A Missing Piece Restored....Part I
Ever since I was young, I've always had a fascination with geneology. I'd always wonder, "Who are these people we call great grandparents and what were they like? What stories would they have to tell us if they could?" Family trees were the most interesting things as the lines connecting faceless names to faceless names could go back a millenia if records were kept intact enough- like an ancient road map connecting the present to the past, and the future to the present.
And here is where the problem begins.
For most cultures, family roots on both sides can be traced back generations upon generations and connected to various other nations and national identities because these ties have been recorded, restored and held as sacred information. In many cultures, knowing where it is you come from is just as important as knowing where you're heading. For example, my boy PJ has stories of how his great-grandparents arrived in a boat from Ireland, or Michelle has stories of how her Swiss/German ancestor Melcher helped establish the colony of Pennsylvania with William Penn of all people, and Estif can talk freely of his Peruvian ancestory straight from the Incan empire or Jordan of his Jewish grandparents who settled in New York from Europe (you did say Forstot is Germanic in origin right?). However, for the great majority of African Americans, those vast stories of familial ties and history are sunken deep within the abyss of the Atlantic- lost by the ravages of tribal warfare, the inhumane trans-Atlantic Triangle Trade, the brutality of American enslavement and time.
Where we come from is a very central qustion that most of us have never been able to answer because any and all ties to African cultural identities were severed when captured tribespeople were boarded onto slaveships and sent west to far-off lands. As time passed, the varied individual African identities, languages, customs and traditions eroded (or was beaten) into one homogenized identity. The African had become the African American (or Jamaican, Brazilian, Cuban, Dominican, Panamanian.... you get the picture.) Despite the fact that there are hundreds if not THOUSANDS of ethnic groups in the African continent, Ibo, Berber, Fulani, Akan, Wolof, Zulu, Xhosa just to name a few....."African" was all there was for us to hold on to.
That is until now.....
WARNING: Almost all of you have heard me boldlyremark at one point or another about how much I despise modern technology....and now you all are the first to see me admit that I'm eating my words (DAMN!!!). Here it goes.
About a year ago, my Nana sent me an article written by Leonard Pitts, whose deep-witted thoughts, writings and editorials I admire and respect heavily. He had written a story about discovering his African heritage from the one element connecting him to Africa that was not destroyed by the slave trade, his DNA. He had submitted a cheek swab to a database that has catalogued genetic information from various ethnic groups presently in African nations today. By comparing this information with DNA from African Americans, matches can be made and genetic connections established thereby identifying certain ethnic groups that are present in some people and not in others. After reading this article I got excited and pledged to do the same and12 months and $500 later, I can proudly say my journey to discover my African heritage has not ended- it's just begun.