Ouzts: Reconciling a Lineage - An Overview
I’m not naive to the fact that lineages are unique, complex, and tend to be rather messy. According to our cultural standards, we find people who are excellent, average, bad, and some can be downright evil. I’ve always been fascinated by lineages and specifically my own.
April 21st, 2018, James Edward Ouzts, who was affectionately called Uncle Jimmy, passed away. Then on January 4th, 2020, his brother, my grandfather Lonnie Wilbert Ouzts passed away. I had quite a few nicknames for him, such as pop or pop-a-song, and my favorite pop-arazzi. This past year, my grandmother or granny, my original (and most of the family’s) confidant, Mary Maxine Ouzts, went on to eternity on May 17th, 2022.
These three were very instrumental in my curiosity about family history. Uncle Jimmy was the spearhead of keeping the family together by organizing family reunions and having a wealth of knowledge about our family. Pop-arazzi would tell unsolicited stories and accounts (some seemed a little embellished 🤔) of his youth and growing up. Granny was the glue that kept a lot of things going.
Anyone who knows me on a personal level knows that I really love questions. Specifically, questions of depth. My favorite question, but also one of the most perplexing questions that one can ask, is “Who are you?” or “Who am I?” While observing people from my generation and the generations that follow, we tend to fill up our time to avoid the question: Who am I? This is a question of identity, and not many of us know who we are.
I believe what most of us are fearful of with this question is we’re afraid of what we think of ourselves. We’re frequently measuring and comparing ourselves to others, which allows that to dictate our identity, value, and worth. We look to jobs, relationships, parenthood, beauty, athleticism, wealth, health, and other things to define us and give us worth. These things aren’t inherently wrong; many are good things, but what happens if such things are taken from us? Where’s our hope.
I’m a firm believer that everyone has intrinsic value and worth. You’ll see throughout the journey of this series where my value and worth are rooted in, and me answering the question of Who am I. You may disagree with my worldview, and that’s cool. My hope, though, is that you can respect my thought’s and what drove me to go down this path of reconciliation.
I’m not naive to the fact that lineages are unique, complex, and tend to be rather messy. According to our cultural standards, we find people who are excellent, average, bad, and some can be downright evil. I’ve always been fascinated by lineages and specifically my own. I refer back to the times sitting at the kitchen table talking and playing cards with my granny or parked next to pop-a-song’s feet watching westerns. During these times, I’d listen to the stories of our family. Now my curiosity has gotten me in trouble from time to time, but It’s worked for me more times than not.
Now I’m categorized as black or African-American. I don’t really care for the term African-American. It’s not out of any animosity but more because that doesn’t reflect the composition of my lineage. Yes, I have African descent (it’s apparent from my skin); however, I also have Native American in me from both of my paternal great-grandmothers. Then to top it off, we have a German last name in Ouzts.
One of my great-grandmother’s full name was:
Ollie Irola Lily Lacresha Lemon-Squeezer Candy-Masher Tilly-Taffy Peterson Ouzts. Legit, that was her name, which is a dope name… though if they would have made her write that out for every school assignment… yeah, nope.
Back to identity, though, What do you do with coming from an African and native background with a german last name and all of this dating back to the early 1800s or earlier? That’s the gist of the question I asked myself throughout my life, and it was one of the catalysts to start this journey. The point that made me take action, though, was the passing of Pop-arazzi, thus the timing of this series.
SET THE RECORD
Before we get into the details, I think you should learn a little about what drives me and the perspective I’m coming from in this series. My faith in Jesus Christ is where I get my why in life. I don’t think you can understand someone if you don’t know what drives their thoughts and perspective. Believe me, I definitely know what it means to be misunderstood and for something to be perceived out-of-context from the meaning that was intended.
Here’s my personal mission statement:
I filter my outlook through my faith in Christ, being grateful for the gifts I’ve been blessed with, and to remain humble in all things. Understanding that excellence is diligence plus biblical integrity over time.
I have an affinity for lineages because of the Bible, specifically Christ’s heritage. Let’s highlight a few people in Christ’s lineage:
- Judah - line was continued when his daughter-in-law posed as a prostitute. (Gen 38)
- Rahab - Jericho spy and prostitute (mother of Boaz) (Joshua 2)
- Ruth - Moabite whose lineage started with an incestuous union between Lot and his eldest daughter (Gen 19:30-38)
This is just to highlight some, but it shows the messiness of families. I’m pretty sure many of us probably have similar realities. We may have broken families because of divorce or many infidelities from a person or persons in a family. Maybe we have a person in our family who’s committed vile crimes that bring us anger and tears or those who struggle with addiction of all types.
