The diaspora must have been a shocking, life-altering experience for my African ancestors. They went from being surrounded by kin, familiar traditions and ways of life to becoming acquainted with the harshness of life in Europe and early North, Central and South America.
They went from human beings with families and traditions to objects whose humanity was stripped away, thanks to ‘color’ based slavery instituted in the 17th century.
Often, the story of African Americans starts when our ancestors were kidnapped and then it progresses through the three hundred or so years of slavery, the civil rights movement and beyond. But that isn’t where the story of African Americans began.
Our story begins more than 10,000 years ago, with the migrations of nomads, including Bantu-speaking peoples and hunter-gatherers. Less than 6,000 years ago, our story continues with the emergence of vast empires, great pyramids (not just in Egypt) and proud fortresses.
I wanted to include this because I’ve always been interested in African and African American history/culture. When I was a child, I used to imagine where my ancestors came from. In my mind, they were these faceless, empty entities. Whoever said that we are the past, or that we understand ourselves better once we know the past, was perceptive.
Although colonial history significantly hindered my ability to identify myself with my African ancestors (hence the term ‘Diaspora’), the internet and various historical archives make it so much easier for me to inform myself and others.
I decided that I’d do everything in my power to regain and preserve some understanding of my roots. And in order to do that, I need to understand both my African ancestors and their traditions, and my recent ancestors – the ones who lost their identity along the way. I want to tell all of their stories – the one story that connects us all. This might be a bit slow, but stick with me.