Willis Burris, William Johns & Beverley Burris (L-R) New York, 1999
The 53 Bahá’í BMG brothers who traveled to Africa: pictured with Glenford Mitchell, Joan Lincoln & Kiser Barnes (standing in the second row, 6th, 7th & 8th from L-R) in Haifa, Israel: January 2000
Anderson Burris (R) & son Willis
In Trinidad, 1985
Beverley, Willis, Augustina & Anderson Burris, (L-R), Haifa, Israel, 1999
The Man I Love & Me
Anderson Cleophus Burris, my father, lived a life to become known as the patriarch of the first Bahá’í family on the island of Tobago in the Caribbean. Dad’s first name Anderson, is a patronymic derivative of Anders or Andrew, signifying “son of Anders.” This comes from the Greek “Andreas” which means “man” or “manly,” and his middle name Cleophus is a variant of the Greek “Cleophas” which means “vision of glory.” Dad’s humble, yet compelling life story appears to have derived impetus from these names.
Humor, Myths, Legends and Language Exploration
The last selection of quotations which I will share about dad’s poetic language skills in this chapter, has been related to me on countless occasions by a villager named, Wilton Osmond. Wilton recalled that one afternoon my dad was giving instructions to a bus driver on where to drop off one of my brothers. The mini-bus traveled from the capital Scarborough to Parlatuvier, making stops along the way, and took about one hour in each direction. Being extremely detail-oriented, dad wanted to ensure that the driver was absolutely clear on his directives and that my brother would arrive safely to his destination. Dad said to the driver, “He may think he knows where he is going, but when night steps in and darkness floods the Earth, he’ll be lost. So just drop him at the corner of Mr. Joefield’s tailor-shop and from there he will be able to find his way.”
Dear dad, I love that you shared forty years of your life with me. I love that you waited on August 14th so that I could say good bye to you, to pray with you, to sing with you, to massage your hands and feet, to look into your eyes by raising your eyelids, to kiss your forehead and say, “I love you dad.”
Epilogue (Excerpt) by Dr. Charles H. Lynch - Reflections & Perspectives
I regret that I spent only moments conversing with Mr. Anderson Cleophus Burris at Willis’s marriage to Beverley on June 8, 1991, in New York City. We never met again. However, he comes to life for us within The Man I Love & Me. Ostensibly biography and autobiography, throughout these pages of tribute the author also creates a delightfully idiosyncratic collage generating and borrowing from a variety of texts, voices, and writing conventions. Oral history. Racial testimony. Sociological, political, and anthropological reports. Folklore. A documentation of the Bahá’í Faith’s influence and glories. Genealogical facts and reflections. Descriptions of Tobago’s customs, sports and topography. Cherished E-mails. How-to info addressing business practices. Savored gossip. Eulogy. Humorous and corrective anecdotes. Scriptural excerpts. Brief itineraries. His Dad’s favorite poems, superstitious advice, and adage.
Though the book never loses sight of how Tobago and Trinidad deserve the family’s allegiance, it also presents the striving Black immigrant’s challenges and mandated adjustments to life in the United States. Like many resilient outsiders seeking a better life and expanded opportunities, the Burrises are strengthened by their own values fostered in their homeland and by a profound respect for what higher education promises. This is a family that masters trades and develops academic and interpersonal skills. They pioneer an unfamiliar religion among their fellow citizens. They work hand-in-hand, engaging in and establishing social and economic networks to set up businesses, acquire property, and to get prestigious jobs in the islands, Canada, the United States, and Israel.
Book: The Man I Love & Me (TMILAM)
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