Finding our roots in Africa
Yesterday I finished watching the second half of the PBS special, African American Lives, hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. I highly recommend you find a way to see this series either by catching a re-run or actually buying the series. In the special, Gates utilized DNA analysis and history to pinpoint which countries in Africa (or outside of Africa) with a high degree of statistical reliablity. I was simply amazed at the prospects this new technology may hold for Black folks all over the Diaspora.
Growing up, I always had a longing to know which country in Africa I was from but after awhile I gave up that dream and instead chose to keep abreast of African culture and history. I have taken classes on Africa, done extensive research on my own, and regularly keep up with current events across the continent. But it wasn’t enough. I felt like I was looking for a specific needle in a pile of needles.
And it wasn’t until the PBS special that my childhood desire ignited in a fury of questions and imagination. I might be able to find out which country I was from. Just writing the aforementioned sentence sends tingles down my back. And as I reflected on the possibilities of telling my children stories of their ancestors during and before slavery, I was reminded of how disconnected Africans and Black people in America are. But if we could learn to respect and honor each other like the brothers and sisters we are, then the problems we face might not seem so daunting.
So I have a series of questions I would like to throw out there just to get a sense of the effects of a widespread program to help Black people in America trace their ancestry.
1) If you could, would you like to able to learn about your ancestry going back to and before slavery? And if so, what do you think are the possible benefits or drawbacks?
2) Is it important for you to have a working knowledge of current events in Africa or its history? And if so, what books/articles/internet sources have been particularly useful?
3) Have you ever heard family members or friends say disparaging comments about African people? How did you respond?
4) Do you view Africans with the same kinship that you show towards Blacks in America?
5) How far can you trace your lineage?
6) Do you think there could ever be true unity/appreciation between Blacks in America and Africa?
7) If you could trace your family tree back to slavery, what questions would you like the answers to the most? Please be forthcoming with your comments about this topic.
Stay up fam, Brandon.