Friday, April 24, 2015

How African Am I?

I always knew I was 100% African.  Always.  Every African I ever met knew it -- from the Nigerians I used to babysit for when I was a kid, to the Senegalese, Kenyan, Moroccan and Egyptian co-eds  I hung out with in college, to the South Africans I befriended when I came to the city, to the tailors from Ghana that made my wedding dress.  I have yet to meet any African that doesn't look at me in genuine astonishment as they recognize themselves or their mothers or sisters in me, and embrace me and all my African ways that never cease to amaze them and freak them all the way out. The food that I cook. The way that I dance. The gap in my teeth. My cheekbones. All of it.

Oh, some of them may want to exclude me because I'm American -- but my African face won't be denied.  And apparently, neither will the blood of my ancestors.  The blood, as Andre Crouch sang, will never lose its power. DNA doesn't lie.  And so it goes. 

As it turns out, according to AncestryDNA, I"m not 100% African. I'm 96% African. (Ha.)  And to think -- all those Five Percenters yelling at me in the street, calling me Nubia. They were right!  (Thanks, Brother-Men.)

Here's the breakdown:

Main Regions: "In order to be considered for this category, a region must have enough evidence that you actually have the region as part of your genetic ethnicity."

Cameroon/Congo =  29%
Senegal =  22%
Benin/Togo = 15%
Ivory Coast/Ghana = `14%
Nigeria =  5%

Trace Regions: "There is only a small amount of evidence supporting these regions as part of your genetic ethnicity. Because both the estimated amount and the range of the estimate are small, it is possible that these regions appear by chance and are not actually part of your genetic ethnicity."

Africa/Southeastern Bantu =  6%
Mali =  3%
Africa/South-Central Hunter-Gatherers = 1%
Africa North = 1%

Are you curious about that other 4%?  I'm not -- because it's so scant, they're probably showing up at random. (See Trace Regions.) 

I love all Africans everywhere -- from the Nigerians who squabble over which tribe I belong to ("Look at her! She's Igbo!") to the Haitians that assume at least one of my parents are from the West Indies (they are not); from the Parisians from the Ivory Coast and Senegal and Morocco and Egypt and the Sudan who call me "Soeur!" like that's my name to the stunning Cameroonian sisters who wave me down on 125th Street, friendly and out of breath and blurting French, asking for help, for directions probably, and genuinely flummoxed when I explain that I'm from America.  We hug each other and somehow I help them anyway.  And they leave me in the street, waving back at me, like we are family. Because we are.

I don't know what happened to us, as a people.  Well. We all know what happened, don't we.  Somewhere in the 80s, we became enthralled with a particular segment within a popular genre of music that was intrinsically divisive, glorified violence, denigrated black women with abandon and pandered to society's lowest common denominator to make a buck.  Eventually, that niche caught on with the white folks, became a garish caricature of itself in order to continue selling itself to the highest bidder and made a lot of white label executives a lot of money.

There. I said it.

When I was a kid, it was an ordinary every day thing that we called each other brother and sister -- and meant it.  Interestingly enough, it's a part of Chinese culture (many Asian and African cultures, actually) to address everyone this way. An older woman is aunt or mother, an older man is uncle or brother, someone your age is sister or brother or cousin. In this way, everyone is family and there is a unity inherent in the way you are spoken to that binds you to each other.   When we lost this simple unifying element, we lost each other.  And when we lost each other, we lost everything.

Well. At least now I know why my face has drawn all of the African diaspora to my heart. 

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