Talking with the new cousins

Created Scene at Father-in-Law’s Home

new cousinsFriend Broome asked: Have you contacted your cousins? I assume he means my NEW cousins.

Actually, I’ve been in touch with some of them going back to September 2018, after I did my Ancestry test. I had found six people who were close relatives that I couldn’t account for. Two I figured out, but not the other four.

One of them, who I’ll call Tony, explained that he was originally from Wilson, NC. Ah, the home of Raymond Cone, the newly-found grandfather. His paternal line included Cohen and Cone.

What I didn’t know then but get now is that Cohen was a variant of Cone. Even in the early 20th Century, there were families with both surnames. Apparently, Cone was a slaveholder name, and some family members eschewed it.

The mom of another close cousin, “Edna”, had a mom born in my hometown of Binghamton, NY. I need to pursue THAT angle.

“Tia” is a cousin through Willis’ and Raymond’s brother Jimerson’s line. I actually spent 90 minutes on the telephone with her in December 2019.

Charles Slaughter

Here’s another story, related to Raymond Cone. The headline is Wife Beater, Thief Given 40 Days in Jail. It was from the Binghamton (NY) Press: 27 Nov 1926 p3. Subheads: Negro Who Evaded Police for Three Days after Stealing Gun is Caught; Went on Rampage; Created Scene at Father-in-Law’s Home, and Then Fled.

Raymond’s son-in-law Charles Slaughter broke down the door at the church parsonage. He assaulted his wife, Raymond’s younger daughter Mary. After chasing her through the house, he beat her with the gun. Then he drove off, eventually getting captured in Elmira, about 60 miles away.

“Charles Slaughter, negro, 24 years old of 35 Carroll street…pleaded guilty of petit larceny and assault in the third degree.” He received 40 days in jail. He got 30 days for larceny, stealing the revolver valued at $35. He received 10 days on the charge that he beat his wife.

“Mrs. Mary Slaughter is only 15 years old. She and Slaughter were married 14 months ago. They have one child.” In the summer of 1926, Raymond, on a three-week vacation from church, went back to Wilson, NC, ostensibly to visit his mother.

Apparently, he recommended that Mary and Charles Slaughter move to Binghamton. They lived only a couple blocks away. After Charles became abusive, Raymond suggested Mary move into the parsonage with him.

Lydster: not-absent resolution

my tale of woe

absent.truancy vs chronic absenceEarly in December, my daughter and some of her classmates were required to attend a workshop to determine what classes she could take for the next school year. She came home excited. Because she’s met so many requirements, she’ll be able to take more electives next year.

While she’s explaining this to her mother, I’m getting an automated telephone message from the high school saying that she was marked absent from school for periods three and four. Why, yes, she was absent from physics that day, for an authorized school activity. She was present for the physics lab during period four and handed in homework.

I call the school the next day. The phone menu says that I have to contact the office of the academy my daughter is assigned to. There are four academies in the school. But the Discovery office says that they can’t fix it because they only deal with actual absences. The teacher can fix this.

I call the teacher’s office. She’s out for the day. The substitute has a child in the school, so she knows that my tale of woe is true. She recommended talking with the guidance counselor.

A few hours later, the guidance counselor calls me back. She can verify that my daughter was at the authorized event for period three. She would write the teacher to correct the record for period four.


This is hardly the first time I’ve gone through this rigamarole. Nor am I the only one experiencing it. The mother of a freshman was baffled when she experienced a similar situation.

It appears that the school is better at tracking when a student is away for the whole day. My daughter went on a school trip to Montreal in the spring of 2019, but we got no robocalls. The problem seems to be tied to those in-school events of limited duration.

This may seem to be a small thing, but it happens frequently enough to become an annoyance. I don’t want to have to make two or three calls every time this happens.

20 years at the new church

water under the bridge

new churchIt suddenly occurred to me that I have now been attending my new church for 20 years. I suppose “new church” might not be quite how I should label it.

As I may have mentioned, the Troubles were taking place at my old church. I need not dwell upon them presently. One element, though, was that the choir was not allowed to sing.

I called Laura, a woman who had left my old church. I was wondering if I could sing at her church until The Troubles were resolved. After all, it WAS Lent. Two minutes later, Victor, the choir director, said “stay as long as you want.”

As it turned out, the Troubles were not really resolved. A couple from my old church joined me at the “new” church that fall. And it’s been fine.

What’s interesting, though, is my evolution in dealing with the old church. Both churches belong to the FOCUS churches. This means that there would be joint services rotating among them once a month during the summer and also the first Sunday in February. For the first five years, when the service was at the old church, I just didn’t go there.

Then I would generally attend. It could be awkward, with some very nice people asking when I was coming back. The choir folks, only one of whom I knew from my time there, noted that my name still showed up in pencil on some of the music. I DID sing there for about 17 years.

Duane Smith, R.I.P.

Now, it’s mostly water under the bridge, I realized when I sang there in early February. The feeling was codified, I suppose, when I went to the funeral of a young man named Duane Smith, who died of cancer at the age of 45. Among other things, he was an extremely talented artist. His mom was a choir member with me at the old church, and she was a tenant of my wife’s for a time.

Duane’s friends who grew up with him in the church – the kids I saw growing up there – all seemed happy to see me. Jeff and Dan and Jessica and David and Eddie, plus a couple of their moms, who I also used to sing with.

