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!!!
 
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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?

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 Essence of Caboverdeanidade: The thing that makes us who we are is difficult to put into words so our ancestors put it to music

The morna is synonymous with the concept of Caboverdeanidade. The melancholic melodies and lyrics full of sodade has captured the essence of our culture for at least two centuries. Some might describe the Morna as a musical form that expresses the sadness and isolation of our people but I’ve never perceived it that way.

The Morna is about “Sodade” which is defined as a “nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost”. But it also about “the love that remains”. For me, Morna is exactly that. One of my favorites, “Nos Morna” by Ildo Lobo, says the Morna is the “inspiration of our poets, the princess of our serenades, on a quiet moonlit night, under the window of your love, and the quiet cry of my violin”. Cabo Verde without Morna would be “a land with sun, without heat, a bride without lace, victory without glory”.

The Morna is truly who and what we are.

The love for the country and culture of our ancestors is ingrained in my DNA. That love has remained and been passed down through generations of Cape Verdeans in Cabo Verde and throughout the diaspora, alike. The melancholic tunes immediately triggers the same reaction in me today as it probably did in my ancestors in the 1860’s when the oldest known morna, Brada Maria – Composed by Jose Bernardo Alfama and lyrics added later by Eugenio Tavares, was penned.

Our cousin, António Germano Lima, professor at the University of Cabo Verde, has written that the origin of the Morna is the “Lundum”, music of the Bantu people that spread from Angola to most of West Africa. It is believed it that was brought to Cape Verde by enslaved Africans to the island Boa Vista.

The Lundum has been preserved in Boa Vista and is traditionally heard during wedding festivities as the bride groom dance for the first time as a couple.

Lundum do Cabo Verde by Karin Mensah

Musicologists point out the connection and relationship of the music of Cape Verde and Brazil, especially as it pertains to Lundum. Today, it is taught and celebrated among descendants of enslaved Africans in Bahia, the northern part of Brazil.
Lundum em Belem do Para

The essence of our Caboverdeanidade, the thing that makes us who we are, is difficult to put in words so our ancestors put it to music.

Enjoy!