My name is Kathy Christopher. I am the daughter of Myrtis Dillon Christopher. Myrtis Dillon was born in Magnolia Mississippi. She was the youngest daughter of Flowers Dillon and Ada Taylor Dillon, who are descendants of Leonard Dillon.
In my youth, I would often shock my playmates by sharing that my mother had 18 brothers and sisters…They would look at me wide eyed and could hardly believe it.
It was exciting for me to imagine it as well; especially since I am the youngest and only girl in my immediate family.
At that stage in my life, the thought of always having some one to talk to, play with and confide in was a great one.
The sad part of being a member of such a large extended family was having the misfortune of living across the country and having few opportunities to interact and establish bonds.
Thus I can only praise those who have kept the concept of the Dillon Family reunion alive for it allows and encourages us to maintain and create new connections. My first family reunion was in 07 and I had a wonderful time. I returned home with a full heart and the desire to “return to the south soon”; little did I know that I’d be back in 09.
In March or early April, I was contacted by our cousin Barbara Taylor who by the way I’d never met or at least did not recall meeting before the “07” family reunion.
She requested that I speak at the up coming family reunion banquet. My first instinct was to bow out and give the very valid excuse of having to work. In fact I checked my schedule and discovered that it had been recently rearranged leaving the weekend of the reunion free…was this providential? I still remained somewhat resistant; in fact I thought to myself: ‘what can I possibly share that would be pertinent and interesting to this group of family members little known to me and vise versa.’
I concluded that I would simply share my thoughts on the significance of family; I would share of myself; share my daughter and in doing so I would carry with me the soul of my mother, Myrtis Dillon, the youngest offspring of the 19 that flowed from the Flowers Dillon line. Myrtis was one of the many tributaries to the Dillon Family stream.
Myrtis’ stream merged with that of Eugene Christopher and from their union Anthony, Nathan, Kenneth, and Myself were born.
There are now 10 grandchildren all of whom live in California.
LOOK AT US!
Look at us here today! Our family is like a clear flowing stream teaming with life. So I want to talk about two things. First, I want to say something about the flow of our family stream and secondly, I want to say something about the life of our family stream.
THE FLOW OF FAMILY
The flow of our family stream has been a meandering one.
Years ago my husband and I began to think about the importance of family and our family heritage but we were confronted with a major problem. That problem was the unique history of our African people in the Americas and the Diaspora. More specifically, it was the unique history of our immediate family.
I say the Diaspora because we discovered that our organic treasure is situated throughout the Caribbean Islands, Brazil, and the Americas dating back over 80,000 years!
One challenge was identifying family members whose tribal or surname had been lost in the journey across the middle passage, and then on the plantation. So we thought about a strategy to overcome the surname problem.
Knowing that many of the surnames would only lead us to an owner of African slaves, we endeavored to find a strategy to overcome that cultural problem. We found a genetic path which would help us to identify unknown family members separated by thousands of miles and hundreds of years. We went to Genebase.com on the internet.
We submitted a sample of our DNA and after several months we discovered a family stream that has flowed here in the United States and in many other directions throughout the world.
From the Oromo and Mandingo Tribes in East and West Africa we have now learned of faces we did not know and may never see in person but who share our DNA and thus share remarkable physical, spiritual, and intellectual characteristics.
These findings have allowed us to see God’s remarkable plan to give our family every opportunity to survive and flourish no matter what the situation, the language, or the culture that we were thrown into!
God cares for each of us individually and also for our entire family. Without God, our stream would have succumbed to the drought of selfishness and despair but instead we rush forward with energy and love.
There can be resistance to the flow of our family stream, though it is less cumbersome if we simply follow the path that has been paved by our elders. Some obstacles however are inherent to the growth of a healthy, vibrant stream; lets talk about of them.
RESISTANCE TO FLOW
There is much resistance to streams as they flow. The river bed, boulders, rocks, drought, and artificial barriers each slow down or in some cases can stop the river’s flow. So, too, with family streams like ours; we find in our daily lives different forms of resistance many of which we have all faced at one time or another.
Economic hardships, individual illness, and death are some of them but we overcome them. We overcome because we assist one another during economic hard times; we care for each other in illness; and, though we cannot stop death, God blesses us with reproductive power so that we never really lose the ones that we cherish for we can see in our off-spring their reappearances in a smile, a certain walk, or just a relaxed expression. In that way, God puts it in our hands to make another generation strong and durable to carry us on as though there has been no change all.
Yet, there is one more thing that we do to overcome the slings and arrows of the world; that which is greater than all others .That one more very essential thing is that we generate is the force of love.
You see, in the natural world streams flow downward conforming to the natural law of gravity. Gravity drives the life cycle in the natural world. But family streams flow up not down!
You may ask why that is? The answer is that family streams conform to a higher law— that is not natural —but which is spiritual. It is the law of love which among other things says that if you love one another you are lifted up, and not caste down!
