Don’t want to age?

As we research our ancestors, don’t be so anxious to join them this writer points out in a great New York Times piece …

“You know what’s anti-aging? Death. Let’s be happy we’re aging.”
Photo by Monica Garwood
— Carol Walker, the character played by Angela Bassett in the film “Otherhood”
New York Times, September 30, 2021
This is the final installment of “In Her Words.” Thank you, always, for reading and supporting our work.
By Lisa Selin Davis
When Kate Winslet won an Emmy this month for her performance in “Mare of Easttown,” she called her character a “middle-aged, imperfect, flawed mother” who “made us all feel validated.”
Ms. Winslet, 45, had something in common with the night’s other winning women. There was Hannah Waddingham, 47, from “Ted Lasso,” and Julianne Nicholson, 50, from “Mare of Easttown.” Gillian Anderson, 53, took the Emmy for supporting actress in “The Crown.” And Jean Smart, 70, won outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for “Hacks.” Women over 45 were suddenly the biggest winners of the small screen.
Compare this with the 1950 noir film “Sunset Boulevard.” Its protagonist, Norma Desmond, is a washed-up silent film star considered far too old to reinvent herself for the talkies.
Her age? Fifty.
Back then, and until quite recently, anything past 40 was considered ancient in Hollywood years. “It’s always been this youth-obsessed industry,” said Yalda T. Uhls, founder and executive director of U.C.L.A.’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers.
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Men could find roles whatever their age, but women might disappear from the screen during perimenopause, or emerge a few years later in supporting roles, usually as dowdy, eccentric or senile grandmothers, evil stepmothers or spinster aunts.
“If you were 45, or certainly 50 or over, these were the parts you could get: a dying patient or a meddling, horrible mother-in-law,” said Susan J. Douglas, a professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan and author of “In Our Prime: How Older Women Are Reinventing the Road Ahead.”
Even if some of these so-called hagsploitation films of the 1960s, like “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” or “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” were good films, they portrayed older women as mentally incapacitated or murderous.
Ageism is a pervasive problem, both in Hollywood and in the United States at large. The National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 82 percent of older adults reported experiencing ageism on a regular basis, including being exposed to ageist messages and jokes suggesting older adults are unattractive or undesirable. Women experienced more ageism than men, the poll found. Yet older adults’ attitudes toward aging were pretty positive: 88 percent reported feeling more comfortable with themselves as they got older.
A report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media concluded that even now, there is a dearth of roles for older actresses, and the roles that do exist portray them as senile, homebound, feeble or frumpy. In the highest-grossing films from Germany, France, Britain and the United States in 2019, there were no female leads over 50, the report said, and just one-quarter of characters over 50 were women. Only a quarter of films passed what the report called “The Ageless Test,” meaning they had one female character over 50 who was significant to the plot and was presented in “humanizing ways and not reduced to stereotypes.”
But it’s possible that this year’s Emmy winners are a sign of changing times, changing demographics, and changing — or long-ignored — tastes. So how did we go from “frail, frumpy and forgotten,” as the institute’s report is called, to Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing a hilarious, diabolical and still-sexy politician in “Veep,” or Sandra Oh starring as an embattled professor on “The Chair,” or Angela Bassett, Felicity Huffman and Patricia Arquette starring as unappreciated mothers who take back their lives in “Otherhood?
“We are in the midst of a demographic revolution,” Dr. Douglas said. As of 2019, there were just under 72 million baby boomers and over 65 million Gen Xers. “There are more women over 50 than ever before in our society. And millions of them are not really ready or eager to be told to go away and obsess about their grandchildren without participating in and doing other things.”
