Before starting this journey with Ancestry and talking to my family about our roots more in depth, I did know a few things about my ethnicity and who I came from. The only information I lacked was the generations before my great-grandparents on both my maternal and paternal sides. Growing up I knew I was black, and being in America it made it obvious that my ancestors were slaves. I knew I had a smidge of Native American because of my maternal grandmother and her father. But after talking more with my family, asking specific questions, research, and getting my results for Ancestry DNA, I have learned much more detail about myself and my family. A lot of it confirmed what I already knew, and some of it raised a couple questions.
According to the Ancestry DNA results, 78% of my roots are from Africa. What I learned was that my ancestors were specifically from Togo (26%), Nigeria (23%), and the Congo (14%). I found this incredibly interesting because when deeply thought and talked about, it makes sense. Both Nigeria and the Congo were countries in Africa that were raided for slaves, but knowing where I specifically come from is an overwhelming yet calming feeling. My parents, nor grandparents on my mother’s side, knew exactly where my great-great-great ancestors originated from and it meant a lot to them to finally receive that information. Because I had a few cousins on my father’s side try Ancestry a few years ago, I had an inkling that some of my ancestors were from Nigeria, but gaining the rest of the information was like coming in full circle. Based on the map that Ancestry provided, when my ancestors arrived to the United States, they stayed and had family in the Deep South (of course), but mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi. How long ago this was is something I am unsure about, but I do remember my father telling me that my great-grandparents were from Louisiana, so I find that very reassuring that a lot of facts and stories being told in my family are being confirmed as true.
In my opinion, I don’t think knowing which specific African countries I come from will change me or my family’s religion, beliefs, values, or anything else. It will definitely answer a lot of curiosity, at least on my behalf. But because I am “black” and not African American, I still have a sort of detachment to that part of my heritage. My culture, my belief system, ethics, values, etc. are American. They are from the black culture. I don’t consider my hometown or my origin to change from Los Angeles, CA to Africa because I don’t know that culture or those countries’ values. The knowledge, however, is always accepted and extremely beneficial as a future journalist. I will be able to write about more topics and connect with more people because of it.
As I mentioned before, I already knew that my great-grandfather and grandmother on my mother’s side were Native American, specifically of the Blackfoot tribe. My mother’s parents met and married in Texarkana, Texas and moved to California before having children. One of many things that I didn’t know about this side of my family was where my great-grandparents came from. According to Ancestry, the Native American side of me (11%) specially comes from both Montana and Texas. The surprising thing was that it was that Montana was a much bigger dot on the DNA map. Montana was never mentioned by anyone in my family, but after researching I figured out when and why my great-grandparents moved from Montana to Texarkana, Texas. According to Native-languages.org, around the late 1900s and early 1920s, there was terrible weather in Montana (where majority of the Blackfoot lived and still live in the United States). Because of horrible rain and snowstorms many people in the tribe, including my great-grandparents, travelled elsewhere. My family chose Texarkana, the small town between Arkansas and Texas. The very country, rustic, and authentically the same town that I visit every 2 years. It is nice knowing how my family got there, and I’m sure my aunts and uncles would love to hear what I have learned next time I go.
Again, I don’t expect it to change much regarding beliefs and culture because I was raised as a black American. I don’t know the Blackfoot tongue, the foods, or the rest of the culture. But being affirmed that my family has a great knowledge of who we are is a great feeling.
I believe that what I’ve learned about myself, my family, and my ancestors will be extremely helpful and beneficial to my career as a journalist when it comes to covering diverse communities. I know that I am able to relate to more people not only because of my skin color, but because of my background and my culture. If someone is Nigerian I can say “hey, me too!” and break the ice. If someone identifies as black, we are immediately connected. The same goes for Native American, Togo, Congo, etc. I am able to relate to many more people now that I have this specific knowledge, which will allow me to cover many more sides of every story I write. It will also help me and force me to expand my knowledge of other cultures and try to relate to others in a different way. As a journalist I’d ask, “How can I get the most information? What would make them feel more comfortable?” I know that I cannot always depend on ethnicity, so I’d go to things that growing up in the United States has taught me. I can connect with music, food, a sense of humor, or a similar passion and determination. Depending on what exactly I am covering at the moment, these insights are extremely beneficial and I believe it’s something every journalist, reporter, and writer should experience.
The news media would learn a lot from doing this project. The main (and most) important thing being we all have more in common than we think. The 5% Irish that Ancestry says I have (something I actually question) is something a lot of people may have but are just unaware of it. In my opinion, this would make a lot of news organizations less bias knowing who and where they come from. It’s something everyone should do.