Disclaimer: It pains me to have to write this blogpost, but it is necessary as I have been stalked by a distant Euro cousin for the past six years. I wrote about her in my blogpost DNA Doesn’t Lie: The Denial of the Pepper in Salted Histories a few years ago. She was the one who asked the state archaeologist,who oversaw the documentary study of the Byram Cemetery and Lyon Cemeteries, if it were at all possible that I could be DNA-related to her. in 2016. I didn’t name her because I was told that she has mental health issues. As someone who suffers from anxiety, depression brought on by being harassed and intentionally disabled by my landlord, and had a mother who was mentally ill, I am sensitive to those who have mental illnesses. As someone who is now physically disabled, I am also keenly aware that mental illness qualifies as a disability. I really feel for this cousin and hope that one day she truly gets the help she clearly needs. Maybe one day in the future we could have a discussion about how our lives intersect at points. However, this blogpost is less about her and more about my struggle to comprehend her obsessive focus on me, my research and artwork. I hope and pray that those closest to her stage an intervention because her actions are a clear and present danger to others and not just me. Please click on all highlighted red hypertext links for full transparency.
The Ugly Side of Doing Research as a Person of Color
I have been stalked by Laureen Taylor —a woman who was previously arrested on a harassment charge in 2014 after stalking someone else for 9 years. The victim of her harassment now has a permanent restraining order against her . She was also terminated from a nursing job because of her abuse of a psychiatric patient in 2006. Everyone has a red line in the sand. Her 1st stalking victim’s red line was when she started reaching out to his wife and young daughter and sending them harassing emails. Well, I’ve reached my own red line six years in now. I can’t imagine another 3 years of her behavior. I will be taking out a personal restraining order against her. Enough is enough! Self-Care for genealogists of color is a must in order to deal with harassment issues like mine as well as historic trauma.
Laureen calls herself “The Ambassador of Byram” and maintains that she is the SOLE owner of the Byram and Lyon Cemeteries which is preposterous since the Town of Greenwich now owns all 3 historic cemeteries and there are hundreds of other lineal Lyon descendants who also have a hereditary claim to these cemeteries. Laureen and her husband have military backgrounds. Given the current political environment, I fear that she is a loose cannon who could possibly attract like-minded individuals who could bring harm to me or desecrate our family’s Colored Cemetery. Her behavior has been escalating ever since she read a newspaper account that there would be a public memorial at The Colored Cemetery in Greenwich, CT —- a historic cemetery that has always been physically separate from the Byram and Lyon Cmeteries. Due to her behavior, the Lyon-Green-Merritts have decided to forgo any public memorial in our Color Cemetery this Spring.
I shouldn’t have to fear for my life, but I do. Though she lives in Kansas, she has already come to Greenwich, CT and tried to crash my talks in the past, contacted institutions where I have given talks to bad mouth me, Zoom-bombed my virtual talks, and has sent 50+ emails to me in the past year despite a Cease and Desist Letter_032217.docx and multiple emails asking her to leave me alone. When I give in-person talks, I now have to have police protection. I shouldn’t feel embarrassed to tell people that I have a “cousin stalker,” but I am.
Why ME You May Ask????
I have tried to understand why she is so obsessive compulsive about me. The only reason I can think of based on the ONE time I spoke to her BRIEFLY at the September 22, 2016 Greenwich Town Hall Meeting (see video below where I speak 54 minutes in and Laureen speaks after me). She introduced herself by name when she walked in, but did NOT tell me who she was nor did she approach me after the hearing as practically everyone else had. When I re-watch the video below, I can see how she may have felt slighted. It was clear when she came into the room that she never expected us to be there front row and center — no less. As someone who has deems herself “The Ambassador of Byram,” it must have been very unnerving to see “Colored” people rightfully claiming their own lineal rights to the cemetery of their “Colored” ancestors. That we had another Euro Lyon descendant sitting with us and other Euro Lyon descendants who had written letters of support for us, I believe, made things worse in her mind. She never considered that there were other Lyon descendants who knew the history of slavery personified in the Town of Greenwich and this particular side of Lyon history.
Unlike other people who automatically delete her emails, or ignore her — which I also did for a time and found it to be pointless — I actually read all of them even the ones that come in the middle of the night. I feel pity for her and her writings also bring up memories of the letters my mother used to write to others. Her letters are filled with grievences that have NOTHING to do with me. I am not responsible if people don’t respond to her emails. It’s not my fault that she has a track record with many people and institutions throughout the State of Connecticut, But, as I said, I do read her emails and I see the inner demons she battles that flow through them.
It has also left me to read between the lines to figure out what she is trying to convey. Since October 2016, Laureen seems to be someone who desperately wanted my attention and my acknowledgement that she was also a defender of all three cemeteries. For the record, I have always acknowledged that she told me about and showed me the photos of the desecration that occured at the Byram and Lyon Cemeteries at the hearing. She also wanted me to help her research HER direct ancestors. Had Laureen behaved in a non-stalking manner with me, I would have gladly helped her despite admonishments not to do so. She didn’t though. I am now copied on emails like the one below where she adamantly asks people to publicaly repudiate me.
