The Griot’s Song

A Griot is traditionally the holder of oral history. Generations of a family or community’s history is kept and retold by a Griot in the form of a song or a story. It is regarded as an art form that is passed down from generation to generation. To become a Griot is a process. One doesn’t decide to become one, they are born to be Griots. My great-grandmother embodied the role of Griot in every sense of the word. Through her, centuries-old medicinal remedies are still used for what ails us and generations of family history has not been forgotten. She was the bearer of family traditions and the role of teacher was one she took very seriously.

One of my earliest memories is of her crying/speaking, almost as if she was singing, upon the death of a family member. When she cried/spoke/sang, everyone seemed to quiet down as if to take in that person’s life story. It occurs to me now that, much in the way of traditional West African Griots, Bibi was the keeper of our community’s life story. At a person’s passing, she reminded us of who that person was in life as if to tell us to “never forget” through her Griot Song.

I listened to her Griot Song as a child as she recounted stories of her childhood or as she and my grandmother talked of news from “the Old Country”. I listened to her Griot Song as she shared wisdom with anyone who sought her advice for whatever was troubling them. I listened to her Griot Song as she prepared the ingredients for traditional meal such as Canja or (my favorite) Cachupa. I listened to her Griot Song almost every day for the 30 years I was honored to know her.

Through her Griot Song, my great-great grandparents, Rosa and Antonio, came to life as she spoke about the curls in her mother’s long hair or the gentle way her father spoke to her. I could see Ma Lina, her great grandmother, with the patch over her eye. I knew the worn paths from Cham de Sousa to Tome Barraz and I could hear the Mazurka, Valsa, and polka as people danced at a feast in Cova Rodella. I could hear the waves breaking over the beaches of Furna and Feijao d’Agu and hear the crickets singing while looking up at the ocean of stars on a clear night. Though her Griot Song, what could have been forever lost in the memory of our family, lives on.

In this tradition, I hope to continue her legacy not only of my own family history but for the ancestors of anyone who wishes to remember. The Griot’s Song is for the ancestors yet to be found and remembered, and to remind us of who we are and where we come from.

Me and Bibi

I can still hear her voice though it’s been 15 years since she took her last breath. Her words continue to guide me through my trials, her praises ring in my ears. Her gentle reminders of who I am and where I come from steady my foothold in this world. She was my compass, my foundation. My great-grandmother, Bibi, was the heart and soul of our family. She was Family Griot. As much as I miss her voice, her glare if you dared to do something she didn’t approve of, the melodic humming as she held me in her arms to help me fall asleep, I realize that she is with me everyday of my life. Her song, her Griot Song, continues……



My son is my uncle’s cousin, lol!

I have a new DNA match on ancestry (which is actually my son’s results) – Antonio Lopes… I have an uncle named Antonio Lopes but when I checked my brother’s DNA test results, he shows as a more distant match… so I figure it’s probably a long, lost cousin on the Lopes side. If it were my uncle Tony, the match would should as a closer match to my brother, right???
So, I sent an email explaining who I was and who my father was and that I hoped to speak with him soon to figure out how we’re related.
I got an email back saying “That’s because I’m your uncle, your father is my brother…”, lol!?!?!
So how is it that my son is a closer match to my uncle than my brother? Well, my uncle and father share the same father but not the same mother. My son inherited genes from both me and his father. So it’s most likely that my son’s father is related to my half-uncle’s mother, my step-grandmother. ( I hesitate to write this explanation this way because in our culture there are no “half” or “step” family members, we’re just family).
So my son is his grandfather’s half-brother’s mother’s cousin, making him my…. son/half-cousin??? Or is it that my son is his great-grandmother’s cousin? Or, maybe he’s related to my paternal grandfather through his dad’s side… because why not. This is Cape Verdean Genealogy after all 🙂
Which means my son is my uncle’s cousin 🤔
I’m still dying!
This song seems appropriate, lol!

