Many of my associates, family, and friends on Facebook and most likely elsewhere have been surprised to see me spending more and more time in my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Well, it’s not a surprise to me (smile). I have been planning and preparing for this re-centering of my life for some time now. The seed of the idea began in my annual personal ritual of rereading “Zen and the Art of Making a Living” during the winter holiday season. I’m not sure exactly during which year that the thought initially occurred to me (most likely around 2014 or so), but it’s been brewing for awhile. After an intrepid journey away from my birthplace that has taken me to Dallas TX during much of my adolescent years and Houston for some of my most formative adult development; Tuskegee AL for the beginning of my college years and Clemson SC for others; then Atlanta GA as the birthplace of my faith, children, and current career; I felt in my soul that it was time to be more often in Boston and more specifically Roxbury as my home neighborhood.
I am a believer in the primacy of place as a defining aspect of our human identities. Many of us may travel far and wide in life, but most are forever imprinted in some profound way by the geography of our genesis. While it is certainly part of my nature to be nomadic, I have periodically come back to this Beantown of my birth to essentially remember myself and reboot. This happened several times during my twenties, as I returned for refuge from the challenges of new adult life to the safe harbor of our former family home at 15 Huckins Street in which we lived all of my childhood years here. The last extended period was in the early 2000’s, during which a learned the cosmetology trade from my brother Lance and his wife Tammi as well as began my professional career as a Community Builder with Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. I also tried my first hand at being a consultant then, albeit not yet in a field I truly had mastered.
For a number of reasons, it was time for me to come home again as an exercise of remembering who I am in the physicality of earth-place and sociological succor of my maternal milieu. One is the simple passage of time. As I near 50 years old, it felt necessary to reaffirm my identity as a person and self-determination for the remaining time of my life. Another is the happenstance opportunities present in my area of origin, both personally and professionally. As a member of the urban agriculture industry and movement, I came back to Boston to help grow food here and participate in the burgeoning local food scene happening in New England. But I also returned to my native soil in order to grow myself more, spiritually and in many other dimensions. In a real sense, I intend to be reborn by the intentional process of Return.
However, my life plans include a further interrogation of what could be called my “eternal internal” than just what is held here in Massachusetts. The ancestral lands in the Americas of my bloodline are bound in the Carolinas, both North and South. My father Jerry Lee McBrayer Sr. was born in Greensboro NC and my mother Dolores (Alston) McBrayer harks from Warrenton NC, with family tree roots digging further south (i.e. my paternal grandfather Edward McBrayer originates from Blackburg SC). If God willing and the creek don’t rise, I will one day establish a homestead farm in the county of my mother’s birth as both a step in redeeming the legacy of slavery in my genealogical pedigree as well as fully establishing the new Nkromo family identity of agrarian dynasty and culture of land ownership. Another kind of return.
Even further still, I pray for the ability and strength to make an ultimate return to the continent of my ethnic and elected origins. Ambitious as it may seem, I also want a place under the sun in Ghana West Africa to which me and my progeny could live partially as we choose. This dream was planted in my soul when I was a teenager by my elder and surrogate father Dr. Mudavanha (PBUH) who traveled there religiously in life and is buried there in death. It is further inspired by my dear friends Akua and Chenu who have made a home for themselves there on the coast as a couple. One step at a time. Right now, I am grateful for the welcome being experienced by me here in Roxbury. With all this being shared, the truth is I am still very much in Atlanta as well. Both my children and continued business in the city will keep me traveling back and forth more like a commute, thanks to the affordability of Southwest Airlines and others. I’m choosing what and where to be. Ase’?