Amy Baer, president of Landline Pictures, which debuted earlier this year to focus on the over-50 crowd, said aging had become a much more “dynamic experience” — less about retiring than about starting something new. “They may have raised children and they’re finally at a place where they can focus on themselves professionally and personally,” Ms. Baer said. “They may be changing jobs. They may be finally falling in love after being professionally focused.”
She says this shift — living longer, living better — is just one reason that portrayals of older women in Hollywood are finally improving, both in number and scope. Women over 45 are being cast as leads in complex roles, sometimes the best roles of their careers.
It began with a couple of outlier films in the early 2000s, Ms. Baer said. Two romantic comedies from Nancy Meyers — “Something’s Gotta Give,” starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, and “It’s Complicated,” with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin — portrayed women in their 60s as romantically desirable leads. The films had enough commercial success to alert industry gatekeepers to an untapped audience. They started to realize, Dr. Uhls said, “there’s a market we’re not exploiting here.”
That audience had both time and money, and was conditioned to going out to the movies, but could adapt to streaming. The media for and about this market appealed to other demographics, too. One of Netflix’s first streaming megahits, “House of Cards,” starred Robin Wright, who was 46 when the series debuted, as the frosty mastermind of the country’s most powerful couple. Not long after, “Grace and Frankie,” a comedy about two vibrator-designing octogenarians, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, became a hit among many different demographics; it’s now Netflix’s longest-running original series.
This content is “consistently successful and has crossover to a younger audience,” Ms. Baer said. “There’s an insatiable need for original content right now in the space that we’re in.”
When executives at the independent studio MRC Films approached her about Landline, Ms. Baer said she did a “back of napkin” analysis on 25 years’ worth of films for and about older people and found that almost all had good returns on investment. “I’m not saying they succeed on the level of a Marvel movie, but they absolutely are financially successful,” she said.
The key, Ms. Baer said, is telling the right kinds of stories, especially those that don’t pander to older people. “We’re creating content that is entertaining, relatable, and deals with life experiences that anyone over 50 is going through,” she said, but that people under 50 can also enjoy.
Landline’s first project, “Jerry and Marge Go Large,” will star Annette Bening and Bryan Cranston in the true story of a retired Michigan couple who found a loophole that allowed them to win big in the Massachusetts lottery and use the winnings to help their town.
Projects like these allow female actors who once would have had dwindling work opportunities to explore new parts of their ranges. Consider Frances McDormand’s Oscar-winning performance in “Nomadland,” or Ms. Winslet’s acclaimed role in “Mare of Easttown,” both roles that required looking like non-Hollywood types.
“Great actresses are kind of enjoying being nonglamorous and not trying to look 20,” Dr. Douglas said. “They’re looking their age and they’re proud of that and they work with it.”
Suddenly women are being celebrated for embracing their age. Or as Angela Bassett’s character, Carol Walker, says in “Otherhood”: “You know what’s anti-aging? Death. Let’s be happy we’re aging.”
“Every actress I’ve had a conversation with has been incredibly embracing of our mission and really excited,” Ms. Baer said. “These are all women who are still in the prime of their career and are not ready or old enough to simply play the grandmother.”
This is not to say that ageism will evaporate or that face-lifts will all of a sudden become obsolete (or that there’s anything wrong with playing the grandmother!). “We’ve got a real turnstile moment here,” Dr. Douglas said. “On the one hand, there are more older celebrities and public figures who are out there embracing their age, while at the same time we still have ageist stereotypes.”
The opportunities for older women are not without limitations, either. “Most of the roles are straight, white women,” she said, as the Emmys painfully revealed.
We urgently need more representations of older women of color, older queer women, older working-class women, and also more stories of strong female friendship, Dr. Douglas said.
Hopefully by next year’s Emmys, we’ll have more.