If anyone knows the phrase from a song by The Temptations that goes like so: “It was September 1st….” You probably can conclude that My great-grandfather Jonnie, was a rolling stone. He had two families, one in Aiken, SC, with my great-grandmother Ollie and another in the New York-New Jersey area. So as I said, family dynamics can be quite dysfunctional. I don’t believe that has to stop us from growing from and beyond such origins.
Walk with me through this analogy. There’s this practice in Japan called Kintsugi. It’s where a craftsman takes broken pottery, something with little value, and works gold or another precious metal into its breakage to restore it and make it better. That’s how I believe God works with us individually and in our families, which is best illustrated in the person of Christ.
For most of February 2020, I went through an insomnia season of dealing with my pop-a-song’s legacy. I love my grandfather, but I didn’t always like the person he was. One of the best things he did was share a lot about the history behind who we are, and he was big about our name of Ouzts.
Goals for Series
- Show God Off
I want to show how the events and receptions were orchestrated behind the scenes without anyone really knowing what was going on. Many things were already prepared to be received. All that was needed was someone willing to take the first step.
- Reconciliation between Races (Ethnicities)
Black and White are so polarizing in America that it seems as if Americans that aren’t a part of either group seem left out. I’ve been blessed with being able to call friends who are from heritages that aren’t just Black and White, such as:
Hispanic American (Mexican, Colombian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, etc.)
Asian American (Filipino, Chinese, Taiwanese, South Korean, Indian), Middle Eastern American
I love how Tony Evans puts it from his book Oneness Embraced
“Reconciliation is not an end in itself. It is a means toward the greater end of bringing glory to God through seeking to advance His kingdom in a lost world. Therefore, authentic oneness manifests itself through mutual relationship and service, not in seminars. The degree to which we embrace oneness in the body of Christ is the same degree to which God empowers us to fully carry out His agenda.”
From some of the conversations I’ve had with them, a common theme is they can feel just like others and get lost in the shuffle and commotion. It can’t be easy watching from the sidelines seeing the turmoil that’s been going on and having to pick a side even when you have an objective view and can agree with points from numerous sides.
- Pay Homage to the Previous Generations
My grandfather’s generation has officially passed on. All of his siblings are gone, and they were the ones who kept the spark of the family identity going. I’m eternally grateful to them for that, especially my Uncle Jimmy.
Black Lives Matter
I believe my life matters. I believe the lives of my parents, siblings, extended family, friends, and others who are black lives matter. So, purely from a statement standpoint, I believe black lives matter. However, from an organization standpoint, movement and the baggage that accompanies the statement, no, I’m not a supporter. From an ideology perspective, I think the movement is incompatible with the gospel from where their beliefs reside fundamentally.
Tony makes a good point here with Black expression of Christianity here:
“African-American Christians have also merged tradition with faith by wrapping the Christian flag in black culture.”
He continues with:
““How else can you explain the overwhelming acceptance of musical and comedic artists who have some of the most lewd lyrics and degrading statements in their performances about the opposite sex while concurrently thanking their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”
You will not see me expressing support for it. People are created equal, but not all thoughts or ideals are equal. I prefer to think critically for myself, and they don’t speak on my behalf. I’ll leave it at that.
I neither identify as a Democrat or Republican. I know the history behind both parties and the U.S. system, and I don’t like to tie myself down to ideologies that will not stand the test of time.
On the flip side Tony explains:
“For far too long Anglo Christians have wrapped the Christian faith in the American flag, often creating a civil religion that is foreign to the way God intended His church to function.”
I love this poignant point expressed a few sentences later where it states:
“While much in our national history reflects the call to a biblical worldview on the rights endowed to us by our Creator, we have often appealed to that heritage while simultaneously ignoring the moral inconsistencies that were prevalent in its application.”
Cross and the Empty Tomb
For me, the cross and the empty tomb supersede my skin color, culture, nation, and political affiliation. I like all of them. From my worldview, the soul is aligned only in two places:
- Eternal Paradise with God - Heaven
- Eternal Damnation with Satan - Hell
THE LETTER TO THE OUZTS
Around April 2020, I stumbled on the book History of Edgefield County: From Earliest Settlements to 1897 by John A. Chapman. It’s a 500-plus page book, and I was able to read just over 300 pages within a day because I got so enthralled with the content. I don’t call my parents excited often, but I couldn’t play cool this time. A lot of stuff went down, but I learned so much about the dynamics of the makeup or the plausibility of how we got where we are now. Be it the skirmishes and wars of the Natives and settlers or the bringing in of African slaves.
