Leitão from Brava), and who was considered for appointment to the US Supreme Court along with Thurgood Marshall, who was later selected!

So the truth of it is, Black History month is about our history as well.

But what do I know… I’m just the proud daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants 😊

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