The Creola Genealogist

I chose the Dragon tree to represent Cape Verdean genealogy and our family trees. When you look at tree, just as in our family trees, you don’t see individual branches, they look like clusters of strong tangled branches that support green leaves or lily-like flowers. We are the flowers supported by the strength of the branches who are our ancestors.
Like many of us, the Dragon tree can be traced to Cape Verde, Madeira, Morocco, the Azores and the Canary Islands. Like us, it is rare and valued. Like us, it is sturdy. Like us, variations can be found all over the world. And like us, no matter what variation, it is still a Dragon Tree.

Join me on my journey to connect with my roots, discover our history and explore our Caboverdeanidade.


CV BLACK HISTORY MAKERS – The Hon. George Neves Leighton

The Honorable George Neves Leighton is the first Cape Verdean-American appointed a federal judge in the United States by President Gerald Ford.
Born in New Bedford, MA to Antonio Neves Leitão and Ana Silva Garcia, natives of Brava, Cabo Verde, Judge Leighton didn’t finish high school in order to work to help his family.
But through his own studying and attending night school, he was able to make his way to Howard University. Marcelino Charles “Big Daddy” Grace helped fund his first year at the university.
After graduating with honors, he attended Harvard Law. During his studies, he entered the US Army in World War II and achieved the rank of Captain. After the war, he finished Harvard Law and moved to Chicago, Illinois where he served as Assistant State Attorney General. He also co-founded the largest predominantly African American law firm in the country as well as serving as the President of the Chicago NAACP. First appointed a circuit court judge in 1964, President Gerald Ford nominated Mr Leighton to the US District Court in 1975. Judge Leighton retired from the federal bench in 1978.
In 2005, the New Bedford postal office was renamed the “ Honorable George N Leighton Post Office Building”. And in 2012, the Cook County Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois was renamed in his honor to the “ Hon. George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building”.



Mathias de Sousa was possibly the first Cape Verdean to set foot in America arriving on the “Ark” as an indentured servant to Jesuit priests who were a part of an expedition led by Lord Baltimore in 1634. I was first introduced to the story of Mathias by Cape Verdean historian, Ray Almeida (1944-2010).

While there isn’t much documented of Mr de Sousa and his Cape Verdean ancestry, I did find some compelling evidence that one of the ships did go through Cabo Verde on its way to Maryland.

The expedition left England in November 1633 with two vessels, the Ark and the Dove. Within a few days, the expedition hit bad weather and the Dove returned to England while the Ark continued. A few weeks later, the ship’s log notes visiting the island of Bonavista/Boa Vista. (Maryland State Archives) It is VERY plausible that Mathias could have boarded the ship in Boa Vista, Cabo Verde. The Ark and the Dove arrived in St Mary’s City, Maryland in February of 1634.

Mathias was one of 9 indentured servants on this expedition and the first Black Marylander. He went on to become the first black man to cast a vote in Maryland and what was to become the United States of America in 1642 as a member of the Maryland General Assembly.

Cape Verdeans have been a part of American History since before there was a United States of America.
I am extremely proud to know that the first black man to cast a vote in this country was a Cape Verdean!

CV Black History Makers: Barzillai Lew.

Barzillai Lew, a distinguished American Revolutionary War Hero, was a free born black man from Groton, MA born in 1743 to a “mulatto” slave owned by Capt. Samuel Scripture, named Margaret Lew, native of Cabo Verde.
Margaret married Primus in 1742 and had two sons and two daughters, Barzillai being the oldest.
Barzillai was an accomplished musician and served as a musician in the French and Spanish wars. Years later he was called to serve as a fifer, drummer and soldier in Capt John Ford’s Chelmsford Militia in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775!
He then joined Capt. Joseph Bradley Varnum’s Dracut Militia that was ordered to the “Tyconderoga” in 1777 where Varnum wrote in his diary, “ ‘Zeal is a fifer and fiddler for the grand appearance the day that Burgoyne’s Famous Army is brought in”.
This battle was captured in a portrait that sits today in the US State Department Public Room… Yes, a black man of Cape Verdean descent is memorialized in a portrait in the Capital of the United States!!!
Not only that…. Duke Ellington dedicated a composition to him called “Barzillai Lew”.
Barzillai went on to marrry Dinah Lew and had 5 children whose descendants still live in Massachusetts!
If ya didn’t know… Now you know!!!