400 Years and We Are Here

The deeply woven connections between us as human beings has always fascinated me. As we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first Africans being brought to the shores of Virginia, the state where I currently live, I am reflective. You see, when I had the chance to explore our deeply woven connectedness, through DNA research in November of 2005, I jumped at the opportunity.

It was early in this science of exploring below the skin. But it promised to bring new information about how connected we are as human beings. I waited impatiently for the results. I even sent out an email in October of that year, to confirm that they had received all the necessary data from me. 

When the results arrived I had an unanticipated mix of emotions. It was exciting, surprising, and a little mysterious. Exciting because science could now help some of us connect with our ancestral lineage for the first time. 

Surprising because of the statistical mix – in this very early test – revealed that my DNA vibrates 60% Sub-Saharan African, 20% European and nearly 20% Native American. 

The entire process mysteriously awakened deep philosophical questions like: Who am I, really? Who were these ancestors? How did they meet? How did they interact? How did their lives flow together to lead to the me that I am today? What does this mean?

The questions were so overwhelming, the only way I could begin to unravel them was through the artistic exploration that only the art of poetry allows. It led to this poem:

On this 1619-2019 Commemoration: First African Landing Weekend, I am deeply mindful of how surprising, exciting, mysterious, and difficult it is to face hidden historical facts coming to light for the first time. 

The 1619 project from the New York Times is also asking if we are courageous enough to really know our true history; and if we are patriotic enough to bring its original promise – e pluribus unum – into fruition. 

This is our nations great challenge in this moment: How will we reconcile our history and our present diversity to ensure that we will continue to be?

Moving forward will be hard work. The good news is humans do hard. With ancestors who have navigated 246 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow, and the many uneasy in-between years, my evidence is singular and strong: 400 years and we are here.

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