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Omni Team Effort Reunites Missing Man with Family

Derman Redman

Derman Redman

Sixteen-year veteran Omnitrans Coach Operator (CO) Derman Redman was taking break one recent day at the San Bernardino Transit Center, and stopped to catch up with fellow CO Urbanita Ramon. She mentioned a flyer that she’d seen, asking for help finding a missing local man with developmental disabilities. He’d been away from home for two weeks.

“It lay heavy on my heart,” said Urbanita. “My brother is physically and mentally disabled, and I feel a kinship to people who live with disabilities. That’s what made me share the information with my fellow drivers – I even posted it online to help get the word out.”

The story also captured Derman’s attention, and he asked what the man looked like so that he could keep an eye out for him. Urbanita’s description sounded familiar; when she showed Derman the photo from the missing person flier, he couldn’t believe it.

“I know that guy!” said Derman. He recognized Roger, a regular passenger from his days driving Route 10. “But two weeks, wow. That’s a long time. Who knows what could have happened by now?”

Derman went on his way, but the story stayed with him all day, through his shift, and that night at home. Roger rode Derman’s bus for almost 10 years, and they had developed a good rapport.

“He was always friendly and nice,” Derman remembered. “Very quiet, but he would give you the shirt off of his back if you asked him.”

At work on his route the next morning, Derman pulled up to a stop and opened the doors as usual. There was a man waiting who looked a bit the worse for wear – his socks were muddy, and his hair was long and unkempt. But Derman thought he recognized him. He did a double take. Yes, he was pretty sure – the man was Roger!

“To be honest, the thought crossed my mind, ‘Did I summon this guy?’” Derman said. “I couldn’t move at first. Then I went up to him and asked, ‘Roger, is that you?’”

Roger simply said, “Yes,” as if all was normal.

“Are you lost?”

“No.” Very firm.

“Are you sure you’re not lost?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“When was the last time you went home?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you sure you’re not lost?”

“I’m trying to get home right now,” Roger said. But Derman realized that he was at the wrong bus stop.

At that point, Derman decided to take action. Asking his bus full of passengers to “please wait, I’ll be right back,” Derman told Roger to “sit tight, and don’t move.”  Trusting Derman, Roger stayed put. Derman ran as fast as he could into the transit center, to find Supervisor Ricky Williams. He burst into the break room, out of breath, shouting “Ricky, I found that guy! The missing guy!”

Running back out to his stop to check on Roger and his passengers, Derman saw the missing person flyer on Roger hanging from the fence.

“I kept looking at the flyer and at the man. Could it really be him? And it was,” said a relieved Derman.

Ricky contacted Roger’s caregiver, Brigette Flowers, who drove all the way from Riverside to pick him up. She and her husband had been out looking for Roger every night for 12 days. He now is reunited with his family and recovering well from his ordeal.

“We got lots of calls during that time from people who said they saw Roger, but we never could pin him down,” Brigette said. “It’s drivers like Derman who see people like Roger every day, and care about them.”

Brigette isn’t Derman’s only fan. When he arrived home that night, he told his family about what had happened during his eventful day. “Daddy, you’re like a hero!” his daughter said.

“No, we just do a lot of things out there,” said Derman, trying to play down his role. But she wasn’t having it. “No, Daddy, anything could have happened to that man. You did a good thing.”

Memories of Childhood

Dr. Jean Peacock is pictured with a quilt from her grandmother Mrs. Ella Lee of Sulphur Springs, Texas. Her grandmother was 96 when she died in 1978. The Anthropology Museum at California State University, San Bernardino opened an exhibition this week called, “Re/Collect: Memories of Childhood.” Check out the museum at: “Re/Collect: Memories of Childhood, Curated by Dr. Arianna Huhn & student Assistant Curators,” anthro.csusb.edu/resources/anthropology_museum.htm.


Finding Kunta: Black entrepreneurs connect the dots after Roots

By Ronda Racha Penrice, Urban News Service

Kunta Kinte still haunts us.

Nearly 40 years after it premiered, Roots – Alex Haley’s iconic quest, tracing his ancestry from slavery back to Juffure, The Gambia – still inspires African-Americans to reclaim their heritage. Today, the ripple effect of the 1977 ABC miniseries is evident in reality shows, such as Finding Your Roots, and now the History Channel’s reboot of the epic TV program for a new generation. And African-American entrepreneurs have capitalized on the momentum by helping others find their own roots.

“The original Roots was extremely effective for all of us who saw it, black people who saw it, in planting the seed to wonder where am I from, where in Africa is my ancestor from, where is my Kunta Kinte, what was my name before Toby?” says Gina Paige, co-founder of African Ancestry, a Washington, D.C.-based DNA testing service. “African Ancestry was born out of a desire for black people to better understand who they are.”

African Ancestry came to prominence as part of Henry Louis Gates’s 2006 PBS series, African American Lives. Through the pioneering work of Paige’s co-founder, Dr. Rick Kittles, a renowned geneticist and expert in African lineages, the company helps clients uncover their own roots.

“In addition to losing our names, we lost our languages. We lost our traditional beliefs. Our families were torn apart. All of those things have an impact on us even today,” Paige says. “So, we’re the only company that allows people, black people, some identity restoration.”

That identity restoration, which costs $299 per test, can be powerful, Paige says.

After Isaiah Washington discovered his direct African lineage, the actor took an active role in the country where most of his bloodline was traced, she says. “He went to Sierra Leone specifically and then helped to rebuild a hospital and then got dual citizenship and started a foundation, specific to the people with whom he shares an ancestry.”

There are limits to DNA testing, Paige says. “If you’re just a consumer watching these shows, you think you can get one test and get all of that information, and that’s not true. It takes different types of tests, as well as genealogy research itself, to get the same comprehensive amount of information that celebrities receive on those shows.”

That’s where a professional genealogist such as Dean Henry comes in. Henry merged his IT background with his decades-long interest in genealogy and launched Family Pearl in 2013. In addition to traditional genealogical research, the Berwyn, Pa., company helps clients establish accounts on Ancestry.com and similar sites, digitize family documents and pictures, and maintain electronic family trees.

Television has motivated some clients to seek him out, Henry says. “They’ve seen some of the commercials for Ancestry.com, or they’ve seen some of the shows [like] Finding Their Roots, and it piques their interest. They always wanted to learn more about their family, but they didn’t really know how to go about doing it.”

While many folks want to know from where in Africa they descended, some people want to do so by ignoring the most painful period of American and African-American history – and you just can’t do that, says genealogist Kenyatta D. Berry, best known for hosting PBS’s hit series, Genealogy Roadshow. “That’s why you’re here,” she says. “The reason we’re living our lives, doing whatever we’re doing, is because someone survived that.”

On Genealogy Roadshow, Berry, the first black president of the Association of Professional Genealogists, tackles many difficult periods of history. In one recent episode, the Tuskegee Experiment played a central role in a guest’s genealogy. An episode this June features black people who owned slaves. In past programs, relatives who passed for white have surfaced.

Whether its Roots then, Roots now or the countless Roots-inspired TV shows, they all bank on this: knowing who you are is powerful. For Berry, it helps to cancel out the stereotypes and low expectations that black people constantly endure.

“If you listen to what people tell you, and you listen to what the media say about you, then you buy into that crap,” Berry says. “That’s why I think it’s so important to know your ancestors and your ancestry because, if you look at those who came before you, who survived and went through all of that stuff, then you will have more of a greater sense of power and empowerment.”

And that’s why, nearly 40 years later, Kunta Kinte still leads the charge.