During my formative years I was surrounded by many adults who were proud of their African roots although they knew very little factual information about where on the continent they were from, or who their people were. My paternal grandmother, Edith, always boasted of her Guinean roots.
In Jamaica we learned that the vast majority of Jamaicans have ancestral connections to Ghana, and that the Jamaican language has many words and syntax in keeping with the Twi language of the Akan people from that region, including why we omit “h” or insert them in front of some vowels. But there are also dances and religious traditions in Jamaica that have Congo roots that can be traced to the Kongo or Bantu people, and the Yoruba people of Nigeria, and many more strains from other African nations –I don’t use tribe as it is a racist and erroneous term that we have come to accept and use to refer to ourselves.
I was taught about Marcus Garvey and his back to Africa movement, the Rastafarians who were marginalized then, and are still somewhat, always sang praise to Africa, mainly Ethiopia as a result of Haile Selassie and his lineage to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, and my uncle Lloyd, in particular, spoke of Egypt and the pyramids, and the valley of the Kings and Queen which was Black Africa, despite seeing the movie with Elizabeth Taylor who played the bi-racial Cleopatra.
As a teen my older brother Stratton and his friends taught me about Kwame Nkrumah that led Ghana to independence, 1957, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and the Mua Mau rebellion against the British, and Patrice Lamumba, Congolese independence leader and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and the then imprisoned Nelson Mandela and his formidable then wife, Winnie Mandela. They were all my heroes.
With my nutmeg colored skin, thick, tightly curled hair that was as stubborn and I was, and my generous lips I knew and loved that I was African. My mother and father were African Jamaicans and proud. As a little girl of ten I remember being on the front lawn painting with my Uncle Lloyd and we talked and fantasized about going to Egypt one day to see the pyramids, and to stroll around the Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana.
Before Alex Haley’s Roots,1977, I celebrated my African heritage, although I did not get to the continent until 1987. I have been fortunate to visit all of the countries of my above heroes, except the Congo, and I was able to share and experience Egypt with my three children and mother and lived for 4 months in Cairo and went snorkeling in the Red Sea. But only very recently when I decided enough delay, and had my DNA done that I learned that my roots are:
- Ivory Coast/Ghana15%
I’ve been to all of the above countries except Cameroon, which borders Nigeria, nor the Democratic Republic of the Congo so those countries will be my next visit. What I do know is that I am African and whenever and wherever I have visited in that continent, people have embraced me and say I am one of them, their relatives, and I have always felt at home in the various countries among the varied people.
The cruel history of the Atlantic Slavery trade might have robbed me of close connection to my direct ancestral lineage, but it has not been able to keep Africa from or out of me. I am Africa. I am African.