Mon, Jun 10, 2024

Luna HighJohn-Bey

Luna HighJohn-Bey - Curatorial Fellow

Uncovering Hidden Histories: A Journey from Hunch to Truth

The whispers of history often speak in hushed tones, concealed beneath layers of time and obscurity. It is these whispers that I seek to amplify, to bring forth the echoes of our ancestors into the light of today. My journey from a simple hunch to the profound revelations I share in my TED Talk is a testament to the power of curiosity and the collective spirit of discovery.

In my TED Talk, I delve into the notion of a hunch—an often dismissed inkling—as a valid and powerful catalyst for both scientific and social inquiry. This exploration began with a feeling that there was more to the story of London Nelson’s gravesite at the historic Evergreen Cemetery, a feeling that grew into the London Nelson Legacy Initiative. This initiative was not the work of a single individual but the result of deep collaboration and interwoven community efforts.


Project collaborators from the London Nelson Legacy Initiative, February 2024, photo by Rose Calucchia.

As a community member, my access to information was limited, but through partnerships with Cat Moses from the Santa Cruz County Black Health Matters Initiative and Robb Woulfe at the MAH, our grassroots inquiry blossomed into a fully-fledged, fully-funded research project. Together, we have unearthed the stories of at least 11 Black pioneers, each one a thread in the rich tapestry of our shared history.


The Shrine Keeper documentary teaser screening, February 2024, photo by Rose Calucchia.

The theme of my TED Talk, "How to Follow a HUNCH," resonates deeply with the "Rising Together" ethos. It underscores the importance of reclaiming and celebrating our histories to understand our present and shape our future. By following a hunch and validating it through rigorous inquiry, we can uncover hidden truths and empower our communities with the knowledge of who we were and what has shaped us.


Bella Bonner, Luna HighJohn-Bey, and Walter English discuss the London Nelson Legacy Initiative, February 2024, photo by Rose Calucchia.

This work is not done in isolation. It is through leveraging our collective privileges, perspectives, and strengths that we can rise together, heal the wounds of the past, and honor the legacies of those who came before us. In this spirit of communal effort and shared purpose, I invite you to join us in commemorating Juneteenth with a series of workshops at the MAH.

Walter English, a distinguished genealogist and the principal investigator of the Brister English Project, will be leading two workshops on genealogy. These workshops, held on June 16 and June 21, will guide you through the process of tracing your roots and uncovering the stories of your ancestors. Walter's expertise and passion for genealogy offer a unique opportunity to connect with our heritage and understand the profound impact of our histories on our present lives.

Juneteenth, a day of reflection and celebration, marks the end of slavery in the United States and honors the journey toward freedom and equality. Our workshops are designed to empower you with the tools to explore your lineage, celebrate your heritage, and contribute to the collective narrative of our community.

Join us as we continue to uncover the stories that bind us together, stories that have been hidden but are now coming to light. Together, let us rise, heal, and honor the legacies that shape our lives. I share more insights and revelations in my TED Talk, and I hope to see you at our upcoming workshops.

Let us listen to the whispers of history, follow our hunches, and embrace the journey of discovery—together.

The London Nelson Legacy Initiative is a three-year project, launched in collaboration with Santa Cruz County Black Health Matters Initiative, which seeks to unearth and foreground hidden stories of Black pioneers in early California. Funding for the project is provided through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America program. Additional support provided by the Rise Together Fund at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.