Friday, December 3, 2010

No Ibo Princess in My Lineage?

My sleep pattern is off. I sleep from 7am EST to 3PM EST and am up through the night. These days I pick up Making Ideas Happen. Today, I flipped through channels. I land on a channel with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. speaking. I pause. Info appears at the bottom of the screen: "Genealogy, Genetics and African American History; October 18, 2010." The talk was at UC San Diego.

For a moment I think about how I'd want to go to Princeton for Cornel West, Harvard for Henry Louis Gates, Brown for Tricia Rose, Harvard for Teresa Amabile, or Stanford for Philip Zimbardo. *sigh* Then I focus in. As a creator of Fastgirls Challenges, I have been designing a 40-Day Challenge for the end of 2011 that focuses on genealogy. And after seeing my family over the holidays and receiving our most up-to-date family tree documentation, I am amped about doing this work.

In his talk, Professor Gates said that there's so much mythology around our heritage, and he took on various projects over the years to demystify his own history and that of others. (Sidenote: The talk... That man is HILARIOUS!) He shared that after years of research, with many other scholars from all over the world, they discovered that from 1501-1866 nearly 12.5 million Africans were loaded on ships from the continent. Approximately 11.8 made it to the New World. Of that, under half a million actually came to the United States. WHOA! I knew there were many that went to the Caribbean and to Brazil; I had no idea that that's where MOST went. And 1/4 of all African-Americans can trace their lineage from under the horn of Africa: Gabon, Congo, Angola. I'd never heard that. I immediately revisited the results from The DNA test.

My father's first cousin, Flo, had a DNA test done by earlier this year. By tracing through her mother (mitochondrial), all of my grandfather's siblings on down would know where we come from. Maternal Haplogroup: L1c3b1 (See the opening image.) Sure enough... It would appear that though my people may have come from Ghana, Benin, or Senegal (where most people are familiar with slave ports), their ancestors are largely based around ports called Corisco, Gabon, or Cap Lopez. How'd I discover the names of the ports? - the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database - one of Prof. Gates' many projects. That site?... oooooweeeee! Amazing what the scholars were able to discover. Remember, it's a history of capitalism, and you know how we have to have a paper trail in this economic model! It includes names of ships, where they docked, how many Africans they reported were on board, and each ship's destination. Wild.

Sending gratitude for my vampire tendencies, for Professor Gates, for UC TV, for UC San Diego for having him, for, the many scholars and interns who worked on, and the millions who experiences the middle passage. How much money could I make today if I stole human resources and had use of that labor for an entire lifetime? May Africa recover from the most devastating robbery in human history.

Watch the talk! (I love technology.)