A few years ago I completed my Ancestry DNA as I was curious as to my genetic make-up. For years I was told that we had "Cherokee" in our blood, which was the reason why I was born with so-called "good hair." This claim, however appealing to hear was difficult to confirm. After asking several relatives who was whom and the year of their birth, the details of something other than African American ancestry running through my veins was almost impossible to substantiate. I wanted to see a glimpse into my past as I thought this would provide subtle hints into my future.
I sent off my DNA and waited the obligatory six weeks, only to learn that the Cherokee was nowhere to be found in my genetic make-up. In fact, Indigenous Americans made up a whopping 2% which could not possibly explain the ease I experienced with combing my hair as a black woman. Instead, I learned that 38% of me is Nigerian, 26% is Cameroon, Congo, and the Southern Bantu Peoples, I am 14% English, Wales & Northwestern Europe, and 6% Germanic Europe. This does not equal 100%, but if you have ever done your ancestry, the percentages start to get ridiculous and difficult to follow so I will just stop there. I plugged the data into my Ancestry.com family tree, and still ended up with gaps that failed to explain my past, as I am a firm believer in Sankofa--using my past as a guide to plan my future.
I have no clue of who my ancestors are beyond those that I was able to find in United States Census records dating back to 1880. My paternal ancestors were sharecroppers that did not know how to read or write. They worked the land, married, had children, and most likely dreamed of a better future for their loved ones. They were most certainly descendants of slaves themselves, but who they were, is a mystery waiting to be solved. Because I could not find anything concrete, it drew me closer to the study of African Americans in the United States, particularly in the South. I found connection with them through others' stories of survival, and I adorned my body with African symbols as a means to find a spiritual, emotional, and physical connection to those I have never met.
I frequently sit at lunch tables with executives, recounting their ancestors, and none of their stories are as traumatic as slavery. Most of their ancestors made a choice to immigrate to the United States for the promise of the American Dream, freedom, and a better life for generations to come. Just this morning, I was enjoying breakfast with a colleague and she recounted her experience immigrating to this country with her husband, and it was their choice. They wanted a better future, albeit in a different time than the days of chattel slavery. As I listened to her tell her personal story, I thought about the millions of Africans forcibly removed from their native land, and my ancestors was among them.
While applying for presidencies, I had my heart set on getting closer to Georgia. I applied for a large school not too far from my home town, interviewed, and made it as a semi-finalist. I came home feeling like a winner and that I had a real opportunity to make MY dreams a reality. Unfortunately, that never happened. The search consultant called a few days later informing me that I had done well, but it was not enough.
I was mad at God. He knew my goal was to get closer to my mother, closer to my history, and closer to my ancestors. After all, I had planned to get a presidency in the South, and to continue my quest for the truth. Why would God "block" this incredible opportunity when I felt as though I had done my due diligence and there was no reason why I should have lost that college.
If I knew then what I know now, God had a plan, that I did not see. At this very moment, I am sitting in a hotel room in George, South Africa. It is almost 4:00 in the morning and I am writing this entry. Our delegation arrived in South Africa a few days ago, and I am still pinching myself waiting to wake-up from this dream. I think about the plan that I had for me, completely ignoring the plan God has for my life. Seven months into my first college presidency, I am sitting in South Africa, the place of my ancestors working to make connections between two countries for the benefit of students here and at home as one of the millions of the long lost daughters of Africa.
Throughout this trip, I find myself going into a deep reflection, wondering what it would have been like if MY plan came to fruition. Would I have had this specific opportunity considering the relationship of my DNA to this part of the world? I cannot help but smile and realize that God knew exactly where he wanted me to be. Although I have spent much of my short adult life researching online databases, interviewing my relatives, and piecing together the story of my ancestors, God brought me back home to Africa to help others in their pursuit of an education.
Although I spent years digging up my ancestry from 1880 and beyond, God has brought me to where my story began. During this last week of Black History month, I pause to reflect on those that came before me and I thank God for directing my path.
"I am my ancestors' wildest dreams."