Friday, November 22, 2013

Family: Closer Than You Think

   I can’t speak for anyone else, but I view family as the most important establishment today. There is no unit of measure more important to our wealth, health and well being than family. You can’t choose them, but they wouldn’t be that special unit if you could. Where you come from is an important component to where you’re going, and how you’re getting there. Those that turn their back on their past, risk depriving themselves and their future generations access to the sources of the very codes that define who they are. See, family isn’t just those people that congregate in your home with what seems like the sole purpose of consumption (those would be locusts), but it’s also everyone that came before you, having a hand in your production…and everyone that will come after, produced by those same hands plus yours.

   I recently had a personal revelation that clearly demonstrated how incredible the human story can be. Like most everyone at some point, I asked the million dollar question: What am I? The experiences of childhood and social developmental paradigms beg that such a question be asked sooner or later. What makes us who we are? Where do we come from? What are our genetic origins? In my case, being brought up by a single mother, such a question spiraled off into who my family was…my entire family.

   So, the question is asked and the answer varies for all of us. Our parents tell us where we come from, what racial mix congregates within our DNA, and the adventure begins. I remember one day boarding the school bus and revealing that I was part Native American. To my surprise, everyone on the bus was Native American as well…and all shared the same tribe, Cherokee. I laugh now at the childhood memories, after all, it was the only tribe that anyone could remember from class, and sans any specific tribe mentioned in the telling from parent to child, Cherokee filled the void. In my case, my mother was very specific though…I was Cree.

   The interesting thing about the times we live in, is that science has come such a long way, that it has taken much of the mystery out of our personal history. So while we are told we are this or that, science can now confirm the telling. In my case, Portuguese and Irish went along with the Cree (and obviously my African origins). In taking a recent DNA swab, the possible countries in Africa were reduced to just Cameroon, and Germany popped up on the radar (which probably explains why I’ve bonded with my Audi). It should be noted in DNA testing that the larger the database, the better the results. So if you’re going to do it, use the company with the biggest database you can find.

   Leave it to the family genealogist (thanks Tiffany!) to add to the massive and ever expanding family tree that reveals the incredible story of my family, as followed through my father’s bloodline. My family tree is on Geni (highly recommended) and I check it often. Recently I saw the addition of a new name…Yorke. Always one to get to the heart of the matter, I went to the oldest male in the line and read the profile.The beauty of Geni is it maps out your relation to whatever profile you are looking at. As it were, Charles Yorke was born in Nova Scotia in the 1700’s, his wife in Ireland…and they are my fourth great-grandparents (say what?).

   Let that sink in.

   Two kids in Canada meet, fall in love and start a family. Now I don’t know what Canada was like in the 1800’s, but I’m sure it was distracting enough that those two kids never gave a single thought that six generations from their union, they would have a Black grandson living in America. It’s incredible and speaks volumes about how truly connected we can be.

   Who are your family? An easy enough question until you consider that all it takes is one person to marry outside their race, and their offspring to marry within the race of their spouse for a few generations, and you’ll have people of two different races, looking radically different from each other…yet related by the blood in their veins and DNA in their body. So, how expansive are our families…really?

   Consider also that for anyone practicing a policy of hate based on racial differences, could very well be doing so against someone whom they think is far removed from them, but is in actuality…closer than they think. It’s something to think about the next time you’re dealing with someone whom you consider impossible to be related to, because the true origins of who you are and where you come from could reveal that your family might be a lot closer than you think they are, especially when you’re among people you think are so very far removed from you.

   Fast forward and say hello to my great-great-great-great-great-grandson…a Chinese man living in Brazil.

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