Happy Black History Month 2018! This year I have rejected the national theme of the observance period and have made this month all about ME. Me? Yes, I started by purchasing the DNA kit offered through Ancestry.com, built out our family trees going back to and through slavery. We are now learning of the many family stories (both true and untrue) that define who we are. We waited for a couple of months for our DNA report to come back to tell us what areas of the world our DNA reflects. On the surface, a person would say Africa – but that is too broad and doesn’t really tell the story.
Black History Month has been great to learn my family has a wonderful lineage of preachers who have proclaimed the gospel through America’s slavery to include slavery owner lineage of faith leaders in Great Britain and Wales. It was also powerful to see Confederate documents with Herring slave owners and political leaders of North Carolina who did all they could to keep Black people enslaved. The negative aspects of Ancestry.com is there is no way to classify a slave owner as such as a relationship. Just because a slave owner had sex with an African slave and created a baby, doesn’t qualify him as being a true father. I’m sure the term rapist is more appropriate. But to see Last Wills and Testaments of my Great Great Great Great Grand parents listed as a transfer of property after the death of the slave owner is emotional.
However, I did list some of the slave owners I could find in the family tree – and labelled them “Slave Owners” with the proof of the legal documents made some of their white descendants uncomfortable. Why did he label our great grandpa a slave owner?
On my wife’s side, it was great to see a man Coffee Jones, who was born into slavery in Alabama, and was on the first roles as one of the first Blacks to vote in an election after the slaves were freed.
In my family I heard of stories that we have Indian blood or Coharie or Cherokee Blood. This is probably not the politically correct term today. But it was equally satisfying to prove my indigenous Native American roots through great grandparents who were labelled “mulatto” in 1870 and 1900 Census Reports. The homework now is to understand the culture that does run in the veins. During the same time of the Civil War, Native Americans were being slaughtered and placed on isolated lands or reservations. Our histories overlap.
I was able to retrieve Freedman Bureau documents that signified the true Emancipation of my family. The title deeds of the 40 acres, that my family owns in North Carolina, and all of that is real. While looking at the Carroll deeds (my grandmother’s maiden name), I haven’t found the documentation for the mule that should have also come with the land.
Your past holds the secrets to many positive attributes of who you are. The various names that overlap is very powerful too. I discovered at least 6 names (or mother maiden names) that connect me to people who I was unaware. Again, Black History Month is for learning about our true history.
Next to finding old pictures of my family, I was equally excited to receive my DNA test to discover that I am at least 85% West African being made up of: 27% Cameroon, 25% Nigerian, 16% Ivory Coast/Ghana, 9% Senegal 6% Mali and YES through slavery received our slavery owners DNA of 8% Great Britain and 5% Wales.
Black History Month, while the shortest month of the year, should be a personal experience to uncover who you are. The saying that people without vision perish. The same is true about a people with no sense of history. When we become forgetful of our past, then the mistakes of the past will be repeated. I remind you and so many that we are not that far removed from slavery in America. Many of us should know we are in the second generation of college education. While some have worked hard to separate themselves from the horrible past, many of us embrace the past as a symbol of what has made us strong and resilient from being destroyed. While we are still trying to overcome, we are the best of what the past has brought us.
My encouragement for you is to take the journey of a lifetime and find out who you are. The people you celebrate don’t have to be celebrity, or the few Black people mentioned in your American history books. Learn about the people who share your name and have been the first to accomplish great things. Let me add your name is important. The Bible has the book of Chronicles - which is really the Census reporting of the beginning of time. If understanding your roots and your past is not meaningful, then it wouldn't have a placed within this great holy inspired book.
Please go to my signature website www.BlackHistoryMonth.TV and learn over the month of February and throughout the year. We have awesome videos so you can learn who you are! You can also reach me at Twitter.com/BlackAmerica.