Black in America ~ Kujichagulia — Self–Determination
Obsidian Ebony Sioux Blackfoot Visions
My family ranges from pale white with blue eyes to Darkest Black. However I really had no idea of my Rainbow family until Aunts passed away and then when my father died in 1995. Then I was confronted with somebody who had white skin and blue eyes saying that they were my cousins. I always knew my Paternal Grandfather had been married twice but it was then that I realized his first wife must have been white. That was probably the real reason he left Petersburg, VA and moved to New York during the early 1900s…
As a child during the 1960s, I remember being called Tar Baby. I remember my mother who was light-skinned but who suffered under Jim Crow in Dayton, Ohio saying, “If You’re white you’re alright. If your Brown stick around. If you’re Black Get Back!” Every day on the playground of a Black school Black kids would taunt me. Tar Baby! African! Monkey! I came home crying every day. My Dad who was Dark-Skinned always told me, “The Blacker the Berry the Sweeter the Juice. If the berry’s too light it has no use.” That would give me comfort.
However it took decades before I was comfortable in my Black skin. But the pigeon holing by the Black Community, My Community was very evident in the 60s and 70s when I was coming of age. I don’t have what many Black people define as African features. Whatever that means. From a child even until now Black people, white people and other Peoples of Color will ask me if I’m part Native American. The answer to that question is Yes but if they looked closely at the African continent they’d find Black people with all manner of varied facial features. But nobody does. They just assume.
My Speech. My Dad taught me to speak what he called “The King’s English.” Slang was not allowed in our home. As a result Black people say I sound like I’m white or that I speak proper. Excuse me but aren’t we all supposed to speak English instead of Ebonics?! White people say I’m very articulate (unsaid ~ “for a Black person) It’s a No Win situation.
The kinky nappy hair did not help. I was called Brillo pad. There was the evil straightening comb with Dixie Peach and Ultra Sheen (hair grease). My Mom telling me to bend my head so she could get to my “Kitchen.” My hair was so thick, teeth broke out of combs my mother attempted on my Kinapps. Then came 1972 when my Dad decided that I was going to get an Afro. Watu Wasuri Use Afro Sheen. Then I was Beautiful. Angela Davis Black Panther Party Soul Train Beautiful. In the 80s I surrendered to Jheri Curl Juice. Since then I’ve been pig-tailed, relaxed, braided, loc’ed and now with my not so thick Menopausal hair I’ve returned home to my Afro. Not as Fierce. Somewhat wiry and thanks to L’Oreal always colored various shades of red.
The new stigma for me now, Ageism. Being a Black Woman over 50 who thanks to that once hated Dark Skin now is grateful because Black Don’t Crack!
My Maternal Ancestry Tree: The bond and bridge that enable me to crossover from America to Africa
Maternal Ancestry Journey
New King James Version (NKJV)
A Perpetual Covenant of Peace
1 “Sing, O barren,
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD. 2 “ Enlarge the place of your tent,
And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
Do not spare;
Lengthen your cords,
And strengthen your stakes. 3 For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
And your descendants will inherit the nations,
And make the desolate cities inhabited.
The eternal question, Who Am I? Many of us find the answer within our respective Family Trees. It was obvious to me that my ancestry began in Africa, but where in that great continent did my ancestors originate. But for me as an African American some of the branches were broken off and gone missing.
Thus began my quest to not only discover my maternal lineage but my genetic link to Mother Africa. Hidden within the larger search to trace my family history on my Mom’s side was the greater goal to honor my mother and complete myself as a branch of the family tree. DNA can now unlock the secrets and the past giving voice to generations of women, the collective matriarchy that ultimately formed me. Living in a society that often devalues, trivializes and cuts Black Women down, within my personal family history lay the opportunity to validate and reaffirm self.
Family Skeletons Revealed
Hattie Finney Banks was my grandmother. Hattie and Mattie Finney were twin sisters. Mattie Finney moved to Illinois and married a man named Harper. I always wondered what became of Mattie. My grandmother Hattie Banks never spoke of her twin sister Mattie. I always thought that was unusual but I did not ask any questions. Did not want to pry.
About two years ago my brother Stephen and I spent Thanksgiving with our New Jersey cousins. My Aunt told me a family story which might explain the split between the sisters and why they never again contacted each other.
My grandfather Hugh Banks, Hattie’s husband murdered Daniel R. Finney. So Hugh Banks killed his in-law, his wife’s close relative. Hugh Banks died in prison sometime around 1940. My Aunt went to the funeral. She does not know the reason why Hugh Banks murdered Daniel Finney. All this took place in the 1930s. After the funeral Hattie took my Mom, Mable, her sisters and moved to Dayton, Ohio. Hattie told everyone including my mother, her sisters and me that Hugh Banks had died in a coal mining accident.
I suppose she had to make up a false story and hide the truth because of embarrassment, shame or just wanting to forget. From what little my grandmother Hattie Banks told me Hugh Banks was a violent and abusive husband. I guess when she moved to Dayton to be with her brothers Clarence & Willie she just want to forget the past and start with a clean slate. I can’t prove it but somehow, some way this murder was probably behind Hattie and Mattie breakup.
Good Ancestor News: Found out this week that through my maternal line my ancestors were from Mozambique. I belong to the maternal haplogroup L3e2b1a.
I also probably have some Nigerian ancestors. My maternal genetic makeup is 85% Africa, 12% Europe and 3% Asia.
Our ancestry and genealogy are traced through mitochondrial DNA which is only passed down from mother to child. This is fascinating information. By the way the study affiliated with Dr. Henry Louis Gates is free and they are targeting African Americans. I’ve wanted to have my DNA traced for several years and when I saw the ad in Ebony or was it Essence along with the word Free, I immediately signed up. I was so thrilled to find out this news. Now along with my African co-workers feel a more direct connection to the Motherland.
Naturally, I’ll never be connected to Mother Africa the way in which my co-workers from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Mali are since they were born there and have a direction connection with the culture, language and respective tribes, I feel now more of a blood tie. Now I can plan for my pilgrimage to this country of my ancestors in the next five to ten years.
I’ve shared my findings with a select group of like-minded co-workers and when I return to work on Sunday will continue to do so.
As I previously stated, Hattie Finney Banks was my maternal grandmother. I’m in the process of writing a book honoring my mother, Mable Elizabeth Palmer, Hattie’s eldest daughter. Right now I’m trying to locate the birth certificate of either Hattie or her twin sister Mattie Finney. I want and need to know who their mother, my great grandmother was. I need that piece of information for not only my research but for my literary work. I know plenty about my Dad’s family history but almost nothing about my Mom’s side. Also there is something in me which needs completion.
When I look in the mirror I see Mable Elizabeth Palmer. I see unknown people from my collective past begging me to tell their story. I must answer their cries to be heard. Before I travel to Mozambique, South Africa I’ll have to visit West Virginia and examine birth, death, prison and military/Armed Forces records that may be available.
Then in 2012 back to Ancestry.com for more research on my maternal family tree. My maternal ancestors from Mother Africa call me and I willingly answer the call. Our patriarchal society bows down to the greater stronger Matriarchy for only females carry the mitochondrial DNA that enable all of us to trace our roots and find our origins. The Journey continues!!
National Geographic also offers a similar test but it costs $99.95. That will have to wait until I receive my Federal income tax check next year. I want to see if genetic lineage test comes up with the same result as 23andme. I would think that for $100 the testing would be more wide-ranging and comprehensive. My goal is to find out more about my maternal lineage. My ultimate goal is to deepen my connection to my mother, grandmother and of course Mother Africa.