Last July, I was invited to participate in the Family Pictures USA photo sharing event at my local PBS station, UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina. Initially, I was bit hesitant to accept this invitation, as I felt as if I didn’t hold enough knowledge about my family history. I was also worried that I may accidentally share a family secret that shouldn’t be made public. However, thanks to some coaxing from my immediate family and a few colleagues, I ultimately decided to accept the invitation – a decision that I do not regret.
Preparing for the event was an experience in and of itself. Having the opportunity to sit down with my grandmother and mother in rural eastern NC, and dive deep into our family history through photos was a moment that I will never forget. I discovered images of relatives that I had never seen dating all the way back to the late 1800s and heard stories that one could only imagine.
The narratives that accompanied many of the family photos connected the past to the present. For instance, I quickly learned that my deep love of music isn’t a mere coincidence, as I discovered that many family members were musicians, singers and choral directors. The long lineage of public-school educators helped me better understand where my passion for equity in education originated. But, most importantly, I learned the true definition of the word “home.”
During the photo sharing event, I spoke briefly of my childhood home – a dwelling built by my great-grandfather that had been a part of my family for several generations – a place which would eventually succumb to the flooding that accompanied Hurricane Floyd in 1999. While the physical dwelling that I referred to as home was lost, as I spoke about it, I realized that I now carry “home” with me. The oral histories, the family photos that remain – these are all things that can always be preserved and taken with me no matter how far away I depart from the physical space in which I call home. So, I hope Family Pictures USA inspires others to discover their own versions of “home” that they can keep with them always.
Jade Packer, a native North Carolinian, is a Kids and Education Engagement Program Manager at UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and African & African American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology from North Carolina A&T State University.