The Son Of The Son Of The Sons Of Countrymen…

During our many walks and bike rides, I share my childhood and family memories with my son.

I am a man blessed to be able to say that I was raised by an exceptionally loving and committed father. But for me, as a non-custodial parent, living hundreds of miles away from my son, it has taken much effort and special techniques to try to teach my son some of the history and traditions that were routine when I was growing up.

Over the years, I’ve so often had to battle for visitation, for the right to bring him to be with me and my family. Along the way, elders have grown old and passed on, without him ever having a chance to meet them. Yet today, I am proud that Jah-Sun is well versed in his heritage.

Pops and his tribe, the late 1980s. My dad had 8 children, 7 who where in his care for all of his life.

Until my Dad’s death in 1994, there was never more than a week that went by without a visit or a call, no matter where either of us was in the world or what our schedules and lives where like. Conversation and dialogue is one of the many good habits I learned from my Dad, that I have employed to build and maintain my relationship with my son.

From the time he was in the womb to present day, I have used my voice to sing songs, tell stories, and answer his many questions and to keep us bonded, no matter where I was living.

Our late cousin and family historian Jewell Ritchie graduated from Columbia’s Teachers College in the 1930s and diligently archived Collier family history.

One of the topics that we often discuss is our family. I grew up at the foot of ancestors who were living history. Many elders who lived to be in their 90s and early 100s. From these family members I learned about generations of Colliers and how our clan evolved in Tennessee and across the country.

My Dad, early 90s.

In later years, I realized that many people grew up not knowing their father or grandfathers. Yet, I was blessed to grow up knowing my Dad, paternal and maternal grandfathers, AND one of my great-grandfathers. And just as importantly as knowing these wonderful men, I was raised always knowing my family history, for many generations back. And these are the lessons and memories that I sought to share with Maxie J., from his earliest childhood.

Happy Birthday Buddad, Sept. 22nd 2010, we miss you, love you, and thank you!

During every visit, from infancy, I’d show him pictures of the many aunts, uncles, and grandparents he never met. I’d tell him stories about our times together. Then a few years ago, as he got old enough to really articulate his thoughts, an amazing thing started happening. He would arbitrarily speak their names and ask me things like “Daddy, did granddaddy Maxie T. used to say that?” –“I know granddaddy Maxie T. is in heaven watching us.” Or even more prophetically, he’s ask me before “What do you think Grandaddy Maxie T. would say?”

And now days, he brings up his Granddad’s name on regular occasions, asking for more memories and stories. Recently I showed him a group picture of us all together he said “Dag I wish I could have been in one of those pictures with the family.”

While these type of comments illicit some sadness from me, my response is to always to remind him of all of the ancestors, the fathers and grandfathers from which he came.

My father Maxie T., standing left, my grandfather Buddad and my uncles Gerald, Ronnie, and Danny.

I tell him “Jah-Sun, you are the son, of the son, of the sons of many generations of Colliers and Rush family members. Hardworking, loving fathers from the country in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. When I was growing up, we knew the family history back to a slave master named Greenberry Collier, down there in Tennessee. He was a farmer, with many children, but even after slavery ended he still provided land for the black Colliers, some of which is still in our family today.

Greenberry had a son named John with an African slavewoman named Susan. John had a son named Callie, who had a son name James, who was your Granddaddy Maxie T’s father, who was my father, and I’m your daddy. And now days, we can trace Greenberry Collier’s family all the way back to the 1600s, when they first arrived in Virgina from England. That’s 400 years of Collier family history that all lead to you being right here with me right now. One day you and me will tell your sons and daughters this story.”

Me, Jah-Sun, and some of my nephews, towards the end of a long day…

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