"I am my ancestors' wildest dreams..."
A few years ago, I seized an offer that landed in my inbox. The cost eludes my memory—perhaps it was half or maybe $20 off. It caught my attention through my beloved email marketing, leading me to order an at-home DNA kit. While my goal was to uncover more about my ancestry and I anticipated the outcome would read "SLAVE BABY" in black text on cheap white paper, I secretly wished for a different narrative. I longed to proclaim something distinct, perhaps somehow superior.
At the time, it seemed every East African I encountered wanted to claim me as their own. I even faced criticism for not speaking "my language." Perhaps I descended from some Ethiopian dynasty and that knowledge would somehow shift the trajectory of my life.
So, I gathered all the saliva I could muster, repeatedly spitting into a tube until I reached the line. I packaged it up, sent it in, and anxiously awaited the results. When they arrived, the truth unfolded—I was indeed a textbook "Slave Baby." My blood a mix tape of West African tribes and European colonists.
Initially, I felt disappointed. I wasn't special. I wasn't unique. However, during a work trip to Atlanta, chauffeured by a proud Nigerian transplant, I engaged in an enlightening conversation that offered a completely different perspective. People sharing my bloodline, centuries before my existence, endured being bought and sold, whipped, and degraded. Stolen and stolen from.
They gained freedom only to encounter new forms of slavery in Jim Crow and black codes, unjust policing, policies, and the consequences of inherited learned violent behavior. Lynchings, burnings, dragging, and the vicious utterance of "nigger" spewed from the oppressor's lips.
Yet, they fought. Persevering under the threat of savage beatings, through redlining and bombings, inequities in their work and communities. They persisted so that I could exist. Today I can read, write, create, and tell my story without being relegated to "black writer" and my books as "black" stories. Due to their sacrifices, in 2024, I get to be a human being #BeingCreative.
So on this MLK Day I vow to myself to return to my creative roots and share my passion for the written word in the form of fiction--sci fi, literary, mainstream, young adult, and so on.
Thank you, ancestors.
Thank you, Dr. King.