Say there’s a knock on the door, you open and there in front of you is Denzel Washington and he says, “Hi you are my family”, I don’t know about you but I sure would love it. Basically when you hear ‘blacks’ as a generic term, you automatically know what skin color to expect. They are people who fate and history made part and parcel of the western world. The transatlantic slave trade is the explanation for the traces of black people in white communities all over the world. As a matter of either necessity or curiosity, blacks till date still inquire about their origin.
Malcom X for one made”X”, his surname meaning that though he was “African American” he was not oblivious of the fact that his true roots lies back home in Africa. Since surnames have embedded in them a level of ancestral history, he replaced the unknown blank space with “X”. Likewise, many black Americans have this mentality, thus have set out to find the “X” of their roots.
Thanks to the DNA technology, the past futile ancestral search of some Africans in diaspora has been made much more feasible. Some high profile personalities have taken the course of publicizing and sharing the necessary information on this development. Personalities such as Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Columbian sociologist, Prof. Alondra Nelson who through the DNA testing traced his roots to the Bamileke people of Cameroon. In the same way, Prof. Henry’s show has revealed the African ancestry of Oprah Winfrey and comedian Chris Rock.
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“To the best that I could discern, it’s the first time that genetic ancestry testing is introduced in a civil case… It continues the long drumbeat for reparations in American society by generations of people”- Alondra Nelson
In fusion with this, Grey’s Anatomy’s Isaiah Washington proposes that this is a welcome development as it will boost African Philanthropy. This is because it is so crystal clear that Africans in the western communities are better positioned to make contributions that can develop the continent.
Isaiah through the DNA testing also found his maternal roots in Sierra Leone, thus currently enjoys dual citizenship, which President Ellen Sirleaf advocates in Liberia for its economic potentials. Isaiah proposes that re-uniting with the African roots can also help in the reverse of the brain drain which robs Africa of great minds and talents.
Apart from Melva Adams Kittrell and some other Hollywood personalities, about 1 million black people and counting have taken the DNA test. The issue of seeking one’s true identity is a clear case of the saying that you need to know where you are coming from to know where you are going. Believe it or not, genealogical history has a way of shaping the trajectory of one’s life. Perhaps why millions of blacks all over the world are making efforts to define their African-ness.