Guest Article on Your Background, Your Ancestry, Your Heritage
Where I'm coming from
Do you treasure your own background, your personal "ancestral context"? We can learn much from our living and dead ancestors and their cultures.
Here is an interesting report of an eye-opening experience, from a college student.
He greeted me with a warm smile and “How you doing, my sister?” I smiled back and said, “I’m fine, how are you?”
by Taryn Fears
He nodded with another smile and attempted to hand me a flyer. I already had one and we parted with a friendly exchange.
Now I’ve heard the “my sister” line countless times, but not like that.
This voice was genuine and even toned. It was sincere, and nothing like the blatantly fake, Malcolm X wanna-be, I’m deep, because I call black women, “my sister,” voice that some African-American men put on.
The genuine man’s name was Don, a member of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party.
He was so nice I decided to actually read the flyer before letting it go the way of all handbills on this campus. So I pulled the 8 by 5 card out of my pocket, unfolded it and read aloud, “African Liberation Day.”
What’s that all about? Don describes it as a weekend of awareness. “It’s a cultural experience,” he adds. “When Africans from all over come together to learn about their heritage.”
Celebrated in late May, African Liberation Day marks the formation of the First Conference of Independent African States.
Don and his party members, four of them in all, covered the campus Wednesday, handing out flyers, telling all Africans about the liberation of their ancestor’s homeland.
One of the messages they stress is that there is no difference between native Africans and those of African descent born in other countries.
“That’s our ancestry,” Don said. “Every race of people in this world has a place to call home. You don’t have to set foot in Africa, just acknowledge it as your own.”
I must admit that Africa is the very last place springing into my mind when someone asks where I’m from.
Chicago, Dolton or even the Hamilton-Whitten dormitory, but never Africa.
I, like most other African-Americans I know, just don’t think of Africa in those terms. But if we traced the roots of our family trees, there is no doubt our searches would end with an African tribe.
But for many African-Americans, the search usually stops at some plantation. My father and I spent months researching our genealogy. We got no further than the Fears plantation in Mississippi.
And that is a part of my heritage. I embrace it. I am not ashamed to have come from slaves, because their survival meant my existence.
But the fact remains that there is more to my heritage than the plantation and the sharecropper’s plow.
That’s the message Don and his friends try to spread for the AAPRP. ‘The more aware you are, the more adept you’ll be to accepting your own,” he said.
The AAPRP may be a political group, but its message is a universal one.
Once a people can learn about their own culture and become comfortable with it, they can stand to learn to accept the cultures of others. They can stand to learn the truth.
There are so many misconceptions and outlying prejudices that every culture harbors against others.
"White people are racist" and "black people are lazy." "Hispanic people are even lazier and have a fondness for switchblades." "Native Americans are alcoholics" and "Middle Eastern Americans are terrorists."
Every culture gets lumped into these categories and the only ones we don’t buy into are the myths about ourselves, personally.
But if people would take the time to learn about others in their culture and their ancestry and become comfortable with whom they are, they wouldn’t be so quick to judge others.
Because then we’ll understand just how wrong people can be.
Taryn Fears is a news reporter at the Daily Vidette, where this article originally appeared on April 18. You are seeing it here with Ms. Fears' permission.
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