From Harlem to Guangdong

Updated: 2014-08-01 11:52

By Adelina Zhang in New York (China Daily USA)

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She grew up black in Harlem not knowing anything about her ancestors or her family history, except one thing - she had Chinese blood in her veins.

 From Harlem to Guangdong

Siqi Lowe (left), great granddaughter of Samuel Lowe; Paula Williams Madison, granddaughter of Lowe; and Minjin Luo (right), grandson of Lowe finding the Lowe family tree in the family's ancestral village, Luoruihe village in Guangdong province. Provided to China Daily

Paula Williams Madison went on a quest around the world to be reunited with her long lost family members who were related to Samuel Lowe, her Chinese grandfather.

When Lowe immigrated to Jamaica, he married local resident Albertha Campbell who gave birth to Nell Vera Lowe Williams, Madison's mother. When Nell was an infant, her mother left Jamaica and moved to the US because Jamaicans were harassing her for being married to a Chinese man.

That was the last time she had ever seen her father.

"My mother said that she wished that she could have had a relationship with her father," Madison said. "When I had the time and the resources, I tired to fulfill the wish that my mother had. Even though she died in 2006, I knew that she would have very much liked it for her children to find the rest of the family."

She began her journey to find her family in June of 2012 and it ended in August when she found her uncle Chow Woo Lowe, Samuel Lowe's son.

Her journey became a documentary - Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China - and a book soon to be released.

Madison, CEO of Madison Media Management LLC, said that throughout her entire life she had always wanted to know her ancestry.

Her quest began at the Toronto Hakka Conference, in June 2012, where she went with her brothers Elrick and Howard Williams.

There she met the co-director Keith Lowe, a distant relative, who had another relative, Yiu Hung Law, who connected her to her uncle Chow Woo Lowe, Nell's brother.

"With every fiber of my being I knew that I was a Lowe and they would want me as much as I wanted them," said Madison in the film.

The journey then led her to Jamaica, where Madison and her brothers went to learn more about Lowe. It turned out that before Lowe left Jamaica and returned to China for good, he had run a successful business in the town of St. Ann's Bay.

Madison's journey ended in Lowe Shui Hap, her family village in Guangdong province. Here she learned that there were more than 150 recorded generations in her family dating back to 1006 BC.

"I felt very blessed and very happy to go on this journey," said Madison, who is also of African descent. "I always felt that my grandfather and my mom were guiding me to do this. Although they were no longer living, I made a promise to them that I would make this happen and I would find everyone."

It was not an easy journey. "There were times that I felt emotionally exhausted," she said, "because I grew up with very few relatives and now I have about 40 first cousins. It's just a lot."

Madison said that she has approximately 300 family members in China who are related to Samuel Lowe.

Siqi Luo, the great granddaughter of Samuel Lowe met Madison and her three brothers during the Lowe family reunion in December 2012 in China.

"I was surprised [when I first heard of Paula]," said Luo. "We always knew we had a relative who was half Chinese and half Jamaican in the family. But I was shocked to learn the family history. It was incredible."

Madison continues to keep in touch with her newly discovered family. She travels to China every six months to visit her uncle Chow Woo Lowe, who gave her a Chinese name - Xiao Na Luo. And with her cousins she created Ding Chow Enterprises, which exports Nappa Valley wine and Maine lobster to China.

"We're never going to be separated again," said Madison. "We are always in and out of each other lives."

For China Daily

 From Harlem to Guangdong

Paula Madison Williams (right) found her cousin Kim Yuet Lau (left) after a journey to find her ancestral history in Guangdong province. Provided to China Daily


(China Daily USA 08/01/2014 page2)