For Americans of African descent, there is a different story. Many of us are only able to trace our lineage to the American south and only up until a certain point in time. Beyond this, many of us are unable to identify which part of Africa we come from. We are a part of the African Diaspora. We are people of African descent living outside of the continent of Africa. The Atlantic slave trade separated millions of Africans from the continent of Africa, and it is because of the slave trade that Africans live in large numbers outside of Africa. There are generations of Afro-Americans, Afro-Mexicans, Afro-Peruvians, Afro-Cubans, Afro-Europeans and many other Afro-ethnic identities living, working and building families outside of Africa. In every part of the globe, world citizens of African descent influence the societies we live in by incorporating the cultures of the Motherland. The definition of the African Diaspora has now expanded to include African people who have been displaced and migrated from Africa due to war, genocide and environmental needs.
I began to really understand the African Diaspora in college. I took courses on African and African American literature and I really analyzed Afro-American culture from past generations. At that time I entered into a journey of self-discovery and I am still on this incredible journey. I wanted to know where I came from, where I belong and how I can contribute to the world. I am a proud Afro-American citizen, but I knew my history went further and my heritage was deeper. So my quest for self-identity began.
I knew that my maternal grandparents and great-grandparents were from Georgia. My paternal grandparents were from Kentucky and my father grew up in Louisville. So I decided to search beyond the South and contacted AfricanAncestry.com to conduct a DNA test to determine my maternal ancestry.
In April 2012, I learned that I am West African. African Ancestry certified that I along with my maternal line share ancestry with the Fula people living in Guinea-Bissau, the Temne and Mende people living in Sierra Leone and the Kru people living in Liberia. To know from where I came through my maternal line has been a very powerful experience.
I plan to do a DNA test of my paternal line to find out more about my history and I am so excited with wonder to know more about where I come from. So far, I know that my paternal grandfather is part Scottish. I am really looking forward to knowing more.
So in all of my self-discovery I now feel a deeper connection to Africa and I feel a sense of belonging to the African Diaspora. This journey has helped me to discover my calling in life and strengthened my work as a human rights activist and advocate.
And you want to know the best part of knowing my maternal lineage? I had the honor and privilege of presenting a Certificate of Ancestry to my grandmother, Clara Alexander. I was very proud to tell her that we are West African. My grandmother was so excited and happy to learn of where her people are from. I can honestly say that the experience of telling my grandmother about our ancestry was a very proud life moment for me.
One day recently I pulled up a photo of President Sirleaf of Liberia and I noticed a striking resemblance to my grandmother. This discovery brought it all full circle for me. I saw my grandmother in the President of Liberia and I must say that I cannot wait to visit Liberia one day. I intend to visit Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone one day as well. I have been reading very closely about the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Guinea and I am so concerned about the well-being of the people there. I am sure many of us in the African Diaspora that share West African lineage are praying for an end to this pandemic. I pray that the global community responds to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa with diligence and compassion.
There are few things in life more precious than knowing where you come from. I am so happy to know in part how deeply I am connected to the African Diaspora. I feel a sense of belonging and I am inspired to connect with others in the Diaspora globally. I plan to continue on until I know as much information as I can about my family.
I love this journey so far.
I know there is so much more to come.
I look forward to the day that I can touch down in the countries of my ancestors' birth.