2015.048.011 The Family Journey of Paula Madison

This oral history focuses on the history of Paula Madison grandfather, Lowe Ding Chow, and her journey to trace her ancestral roots to find and reconnect with her unknown relatives. Paula Madison, former NBC executive vice president of diversity, wanted to uncover her identity through her grandfather history, because she wanted to learn the background of her Jamaican-Chinese heritage. Madison has always had this inherent connection with Samuel Lowe, the grandfather that she had never met, and realized that Lowe also had this overarching connection and influence with her other relatives, specifically her Chinese relatives. Through tracing the steps of her grandfather journey, she was also able to create a family business. Researching Lowe history allowed Madison to come full circle, and reconnect her previously lost family.

0:00 - Introductions, discovering her Chinese ancestry, visiting her Chinese relatives in Guangdong, going to Jamaica with her relatives to discover their grandfather’s (Samuel Lowe) life there, talking about what she knows about her grandfather, grandfather’s work on a sugar cane plantation and saving money to open his own store, her grandfather’s children with Jamaican women, her grandfather’s arranged marriage to a Chinese woman, her mother returning to Jamaica to try and find her father.

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15:51 - Researching her grandfather’s history (Hakka conference in Toronto 2012), her mother’s (Nell Vera Lowe-Williams) life growing up in Jamaica, mother’s difficulties from her family growing up as half Chinese, looking for her mother’s birth certificate, her mother and father’s journey to New York from Jamaica, her life living in Harlem (her mother’s difficulty with her hair), recollections of her mother’s demeanor, anecdotes about her mother’s protectiveness of her children.

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37:20 - Incidents of racism during her childhood, Emma Allison’s (her grandfather’s other wife) children, talking to her cousins about racial identity.

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47:02 - Interactions with other Chinese in Harlem, mother’s priority on education, the way she prioritized education with her own children, her thoughts on her destiny to find and reunite her family, career aspiration from a young age, always trying to save money with the idea of researching her grandfather’s life in China, her relationship with her cousins that live in China.

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64:33 - Meeting her grandmother, visiting her grandfather’s grave in China, retiring at 58 to research her Chinese ancestry, her brother’s visit to Hong Kong in 1978 to research their grandfather.

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75:24 - First time meeting her relatives in China, working with the Chinese community and learning more about the culture, her brother’s insistence on creating a documentary about the search for her grandfather.

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88:01 - Her college majors (history, Africana, and education), decision to go into journalism and becoming an editor, how going to Jamaica pushed her to achieve what she wanted, Role models (Marcus Garvey, Beverly Manley, her mother, her father, and her brothers).

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100:10 - Working as an executive vice president of diversity at NBC, greatest obstacles to diversity in the media, pushing Asian/Pacific Islander diversity at NBC.

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110:23 - Reflecting on her first trip meeting her Chinese relatives, deciding not to tell her mother about the search, reaction to being a descendant of a Hakka Chinese.

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