Or, the email below where she labels me a “social justice actor” who has “smolletesqueways” and that I am now disrespecting and telling new stories over the graves of HER ancestors. Someone clearly needs to take the TV remote from her and change the Fox New Channel. Seriously — as it is detrimental to her mental health.
I have received hundreds of emails over the years from Laureen —emails with other forwarded emails. It’s very chilling to read emails that clearly show, while she denigrates my research, she also tries to mimic what I have been doing for years. So much so that I often wonder if she watched the movie Single White Female and had taken notes. For example, no one discussed NAGPRO in regards the Colored Cemetery until I wrote a letter that was published in the Greenwich Free Press in March of 2018. Since then, Laureen has sent emails to Greenwich Town officials demanding that they tell her about other Native American cemeteries in Greenwich , CT. There are no other cemeteries. She has also sought to establish her own “credentials” as someone who knows a lot about Native American culture because she attended a Zoom call about Native American Boarding Schools and works with Native Americans in the state of Kansas. Meanwhile back at the ranch that extends from NJ, NY over to CT, my ancestors are where they have been for the millennia. This is a historic fact that she continues to deny though we have the DNA and paper trail of Afro-Indigenous descent to prove it.
In addition, the fact that she never refers to our Colored Cemetery says a lot to me. The fact that she has never acknowledged our family’s lineal ties to The Colored Cemetery is also telling. Her ignorance of how the institution of slavery operated and was manifested in our DNA speaks volumes As I see it, her reaction to my research and artwork is nothing but pure, unadulterated racial jealousy. There I said it.
While Native- and African Americans have seen their cemeteries disappeared, destroyed, built over, and desecrated for centuries, Laureen ‘s “white fragility” over our ancestors’ Colored Cemetery proves she can’t handle the simple truth that our ancestors were complicit in the Transatlantic Slave Trade AND fathered childen with enslaved women. The photo below are the BCM & NCM T-shirts I used to sell in my RRBB Shop. I took down my shop 2 years ago, but will be resurrecting them in an different place along with other items, including my artwork. These are the same T-shirts that she is offended by. Needless to say, I will not be silenced by Laureen.
On Critical Race Theory: Whose Canceling Who?
Laureen calls me an “activist” like it’s a slur to me. If telling the stories of my ancestors, whom someone else doesn’t want to hear about, qualifies as being an activist, then I will wear that badge with honor. I will NEVER apologize for finding, writing about, celebrating and honoring my ancestors! It took me way too long to find my people for me to leave them behind ever again. I will keep saying their names until the day I die because that’s what “ancestor activists” like me do. We create an instant bond with our ancestors that unites us down through the generations. There is no separation between those who walk on this land and those who transitioned beyond. As descendant of Afro-Indigenous enslaved, formerly enslaved people and Free people, I will continue to tell the good, bad, and utterly ugly stories that impacted their lives in the socio-historical time period in which they lived.
It seems to me that Laureen currently lives in a bubble of misinformation that is Fox News-generated. From the emails she sends me, that seems to be the only news channel she listens to all the time. Since last December, she has been injecting racialized buzzwords like ‘critical race theory,” “activist,” and others into all of her emails. Since no one takes her seriously, with a few minor exceptions like myself, it appears that she is attempting to rally other people to her “cause.” She has seen that this tactic has worked successfuly in many places like Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, the Virginia Governor’s race, local school board races across this country, and now the SCOTUS confirmation hearing of the very qualified Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson . It’s a rallying call that is as absurb as those who rallied against former NFL football player turned Civil Rights activist Colin Kaepernick for kneeling and expressing his First Amendment Rights as an American citizen.
Laureen wants to, but can’t erase the history inherent in the Transatlantic Slave Trade map below that shows the items that were exchanged for people, the fact that our ancestor James Lyon played an active role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and was an enslaver, or the history of how Ali African (aka “Ally Mink”) was captured in West Africa and brought to Greenwich, CT on James Lyon’s vessel in the mid-1790s. As I have written elsewhere, my own ancestors’ history should not be erased or denied because a descendant of a family who enslaved people wants to close her eyes twinkle her nose, nod her head, and shout “History be gone.” My ancestors’ lives were valid, as were the lives of each and every other Native- and African-descended person who lived in the Hangroot community of Greenwich, CT between the 17th-19th centuries and beyond.
The real problem that this country is facing is the canceling of the truth about this country’s original sins— genocide, dispossession and slavery. The historical narrative that people like Laureen hold dear —- that her Revolutionary War and Loyalist ancestors would never have fathered children with enslaved women or engaged in the Transatlantic Slave Trade is wrong. The Lyon-Greens-Merritts don’t range in skin color from Black to White on their own and neither do most Native- and African-Americans. Once this fact is accepted then maybe, just maybe, a real conversation on “race” can take place. I will never cosign onto a white-washed version of history that denies the existence of my ancestors’ lives. Not today. Not tomororw. Not ever!
