“For Africa, to me … is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.” – Maya Angelou
Genealogy tracing has become a popular investment for Americans. Particularly important to one demographic. African-Americans of all different backgrounds were deliberately separated from their ancestry by the slave trade and events that followed. Generations have lived their whole lives wanting to know who they were and where they came from, in regards to their African Ancestry. To take advantage of this genetic technology is to accomplish what many Africans-Americans have been trying to achieve for decades. The information gained can be utilized to make meaning and new connections that will be beneficial in how you see yourself in the world!
My African Ancestry results revealed that my ancestry is from Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Guinea – Bissau.
The reality for the majority of African Americans is that the roots of their ancestry are often a mystery. In many cases, family trees reach a dead end after about four or five generations. This roadblock serves as a reminder that African-Americans weren’t considered people until 1870. That was the first year that the U.S. census included African-Americans by name along with the rest of the population. Prior years, were the years of the Atlantic Slave Trade which lasted approximately from 1526 to 1867. During the period of slavery, slaves were forced into disconnecting from their African heritage and erasing Africa from their memory. Which in turn eliminated the sense of ethnic identity and affiliation. The knowledge of their African roots was ultimately lost throughout the generations. This lost information serves to preserve cultural connections beyond the United States and build pride and a sense of belonging.
Sierra Leone is located in West Africa on the Atlantic Coast, neighboring Guinea, and Liberia. The main language is Krio, which is an English-based Creole. The name of this country is derived from the story of the explorer Pedro de Sintra who encountered an intense thunderstorm and associated the area’s mountain terrain with the roar of a lion. The explorer named the area Sierra Leone which translates to “roaring mountains.” The Sierra Leone flag consists of a horizontally striped green, white, and blue flag. Green stands for agriculture and the mountains, white for unity and justice, and blue for the aspiration to contribute to world peace, especially the use of its unique natural harbor at the capital, Freetown. The culture features a diverse blend, and the people of Sierra Leone are well known for their friendliness and hospitality. The country has a rich heritage of storytelling, including folktales, legends, and fairytales. Storytellers in the country perpetually earn a living from their storytelling. Music and dance are of huge importance to Sierra Leoneans. One of the most outstanding features of the country’s cultural life is its dancing. The internationally known Sierra Leone National Dance Troupe first won widespread acclaim at the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair and continues to perform today.
Senegal is located in West Africa along the Atlantic Coast, bordering Mauritania, Mali, and Guinea. The primary language of this peaceful Sub-Saharan country is French. The Senegalese flag has green, yellow, and red vertical stripes with a central green star. Green represents hope and the country’s main religion Islam; yellow stands for the natural riches and wealth acquired through labor; and red represents the fight for independence, life, and socialism. Senegal is known as the “Land of Teraanga,” meaning hospitality; by participating in the spirit of generosity, regardless of nationality, religion, or class, the country can create a safe and inviting feeling. Senegal is home to numerous diverse ethnic groups whose individual culture contributes to the abundance of the Senegalese culture. Senegal has an age-old tradition of storytelling. The written literature of Senegal is regarded as among the most important in West Africa. Senegal’s music scene has become one of the most exciting in Africa due to local artists adding their spin on Hip-hop and soul. Senegal is home to Lac Retba (known as the Pink Lake). This West African gem is a product of the high salt concentrations, which sometimes causes the lake to take on a rose pink color.
Guinea-Bissau is located in West Africa on the Atlantic Ocean, bordered by Guinea and Senegal. The official language is Portuguese. However, the primary dialect is Portuguese-based Creole. In 1974 following independence, the capital Bissau was added to the country’s name to prevent confusion with Guinea. Guinea-Bissau’s flag is the traditional Pan-African colors, green, red, and yellow, with a black star. The green stands for the forest, the red symbolizes the fight and the bloodshed for independence, yellow represents the mineral wealth, and the black star represents African unity. The country is home to a vast network of islands off its shores. These islands, called the Bissagos/Bijagos Islands, are run by women. These women hold leadership positions in law, government, spirituality, and household affairs. Guinea-Bissau is one of the few places in Africa where you can still see traditional ancestral shrines. Called Bijago art, these African tribal art pieces created by the natives of the Bijagos Islands are totem-like wood-carved structures intended to connect the human and spirit worlds and vary from island to island. Every year in February, the different ethnic groups and people of Guinea-Bissau participate in a four-day festival to present their culture and traditions. The carnival combines the country’s traditional Portuguese culture with the joy and magic of living in Africa.
In all of us, there is a desire to know our heritage and where we have come from. This holds special significance for African-Americans for filling in the gaps in their family history. As genetic tracing becomes more widely used and advanced, more links to lost cultures and traditions will be provided to those of African descent. Enhance your present by reconnecting with your African ancestry.
Black History Month is a celebration of those who’ve impacted the country and the world. This month also serves as an opportunity to go beyond stories of racism and slavery; to spotlight black achievements and give recognition to people and organizations generating change. Especially those that have been largely forgotten or not included in the history of the United States.
A few ways to honor and participate in Black History Month:
- Support Black-Owned businesses
- Learn about notable black figures and their contribution
- Support and learn about black women
- Purchase, read, and share books written by black authors
The African-American story is one to celebrate!