By Harry C. Alford, NNPA Columnist, Florida Courier, February 24, 2017
Louisiana today is a very different state from the time of my youth. I love the place, as my bloodlines have lived there since the 1830s.
I can begin tracing my roots through my four great-grandfathers. On my father's side, there are Harry Watkins and Cicero Alford. Harry's people came to America through a slave market in Virginia, perhaps Richmond. From there he was sold to slave owners in Bossier Parish, La.
Cicero came through the slave market in Savannah, Ga. His master (perhaps his father, James Alford) operated a plantation in Noonan, Ga. From there they moved to eastern Alabama and then eventually settled in Bossier Parish.
On my mother's side, there is Rev. James Salter and Bill Brown. Both seem to have come through Savannah also. James ended up in Webster Parish, La.
Bill was unique. He was physically well-built. He was drafted into the breeding industry. Slave masters would buy him like a strong bull and had him impregnate as many women as possible. He traveled from plantation to plantation and eventually ended up in Webster Parish also. He must have had more than100 children. One of his last children was my grandfather, Isaiah Brown.
Many of Bill's descendants have been blessed with his physical prowess.
When World War II started, America began changing. Many males in my family went overseas to defend our nation. The war provided a job surge as America built up its industrial might to prosecute the war. My parents and their siblings started moving to Southern California to be free from Jim Crow racism and to provide adequate funding for their growing families.
Still, they loved Louisiana. My relatives would visit there every two years, more if there was a funeral. I was born in Ventura, Calif., and most of my relatives were in the greater Los Angeles area. As a high school student, I would spend summers with my grandparents, aunts and uncles. I rotated every few days spending time and understanding their local environment. Often, I would run into some of my California relatives and friends doing the same thing.
Those were great times learning the ways of my elders and fellow cousins. It was the best thing my mother could have done for me. When you know your roots, you become "whole."
We were heartbroken about the Katrina disaster. However, there were no deaths in my family; we all got by. The land is still there and the damage has been repaired.
Life in Louisiana is growing economically at a nice pace. Energy is the economic base and is growing by leaps and bounds. Despite the last eight years of environmentalists' attacks on the state's economy, the economic world is quickly changing for the better.
Louisiana's political leaders have wisely taken advantage of the fact that its neighbor Texas refuses to legalize gambling. They have opened casinos and race tracks all along their border.
From Bossier Parish to Calcasieu Parish, casinos and race tracks are popping up and generate windfall profits. Visit Louisiana Downs race track in Bossier Parish, and all you see in the parking lot are cars with Texas license plates. They have also made it a great attraction for the filming industry.
Fracking has brought back natural gas to new industrial heights. We are even exporting it. The long-awaited Keystone Pipeline is starting to roll, which will bring thousands of good-paying union-wage jobs. The new Bayou Bridge Pipeline is in the planning stages. This will bring in 2,500 new construction jobs immediately. The Lake Charles area is planning on creating more than 7,000 new high-paying jobs within the next three months.
Louisiana's ports are bustling with more shipping activity and expansion plans are underway for all of them. With the enlargement of the Panama Canal, new shipping lanes are in place traveling from the West Coast to the Gulf and East Coast regions by sea, as opposed to costlier long-distance road or rail travel.
State-funded colleges are working diligently expanding to prepare their human talent to rise to the challenge of a well-educated and trained workforce. A great investment for the future!
All of this makes me and every other child with Louisiana roots so proud. God is blessing Louisiana!
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder and president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
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