Silent No More: Just Sharpening My Oyster Knife
The past four years have been hard for me. In July of 2018, I experienced a massive mice and roach infestation after the installation of a new boiler in my NYC rent-stabilized apartment in 2016. Whoever installed my kitchen cabinets put fake backs that hid large holes in my wall. I immediately experienced pulmonary and neurological issues that have left me disabled. In June of 2019, the management company, in full violation of NY State Pesticide Notification Law , sent an exterminator to my apartment who ignored my admonishment not to spray any chemicals as I had an appointment with a neurologist in a few days. What he didn’t know is that I was born with autoimmune illnesses and suffered from allergies. As a result, I suffered additonal personal injuries that have made it difficult for me to walk, breather, and see at times. That being said, if you see typos on things I write it’s due to these issues.
I am writing this not to solicit any pity. Life happens and I have been adjusting to my “new normal.” Despite everything, Andrea and I have never stopped researching during these pandemic years and I have continued to give Zoom Talks and a few talks in person when I am able. But, I did stop writing blogposts because of the havoc Laureen has caused in my life.
Laureen noticed my disability in her May 28,2021 email below as there was media coverage of The Witness Stones Project Ceremony that honored the enslaved people who labored for generations at the Bush-Holly House in Greenwich, CT. As you can see in her email, she mentions having a disability. Again, I am sensitive towards her condition. But, there is something to be said about how her White privilege blinds her to the fact that I was raised by a single, mentally ill mother who couldn’t care for me and my siblings. Two of us were sent to live with our grandparents and two lived with a foster family for a time. That I have been as successful as I am comes from the foundation that my grandparents gave me at a young age. It was a solid foundation that was further strengthened by my attendance at Messiah Baptist Church — a church that actively embraced libertion theology and had a pastor who was a graduate of Bowdoin College, my alma mater. In the words of Langston Hughes, “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” I wish I had some of that Greenwich hedge fund money that Laureen always refers to or had been raised in a two-parent home like she was.
As Genealogists of Color, the racist behavior of Laureen and Jennifer (see email below) is something many White genealogist, historians, archivists, etc. don’t have to deal with on a regular basis. Laureen didn’t strategically target most of those who were responsible for the events that occurred the day of The Witness Stones Project Ceremony though she copied them on emails that went either to spam or were politely answered because it’s part of someone’s job description. Likewise, these same people don’t have to deal with the very real threat of violence she is directing towards me — a threat some of us know all too well because it was directed at our ancestors time and time again. White privilege comes in many forms. Yes, it does and it needs to be called out by everyone who rejects this type of behavior 100%. When descendants of the enslaved/formerly enslaved and Free People of Color are silenced, while other White genealogists, historians, archivists, etc. are allowed to speak about our very ancestors in public, that’s a problem. Period!
These Hands and My Artwork
During the pandemic, I have been keeping busy doing a lot of things to maintain my sanity in these insane times. For example, I’ve taken online Early American History classes and am now considering pursuing a PhD in History. I’ve also expanded my art skills and have taken up the craft of weaving. Weaving is something my ancestors certainly did. I often wonder what my 4th great-grandmother, Peg Lyon Merritt Green, thought about when my 4th great-grandather, Anthony Green, ran away in 1811 wearing homespun trousers she had woven for him. Did she find her peace among the weft and warp? Did her weaving promote mindfulness to allay the anxiety she must have had and probably passed down to her descendants like me? These are just some of things I have been exploring in my new found craft.
My art may not be for everyone. I make art for me, my people, and those who want to learn and understand the symbolism that inspires my art. What I don’t do is create art that Laureen feels should fit her agenda— whatever that is. If she, or anyone else, doesn’t like my art, they don’t have to look at it. That is their choice. Haters will always hate so I will continue to carry on creating mixed-media artwork that show my ancestors survival and resistance to genocide, slavery, and dispossession like the ones below.
My blogpost is a call to those closest to Laureen to get her the professional help she needs ASAP! She is time-bomb waiting to explode and I may not be her only target. I have emails in my possession where she rants against “The Greenwich Irishmen” which include State Rep. Steven Meekers (D) and Greenwich Police Chief James J. Heavey and ends with “Laureen m (Tracey) Taylor, daughter of James and Maureen s. tracey will have the last word on all of this.” I also have in my possession emails of Laureen trying to get information on Alex Popp and his daughter after they were featured on the front page of The Greenwich Time newspaper. Furthermore, let us not forget all the virtiol she has directed towards my mentor and friend, Jeffrey Bingham Mead. I will be obtaining a permanent restraining order that will lead to her arrest if she continues to harass me. This blogpost also serves as a public warning that she is a clear and present danger to others….And just like that darkness comes to light.
Please feel free to make this post go viral by sharing it. If any Geneaologist of Color has a similar experience, please share it in the comment section and I will do my best to coordinate a Zoom call where we can discuss these issues further. I also welcome other allies to share this blogpost as well and add their thoughts and feelings on the issues I raised. Thank you.