When I was a kid, I knew I was different. I don’t mean different like special, but different because I looked like my Mom & Dad should be either white and/or black. Every fair skinned person my color had a bi-racial mom and/or dad. The issue was in the back of my head, tucked away until I got to college, but before then, I experienced identity issues; rather it was directly from my peers (their issues effecting me) or my own. What were some of the experiences? Well I never understood why a Black American who has darker skin than me would say they were mixed with Native American.

    It confused me because their parents were Black Americans like my parents. I can even plead guilty to that, but my confusion was to appease society. So maybe I’m suppose to say I’m mixed with White & Black is what I thought. I did that for a minute, even confused myself at one point until one of my best friends called me on it (behind closed doors of course, and she was White lol). I said I was ½ Black, ½ White, and ½ Native American. Sounds so stupid. I was in grade school at that point, early enough to correct what I was doing and go back to embracing being a Black American kid.

    My parents were not self-hating black folks either. Society tends to confuse us. My mom use to make me suck in my bottom lip, she said it was too big. That lasted all but a few days, then she went on to talk about my hips and butt. She knew we had ass, tits, and hips as Black Americans, but image and society can confuse you! That last on and off until recently. By the time I got to college, Black Americans seem to be embracing their roots and place woven into the fabric of our country. Made me want to learn more about where I came from, about my culture.

    A few times, I was fortunate enough to experience cultural ignorance. Once in Canada, a few white people asked if I could bring a dish to a meeting. They started asking about dishes that didn’t sound like any Sunday soul food dinner any of my relatives or friends had cooked before. DEER IN HEADLIGHTS. I had to explain to them that I was a Black American, and my descendants were slaves. STILL DEER IN HEADLIGHTS. My parents were not from Africa and they are not from any Islands. HEEEAAAADDDD LIGHTS. I actually had to explain it to them. I was shocked, I mean we do share a history together Canadians. I thought “we” ran up north to escape slavery, how do you not know about this shared history? Experiences like these got me wondering about my history.

    I started asking myself questions about where my bloodline leads and ends. I understood there wasn’t a lot of good record keeping then, and many of us had to rely on Oral History. I wanted to know. I wanted to know why I was so light. I wanted to know how come all of my aunts and uncles look different, and why some look as light as a fair white person, to as dark as tar. I realize many of us Black Americans can only be tied to slavery and this American land. We can’t go to Ancestry.com and get accurate information about where in Africa our ancestors where from or born.

    Our lineages begin and end here in America. It sucks I can’t find out who my Quint-Great Grand Parents were. Some of our history was born on a slave ship and that’s it if they’re lucky. Most can’t even get that far. But, history is history, good or bad. Yes, I am a product of American Slavery, one of the most horrific stains in my country’s history. But I like to think the result of a horrible embarrassing past is one that yields to a positive result and hopefully continuing to move forward. I decided to ask my Uncle Hid (aka Higgins). I wanted to know as much as he knew. He said I was the first of my cousins to really want to know about my Milhouse ancestry. He seemed happy to tell me.

    I told him I would like to spend one day a week taking notes or recording our question and answer session. We even planned a trip that summer to drive down to Alabama so he can show me where we all began. I was really looking forward to it. 3 weeks before we were to go, he passed away. They found him readying our van for the trip. Sucks. I got a lot of good information from him. I do wish he stuck around a little longer just so I can see, smell, touch, taste, and even hear where we came from. He told me, not everyone in the family know as much as his sisters (my grandmother and grand aunt) and his brother (my grand uncle) knew. Papa Willie (his dad, my great grand father) didn’t really remember much as he got older, but he made sure his kids knew.

    At the time, I wasn’t particularly close to my grand aunt, but he and her were the only ones left that could tell me enough to put our history together and continue to orate it. He also told me the name changed over the years. It was Milhausen, and old German name. Based on oral tradition, I tell the story of my family the only way I know how and can, I’m not a literary expert and I’m not trying to appease anyone but rather embrace my past no matter how ugly or beautiful. I feel telling our history will allow others who feel the same as me, confused at times on identity as a Black American, to dig into their own history and find out where their place is in the fabric of this country and embrace it. It’s our history, don’t be ashamed of it, it is what it is, and so now you are here.

By the way: The House of Milhausen is based on Oral Tradition. I like to start each entry out with my Uncle’s version and I finish it with mine. I prefer this way of story telling because you can read it as he said it, followed by my version as I envisioned it. I hope you get as much from it as I did and continue to.




-ANDREA M.


Email: houseofmilhausen@outlook.com

Phone: (213) 986-6148

 
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