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.



2 responses to “Finding our roots in Africa”

  1. Y. says :

    I actually saw a little of that program Brandon, and found it very interesting. I do plan to see if I can catch it again. Your questions to ponder are interesting as well, because I will say that I find myself quilty of question number 3. However, in my defense, my disparaging comments are based on actual experiences,and behaviors that I have witnessed. So maybe that’s something I need to work on. I do think that this new technology is a definitely a step in the right direction for Blacks in America to see where they came from and Africans to see us embrace that knowledge which should prompt a new respect that we have for one another(something that I view as nonexistent).
    Good post.

  2. Kwabena Lumumba says :

    I saw the program and like most I found it interesting. At times Louis Gates got in the way of what could have been important dialogue, such as, what the guest plan to do with information found. Also, I’m always wary when we start breaking down the content of our DNA/blood. The Negro created in most of us make us want to identify with someone else other than Africans.

    1) I take delight in claiming the entire Continent. 2) It’s important to me because I plan to move to Africa (Ghana) within the next 10 years. I go to,,,, and 3) Yes I have! I have been able to counter their statements,and my travel to Africa sort of legitimizes my statements. More importantly, I balance my comments by not romanticizing about current African conditions and by forming a larger perspective for them to view Africa. 4) I like to think so, I even admit to being overly friendly because they are from Africa. 5) I can only go back to my Great-Grand parents. 6) Unity can be accomplished between us, but the basis for it most be mutually beneficial. For instance, Africans travel to America mainly for economic reasons and have little use for African Americans in the scheme of things. Many African Americans travel to Africa to reconnect spiritually and to fulfill a missing kinship in their lives. In both causes the orientation necessary to truly advance their kinship or unity doesn’t exist. They want America, we want Africa and building relationships among each other is seldom a thought. I’ll stop after this comment, how many of us have ever eaten a meal with an African visiting America? It’s common among us to “break bread” with someone before we are comfortable with them. How many of us have ever housed a student from Africa? How many Africans have been here 20 years and have not made one lasting friendship with an African Americans? 7) What allowed them to envision a future while in bondage?

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