Who am I? Part African, European and more?

I’ve always been a sure and confident person who was fortunate to be raised in a family with positive messages from my mother, father, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and distant relatives. However, we — like most African Americans — have confusing, hidden and proud heritages that are often difficult to fully uncover.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

If you or others fall in the categories of mixed heritage, I am encouraging you to keep uncovering your ancestry. One way is through DNA testing and related results. Thankfully, about 10 years ago, I completed my DNA evaluation and discovered that although I have the appearance of a full African American, my mutual families’ backgrounds produced the following:

Summary of DNA results for Ann Lineve Wead Kimbrough, updated 2021


Read every drop of DNA backgrounders

The above image is a just snapshot. There is a whole lot of drilling down to review the estimates provided by the DNA scientists. Like all who engage in DNA testing, my results unfold with enormous information found in tables, linkages, background explanations, photos and important health and social characteristics.

There are so-called bright spots on my DNA tree. For instance, my DNA chart shows a 9 percent ethnicity linkage to ancestors who lived in Scotland. This northern third region of Great Britian, displays a highlighted region, as does the United Kingdom, Belguim and Luxenbourge.

As I expected, the largest gathering of my DNA estimated ancestral roots are found in Africa to include the regions of the Southern Bantu Peoples, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Congo and Western Bantu Peoples. The United States ethnicity estimates show that Virginia is the landing place for my ancestors during the slave trade.

“Your ethnicity estimate includes regions based on two different scientific processes: the AncestryDNA reference panel and our Genetic Communities™ technology.” That’s from the Ancestry.com DNA overview of my discovered heritage.

There is so much to learn from one’s DNA. My data is constantly updated as new 3rd, 4th and even more distant relatives are added to tree. Once I receive updates, I spend time tracking whether we are related and if so, how. For instance, one of my so-called 3rd or 4th cousins, did not have direct DNA linkage to our family. Yet, her information was always pulling on our family’s DNA. After several conversations, we figured it was because her son’s father is our family is my family member. I considered our realization a victory because I would not otherwise have known about this young relative.

I have an estimated 767 4th cousins or closer relations. The DNA results are the first major step towards conducting additional research and can serve as a confirmation about whether the individual is related to you. I caution that even if limited or no DNA exists regarding a relation, consider the investigation on the linkage because slaves were often mortgaged and sold to keep their enslavers in business. For instance, in some cases, slaves from neighboring plantations were paired up with another group and sold, thereby breaking up blood families of slaves. Yet, those same individuals may have served as a “family member” in the slave community structure.

Centimorgans in your family tree

Each person who has received her/his DNA has a special number and that places you in the range or numeric grouping of your family member. That numbering is known as centimorgan The chart below supplied by FamilySearch.org, gives the numbering range for individuals to prove whether they are blood relatives.

Centimorgans or the DNA numbering system to connect relatives

According to FamilySearch.org: “All the testing companies now provide the total amount of DNA (measured in centimorgans, or cM) shared with each genetic match, information that can be vital for determining the genealogical relationship. A cM is a measurement of the distance between genetic markers on the DNA based on the expected frequency of recombination with each generation. On average, one cM equals one million base pairs, although this can vary.” This is from Family Search.org to explain the importance of cMs or centimorgans in connecting genetic matches.

I am actively researching my family and along with my business partner/first cousin, Mark Owen, we will explore many African American and Afro Caribbean tenealogy family topics with more depth in our upcoming e-book series.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information about our August 1, 2021 debut!

Buffalo Soldiers: Black ancestors were the world’s first park rangers

When I was 10 or 11 years old, I camped in the Nebraska wilderness with my fellow campers and chaperones. The highlight of my experence was riding high atop my favorite horse along rugged and somewhat dangerous trails in the Black Hills National Park in South Dakota. I’ve since learned that my childhood suspicions were correct: The trails are so dangerous that it has long been fenced off to protect public use.

Like the fence around today’s Black Hills, the Buffalo Soldiers were the human hedge around our nation’s most precious national park lands.

Buffalo Soldiers protecting the nation’s most precious park lands. Courtesy, U.S. National Park Service.

I remember dreaming of becoming a park ranger. Perhaps my dreams were filtered from our African American ancestors who were among the nation’s and the world’s first park rangers in the early 1900s. Their origins as park rangers are traced to 1899, 1903 and 1904 in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Why were they called Buffalo Soliders?