Within the book was the history of Dietrich Ouzts and Peter Ouzts. A fun little excerpt from the account states:
The name Ouzts is Americanized. In Germany it is Utz, and to make it more complete the letters O and S are prefixed and affixed, but whether the name was improved by the change is yet a debatable question.
I can attest the shift didn’t make it any easier for people to pronounce. We’ve gotten variations of Qutz, Uunts, and the most common is Outs. That z in the middle throws everything off 😒.
A month or so after the George Floyd situation with the blessing from my fam, I felt compelled to reach out to the Ouzts’ who were white from around the same area we were from and I’ll let the letter fill you in. It reads:
This is a rather unique letter, to say the least. To formally introduce myself, my name is Alonzo Justin Ouzts II. However, I typically go by A.J. since it’s the name my family and most people identify me with. Though, on various occasions, mainly in the sports arena, I’ve been called Ouzts exclusively. It’s not a common name, and its a name I’m proud to carry. My grandfather, who recently passed on January 4th, 2020, talked about our name with pride and would reminisce about his childhood, in Aiken, South Carolina.
Now my linage is from the black Ouzts side of things. With the peculiarity of the Ouzts name and the historical proximity of the origins of the family’s locations, I believe, along with my family, there’s too much of a coincidence and overlap to not have some shared history with the white Ouzts. We have some historical information about our clan and where we’ve come from in S.C.
Personally, I’m from the state of Maryland, and a majority of the black Ouzts’ migrated to the D.C. area. We’ve been able to carve out a good reputation and have some collective and legacy impact in the area, especially in the Prince George’s County area in M.D. I recently relocated to Charleston, SC, after graduating. Now I’m working as a Software Engineer in the area.
I have a very curious affinity for history in general, but more so with family history, because it’s an identity part that many people strive to know. My identity personally is grounded in my faith in Jesus Christ, which was shaped through my parents’ life and guidance. My dad’s a pastor, and so my sister and I grew up as pastor kids.
My curious side really came about with all the turmoil that’s been going on with the racial divide in our country in the past few months, but has been festering for the past few years. However, as a Christian, I’m called to promote oneness and unity among people, especially between other believers. That’s how this letter sprung about. I want to build a bridge between the white and black Ouzts clans. As Paul espoused in Acts:
Acts 17:24 - 28
24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.
27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
I want nothing, but just to have conversation and dialogue about the families’ histories and get to know you guys as people on an individual level. I’ll leave my contact information below and my website to know a little more about me and what drives me as a person. I think it’s super cool that your family has almost 100 years of reunions under it’s belt. That’s such a rich history.
Alonzo Justin (A.J.) Ouzts II
When the letter was sent out, the only thing I wanted was just for one person to have a positive response. I really was curious to see what would happen. As I’ve found out from time to time in life, that was a small goal compared to what was received. This series will go through the journey of my state of mind and the research that led to these events. I’ll also be reflecting on experiences with people from my family as well as history. So I invite anyone to walk with my family and me on this journey through this series.
I encourage people to look into their past and not forget those that came before. You’ll find some bad things on your search, but you’ll find some great stuff as well.
Tony comes back with two contrasts between the White and Black expressions of Christianity:
“White Christianity, with all of its strengths, often focuses on personal righteousness at the exclusion of biblical justice.”
“On the other hand, while there is much within black culture that is to be celebrated, African-American Christianity sometimes emphasizes social justice at the expense of personal responsibility.”
An unbalanced diet of knowledge and understanding, no matter who you are, will be detrimental to healthy growth. It shows itself in our society and how we interact with one another. Tony sums it up better than I can with the following:
“When either side, righteousness or justice, is missed or reduced in significance, then the individual, family, church, and society will be out of balance”
A great quote that Emmanuel Acho said is:
History is meant to be remembered, but history isn’t always meant to be celebrated.
Be encouraged as my family, and I was encouraged. This series is dedicated to my grandfather Lonnie Ouzts and his brother, my great-uncle Jimmy Ouzts, and the previous generations.
Evans, T. (2022). Oneness embraced: A kingdom race theology for reconciliation, unity, and Justice. Moody Publishers.
Chapman, J. A. (2010). History of Edgefield County from the earliest settlement to 1897. Nabu Press.