Raising a multiracial child leads me to often think about my daughter's identity. I really want her to have a sense of pride in who she is, especially her Black heritage. My mother taught me a lot about Black culture. I grew up very confident and secure about my racial identity, even when I was the only or one of the only Black males in my independent school classes.
Thinking about my daughter's heritage inevitably led to thinking about my heritage. I remember doing a project in middle school that remains to this day on of the more painful experiences I had in school. We were tasked with creating a paper about a family of immigrants who arrived in America through Ellis Island. While doing this project, I realized that, unlike nearly all of my classmates, I did not have a clear sense of the history of my family. Slavery and the absence of my father challenged me in ways most of my classmates and teachers might not have considered. I struggled with this assignment because it made me feel as if I wasn't on the same playing field as my peers. Thankfully, I did know some aspects of my heritage.
For most of my life, I was only able to learn about my mother's side of the family, because my father was not a part of my life. Years of hearing stories from my maternal grandmother about her parents, I was led to believe that I had Seminole blood running through my veins. My grandmother's father was a full blooded member of that tribe. Her name, Ceola, is a tribute to the great Seminole warrior, Osceola. So, I spent much of my life believing I was Black and Seminole.
Then, my father reached out to me four years ago. About a month prior to receiving a letter from my estranged father, I declared to my wife that I was no longer interested in any level of reconciliation with him. After the birth of my daughter and the feelings that were born within me the first time I held my daughter, there was no way I could ever leave her. No way I would not be a part of her life. It's funny how things play out sometimes.
With this building of a relationship with my father, I felt that it was important to learn about his side of the family. I especially wanted to know about the medical history since I could not fully answer my wife's doctor's questions during Jenelle's pregnancy. During one of the first phone conversations I had with my father in what felt like a lifetime, he dropped an interesting piece of information on me. I had Cuban blood. One of his parents was from Cuba. Boom goes the dynamite! Sweet sassy molassey! The identity I had spent my life embracing was not entirely accurate. I had Latin blood in the mix. That also meant my daughter did.
I decided that I wanted to know more about my DNA. So, I signed up with Ancestry.com and sent in my saliva for analysis. I recently received the results. Let's just say I'm not exactly who I thought I was.
I am definitely still Black. 76% Black to be specific. I think it was Dr. Rasheed Wallace who said, "DNA Don't Lie." Here are some of the breakdown highlights.
31% - Ivory Coast/Ghana
12% - Cameroon/Congo
10% - Benin/Togo
8% - Nigeria
2% - Senegal
If your knowledge of African continental cartography is poor, most of these locations are on the western coast of the continent. This makes one thing quite obviously. I clearly have ancestors who were slaves. This is not at all a surprise given that my mother's side of the family is southern. Still, it is powerful to have this officially confirmed. Knowing that members of my distant family were enslaved is depressing. I will talk with my daughter at length about our family's connection to slavery.
The other 22% is where things became interesting. As I mentioned, I expected to have some Native American blood. I do. Less than 1% though. Honestly, I was disappointed to hear this, primarily because my grandmother was mistaken. Unfortunately I can't share this truth with her, as she passed away four years ago. What I did find is that my father was most likely right about the Cuban blood. 8% of my heritage is from the Iberian Peninsula, which is close to Spain and Portugal. Since folks from that region eventually settled in Cuba, it looks like the Latin part of my heritage is intact. It was also revealed that 10% of my ethnicity is Irish. We always thought that due to my very British last name that I had some British ancestry, but only < 1%. I would love to learn more about my Irish heritage and find just where that came from, but it would not be surprising if it was somehow connected to slavery.
Well, that's me. Or least how I am made up ethnically. Thanks to Ancestry.com for their quick turnaround. Most importantly, I look forward to continuing to see my daughter develop her identity and aiding her in the process.