Based on research, it is believed that Native Americans provided the nickname for African American soldiers based on the eyesight similarities of our ancestor soliders’ wooly hair and dark appearance to that of the buffaloes that roamed the parks. It is likely the soldiers were dubbed “Buffalo” beginning in 1866 with the 9th and 10th All-Black Calvary regiments.

Our family ancestors from Hope, Arkansas were members of the 9th Calvary of Buffalo Soliders based in New Orleans and formed in 1866. We are researching whether our lineage is traced to the 25th all-Black Infantry that also fought together against the Confederate Army.



Today’s Park Service looking for Black “Soldiers” to share African American history

Today’s Park Service is woefully underrepresented with African American park rangers and interpeters. In 2019 and earlier, the Park Service reports that 80 percent of its workforce are non-African American.

There’s a rich and storied history involving African Americans and magestic park lands in the United States. Col. Charles Young, the third Black graduate of West Point University was the first African American superintendent of a national park when he accepted the assignment at Sequoia National Park in the summer of 1903. Much of his work has gone unrecognized, yet Young is credited with the paved roads in the park, new bridges that are still in use today and the basic infrastructure of the trails.

The inscription by Col. Young reads: “Yours for Race and Country, Charles Young. 22 Feby., 1919.” Photo courtesy of Library of Congress


Under his leadership, he created an infrastructure of trails, paved roads, and bridges, some of which are still in use today. He also was friend of W.E.B. DuBois. The two met while teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio, according to the researcher and writer Nineka M. Okona in her June 2020 article in Conde Nast Traveler.

She also interviewed a modern-day Park Ranger, Shelton Johnson, who was based on Yosemite. He has dedicated his work to preserving African American history and sharing it when he can. The post-COVID opening of the parks will allow Johnson and others to deliver the stories of the stewardship and pride that Black soliders had when they served as park rangers more than a century ago.

Seventeen National Parks bear African American History

From the Jameston to MLK National Parks, I am on a mission to visit and discover more about the rich history of African Americans.

Historic Jamestowne in Colonial National Historical Park – Photo credit: National Park Service / Paula Degen

Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park – Photo credit: Library of Congress

For the full listing of the 17 sites with beautiful, historic African American connections, see https://www.travel-experience-live.com/african-american-history-national-parks/#:~:text=%2017%20National%20Park%20Service%20Sites%20That%20Commemorate,Monument%2C%20Illinois.%20Also%20known%20as%20the…%20More%20

Happy Trails!

Family ancestry research is a spiritual journey

My Uncle U.S. Veteran James “Jamie” Wilks, right, and an unknown relative or friend in undated photograph

Saturday, May 15, 2021 I AM MY ANCESTORS        In life, there is no separation. There is no separation from the past, the present, and the future. We are the center of it all. We are the life of God that lived as our ancestors. They passed their life on to us. Who they are is encoded in our DNA, cells, soul, and physical features. We are who they are. We are one and the same. We too are here to impress our collective soul-full imprint upon the earth.        I am part of a never-ending story of the mighty miracle of this thing called Life. I am a miracle to behold. A miracle to extend to the world. I am a wisdom keeper and a revealer of what is sacred and precious about Life. Every aspect of my journey is significant. I celebrate it and let God multiply its blessings. Thank you, Power, in me, through me, as me, around me, through the Christ within. And so it is. I am reminded of your true faith, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure now in you also.2 Timothy 1:5 Daily Thoughts from the HillCopyright: Hillside International Truth Center, Inc.Bishop Dr. Jack L. Bomar – Executive BishopBishop Dr. Barbara L. King – Founder Minister/World Spiritual Leader Renew/Subscribe: http://www.HillsideInternational.org Address Change/Mailing Questions/Did not receive – Contact: jjones@hillsidechapel.org 

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Daily Thoughts from the Hill
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