As we each generate love within ourselves and let it emanate from our hearts then we create the force that drives our family through the corridor of time and space. Nothing can defeat love! That is why we are here in such numbers on this earth. It is because of love in good and hard times that we continue to thrive.
Let us never forget it and never cease to generate that love in our hearts. Now, let’s speak briefly on:
THE LIFE OF OUR FAMILY STREAM
It has been a long time since our sojourn here in the United States began. Mississippi was once for us a place of extreme injustice and inhumanity. Today however, great changes have occurred.
We have the first African-American President and First Lady. Both of whom are highly educated and are excellent family models to our young people.
I consider President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as evidence of a message to be understood in spiritual terms.
They are icons and stand to encourage our youth but we are the first line of defense and must stand as role models and be examples for our children of individuals who make healthy life choices.
The life of our family stream is the children which we have made through our love. They are the future in every sense of the word. The life of our family stream—our children– must be protected from natural and social dangers as well as from self-destructive behavior.
Ironically, though we have seen a political miracle, we are at the same time seeing such dangerous conditions surrounding our young people that it will take the same will and determination which set our people free to protect them from their own acts of self-destruction.
I am a medical doctor. Everyday I see diseases and physical illnesses not brought about by natural causes but by lifestyle choices. Let me name just a few. HIV infection; obesity; alcohol and drug addiction; crime and incarceration; all of these conditions are major killers of our young today.
Obesity, for instance, now not only affects the health of adults but is also a leading cause of our youth’s decreasing quality of life and longevity. The rate of obesity in our youth is at a critical level, and is approaching 50% of the population.
What we can do is revert to our diets of the past, save money and save calories, cook at home; we can also reclaim an active life, turn off the television, get off the internet, and stop texting. No longer must we toil in the fields from sun up till sun down but we must continue to push against resistance; we must flex our muscles in order to maintain a healthy body. And a healthy body is the first step toward a healthy mind and healthy self esteem.
I could speak on health and the consequences of unhealthy choices all day long but instead let us push forward and discuss where a disordered mind may lead you. It is the criminal justice system.
The incarceration rate in our community is astounding and we are witnessing greater numbers of our African American males involved in the criminal justice system. Currently, there are more African American males associated with the criminal justice system than are present at our Universities and Colleges. Unfortunately, our young ladies are not far behind. How has this happened??
I believe that lack of education is the primary culprit and all that contributes to the miss-education of our African American children; be it absent fathers, absent mothers or an absent extended family.
These social maladies are threats to the Dillon family too, we may be watching from the sidelines but we are not immune. We must address these issues and we must do so head on and with a good sense of practicality. For if we do not, our family which has overcome so much can wither away and die in two generations.
We can overcome those threats by understanding some fundamental facts.
One, when our babies come into the world, we have absolute control over their environments. What that means to me is that what they eat for the rest of their lives will be determined by me during the first 5 years of their lives. Furthermore, the quality of their syntax and grammar and thus their speech patterns will be determined by me during the first 5 years of their lives. Also, what they literally see and experience in the home is under my control.
Two, we can make them optimistic or pessimistic because that is the effect of our positive or negative outlook on life. God has given guardianship over to us to protect the evidence of Divine love; that guardianship is absolute and it cannot be waived.
What can we do to decrease the likelihood of our children falling into the traps that encourage disordered thinking?
We can continue to do what has been done over the years. We can keep the Dillon family reunions alive. Don’t let the stream run dry. Allow our elders to be role models. Let them be testaments to hard work and perseverance. Let them be historical resources. Let them be the teachers and directors of our family stream.
Because of distance and our busy lifestyles we must be even more determined, even more driven and more dedicated to the recruitment of family members to participate in and enrich our reunion experience.
These are some goals that I believe will enhance our reunions
1.For our next reunion our goal should be that fifty percent of our attendees be between 15 and 20 years old.
2.Establish a trust so that each family unit can contribute during the year to finance young people’s attendance to our reunion.
3.Make reunion positions for our youth to give them responsibility as the next stewards of our family heritage.
4.Pick locations throughout the U.S. on a cyclical basis with the understanding that it will always return to McComb, Mississippi.
5.Pick a counselor who will contact all relatives during the course of the year by phone, in person or mail for the reunion. The person must also be a good facilitator.
6.Seek out family talent to perform at the reunion especially among our young people.
These are just some of my thoughts and recommendations. I am sure there are many more that you can make known.
I believe that the stream of our family life can continue. It must continue and to ensure its health and its effectiveness we must share our ideas, our knowledge, and our wealth. As we all know a house divided is weak and will eventually fall. But can you imagine the strength of our house once we combine the love and expertise that can be found within the Leonard Dillon lineage? It could only be awesome. It is up to us.
Thank you for your time and the invitation. Enjoy the remainder of your weekend of fellowship and God bless.