Pausing To Spotlight…My Family

Pausing To Share…MY BLACK HISTORY MOMENT – A Slave, Midwife and Legacy: Dr. Judy Simmons – uncovered by my cousins Cleo and Melvin Graham

Who are your ancestors?

Have you thought about your connection to them lately?

Is slavery and freedom a part of your family’s legacy? If so, what impact did it have on your family’s life?

Here is a story about one of my ancestors, who played a remarkable role on the South Carolina plantation where my family was enslaved and later the community where she lived. According records we have found, my third great grandmother, Judy Simmons, was born in South Carolina or Alabama. She was initially called Judy Pickens, a surname of her slave owners Governor Andrew Pickens Jr. According to Andrew Pickens’ 1834 will, Judy and her family were deeded to his son, Governor Frances Pickens, who owned the Edgewood plantation in Edgefield, S.C. Fortunately, Frances Pickens preferred keeping slave families together rather than separating them, as so often happens after the death of a slave owner. After Emancipation, Judy’s last name became “Simmons.”

Judy figuratively stood on the shoulders of her strong African heritage and tapped into her familial knowledge of medicinal plants that she commonly used for delivering babies of plantation slave and freed women for more than fifty years (1830s to 1880s). Although she was not credentialed, she became known as “doctor” by other slaves and slave owners, out of respect for her knowledge. She was a remarkable midwife, who traveled between Edgefield, S.C., and Augusta, GA, to purchase traditional folk medicines that she used to deliver hundreds of babies. And after the War, she crossed the bridge from slavery to freedom. She crossed the bridge from dependence to independence, and in so doing she left her footprints as a path of grace that is traced to her descendants.

In addition to July, her son, Lymas (Limus) Simmons, my second great grandfather, in 1872 became a South Carolina State Representative. He was legally a freed man less than five years, when he used one acre of his land to build the Simmons Ridge Baptist Church (SRBC) in Edgefield, S.C. During the church’s early years, eighteen Baptist churches were born and launched from the SRB. Today, these vibrant churches remain active in ministry.

A contemporary South Carolina genealogist remarked that pride and resilience are palpable traits that set the Simmons family (ancestors of my maternal grandfather) and their descendants apart from other families in the area. And, Dr. Judy Simmons’ legacy as a healer lives on through many of her descendants, including me. Today, Simmons descendants follow the path of our ancestors as leaders in ministry, healthcare, education, art as builders, planters, producers and more. We are prayerful trailblazers who are proud descendants of our African American heritage from slaves to free men and women. Our faith in God is the common cord that binds us from one generation to the next. We believe, “there is strength in knowing that the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor. 3:17

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Knowing where you came from does help you navigate where you are going!

christianity, Uncategorized

Pausing To Spotlight: Your Pastor, My Family

SPOTLIGHT: a projected spot of light used to illuminate brilliantly a person, object, or group on a stage.

Over the past few months we had been praying about transitioning from the Pausing With God quarterly magazine to something different for the new year. When I received this wonderful article about my cousin, I couldn’t wait to share her with you all.

Cleo Graham has accepted a call to pastor at Faith Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Hartford

HARTFORD — The Rev. Cleo Graham, a New Haven native, has accepted a call to serve as pastor of Faith Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Hartford.

The Faith Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ is a historic church, located at 2030 Main St. The brick Romanesque Revival-style building, completed in 1872, houses the Faith Congregational Church, whose lineage includes the city’s oldest African American congregation. It was established in 1819. To learn more, visit https://faithmatterstoday.org/

“The UCC is the first denomination to ordain a black man,” members said in a statement. “It is the first to ordain a woman into ministry in this nation. We are a historic local church, having taken part in the nation’s first civil rights case, the Amistad trial, where the captives on the ship La Amistad were eventually set free. Faith Church raised significant dollars for the captive’s defense.”

The Rhode Island Conference UCC ordained Graham in 2013. Next, she co-pastored at Hope Congregational Church in East Providence, then served Beneficent Congregational Church for seven years. Beneficent’s community outreach programs, weekly open sanctuary sessions, and service to the sick, homeless, and aging populations of East Providence were a model for how people of all backgrounds can come together for the greater good, according to a statement. She was also asked to serve as Vice President of Administration for the Rhode Island Conference Board of Directors, a post she held for two years.

Continue reading “Pausing To Spotlight: Your Pastor, My Family”


If you ask my kids, I have always laid on the cautious side about partaking in the festivities around or on October 31st; but this post isn’t about me. Tonight after viewing my East Coast families posts, I thought about things differently.

There were several families on social media that caught my attention. Families are gathering in their homes creating memories. From carving pumpkins, to making paper crafts, to sipping apple cider, roasting marshmallows and eating smores.

While we are still be in the midst of a pandemic, but I see a new beginning. People are ceasing from complaining what we don’t have to celebrate what we still have before us.

There is a thankfulness in the air, thankful that we indeed have air in our lungs. Thankful for the family members that remain in the land of the living. A gratefulness that we got to see another day to say, ‘I love you’. True that in each family there are challenges and difficulties, but I see families being intentional about loving and spending time with one another.

Mother Teresa is know to have said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” This perspective is like an eraser on the top of a pencil. Removing what the world would have us to focus on and seeing the light in the darkness.

Today is setting the tone for us to become even more consistent and deliberate about spending time with our loved ones. This time together, doesn’t have to involve spending money or even going to a far away place. While it may be nice, we can have a picnic on the living room floor. We can create any kind of getaway if we want to, simply using what we have around the house. Keeping it simple, simply creating precious memories that we can keep.

So may today cause us to pause and remember that even though it’s easy to forget at times, family is the most important thing in the world.