I must say that there was a time at the old church when we had an excellent choir, especially when Eric was our director in the early 1990s. I’m in an excellent choir now, but I’ll own up to some nostalgia, even now.

Some stuff can be rather painful at the time. Yet sometimes, it dissipates. Time has a way of doing that under the right circumstances.

The Legacy of White Supremacy

NOT a contradiction

is his lifeI came across an article in Foreign Affairs magazine from January/February 2018 called America’s Original Sin. It is subtitled Slavery and the Legacy of White Supremacy.

It’s a useful article, written by Harvard professor Annette Gordon-Reed, describing historical inequities. It’s all knowable stuff but given the misinformation and disinformation out there, it was clarifying.

It starts off with the discussion about the taint of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, composed by slave-owner Thomas Jefferson and “released into 13 colonies that all, to one degree or another, allowed slavery.” The Constitution, in addition to the 3/5 compromise, “prohibited the abolition of the slave trade before 1808.”

“The most significant fact about American slavery, one it did not share with other prominent ancient slave systems, was its basis in race. Slavery in the United States created a defined, recognizable group of people and placed them outside society. And unlike the indentured servitude of European immigrants to North America, slavery was an inherited condition.

“As a result, American slavery was tied inexorably to white dominance. Even people of African descent who were freed for one reason or another suffered under the weight of the white supremacy that racially based slavery entrenched in American society… ” White supremacy was codified in both slave and so-called free states.

NOT a contradiction

I think this observation is most significant: “The historian Edmund Morgan… argued that racially based slavery, rather than being a contradiction in a country that prided itself on freedom, made the freedom of white people possible. The system that put black people at the bottom of the social heap tamped down class divisions among whites.

“Without a large group of people who would always rank below the level of even the poorest, most disaffected white person, white unity could not have persisted. Grappling with the legacy of slavery, therefore, requires grappling with the white supremacy that preceded the founding of the United States and persisted after the end of legalized slavery.”

Why we STILL talk about race in America

“The ability to append enslaved status to a set of generally identifiable physical characteristics — skin color, hair, facial features — made it easy to tell who was eligible for slavery and to maintain a system of social control over the enslaved. It also made it easy to continue organized oppression” – in both the North AND the South – “after the 13th Amendment ended legal slavery in 1865.”

Annette Gordon-Reed notes that Reconstruction “was seen as a nightmare by many white Southerners… Rather than bring free blacks into society, with the hope of moving the entire region forward, they chose to move backward, to a situation as close to slavery as legally possible…

“In a reversal of the maxim that history is written by the victors, the losing side in the Civil War got to tell the story of their slave society in ways favorable to them, through books, movies, and other popular entertainment. American culture accepted the story that apologists for the Confederacy told about Southern whites and Southern blacks.”

You should read the whole article if you can. It addresses Irish immigration, Confederate statues, and Dylann Roof, among other topics. I’ve become convinced that America needs to look more at that century AFTER the Civil War, when many of the most egregious acts of bigotry occurred.

Once On This Island- tour and Jr.

Jr. edition March 8 at First Pres

Once On This IslandMy church is performing Once Upon This Island Jr. It is a simplified version of the musical set on an island in the French Antilles at night during a storm.

Once On This Island ran from October 1990 to December 1991 (19 previews, 469 performances). It was Tony nominated for Best Musical; Book of a Musical; Original Score (Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Music by Stephen Flaherty); Featured Actress in a Musical (LaChanze); Costume Design; Lighting Design; Choreography and Direction in a Musical, the latter two by Graciela Daniele.

Revived for one day, May 12, 2002, it was as a Benefit for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS. In December 2017 to January 2019, it returned again for 29 previews and 457 shows. This time it was nominated for eight Tonys, winning as Best Revival of a Musical.

It toured nine months in 1992. The current tour started in October 2019 and runs through July 2020. It’ll be all over the country. The show we saw at Proctors in mid-January was very good. It featured Tamyra Gray, from the first season of American Idol, as Papa Ge, the demon of death.

Why not?

The weather forecast was rather dodgy. My wife recommended that we take the bus to Schenectady and back. This notion did not appeal to either our daughter or myself. It would mean taking a bus home at 10:30 p.m. If we missed the last connecting bus, we’d be stuck downtown Albany in the cold. I suppose we could have taken an Uber or something that point, but would one come in such nasty weather?

The solution was absurdly extravagant. We left c 2:30 p.m., just as the snow began. We checked into a hotel in downtown Schenectady, only a few doors from Proctors, and hung out in the room for a couple of hours. Then we went out to dinner with one of our Jr. cast members and his parents at a newish restaurant called Grano. It was nice, and more importantly, it was within walking distance.

The next morning, we went down to breakfast. My wife was talking to a woman who had a young girl. It turns out the girl was Mari, who played the young Ti Moune in the production we saw the night before. Her mom left briefly and brought back a We Dance knit hat and gave it to our daughter. Then we drove directly to church, the nasty weather having passed.

The Once On This Island Jr. edition that our church is performing March 8 contains some alterations. It cuts some verses in songs and eliminates a couple of tunes altogether, notably The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes.

The production also alters dialogue to accommodate multi-ethnic productions. “The original cast was chosen along racial lines with darker-skinned actors portraying the peasants and lighter-skinned actors portraying the upper-class landowners.” The altered script preserves the differences about class distinctions.