Photo courtesy of Paula Madison
Paula Madison is the chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management LLC, a Los Angeles media consulting company. In 2011, after walking away from her job as executive vice president and chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal, Paula wanted to know more about her family. Paula documents her journey in the film Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China, produced and directed by Chinese-Jamaican filmmaker Jeanette Kong, and her memoir Finding Samuel: Lowe China, Jamaica, Harlem.
Growing up in Harlem, Paula and her brothers didn’t quite look like many around the neighborhood. She knew her mother had Chinese ancestry, but she didn’t know much about her family lineage. She knew that her maternal grandfather was Samuel Lowe, a Chinese shopkeeper living in Kingston, Jamaica. It was said that he had two partners who were black Jamaican women and that he fathered children with them. Through research on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, Paula discovered that Samuel did in fact meet her grandmother while living in Kingston, Jamaica and they had a familial connection.
When Paula traveled to Jamaica she found out that her grandfather was part of the Chinese ethnic group Hakka, many of whom migrated from China. Every four years, Hakka descendants have a reunion. There was a reunion happening in Toronto, Canada. Paula and her brothers decided to attend. At the reunion, she became well acquainted with the Hakka descendants. They helped her trace her family to Shenzhen, China. Paula, her brothers, and 16 other family members made the trip to Shenzhen and reunited with the Lowe family who welcomed them with open arms.
Paula’s unique journey afforded her the realization that her legacy is bigger than her. Understanding one’s history is a critical step in creating a sense of purpose. In these times, it is important to not take for granted those we love. Family is everything.
Photo by Robert Hale