For years, people have asked me in a variety of tactless ways: “What exactly are you?” And the only thing I knew to say was my family is from Louisiana and my dad is biracial.
Back in January, though, I took an at-home DNA test to get an idea of how my ancestors got here.
I’ve had an intense love affair with Ghana since maybe my late 20s, and I wanted to officially understand why. From the music and the culture, to its history and its people, I somehow felt a connection to this west African country I had only read about in travel books and magazines.
So I ordered my test kit through AncestryDNA, one of the many DNA companies on the market.
Once I received it, I put an obscene amount of saliva in a tube and shipped it back the same day. About six weeks later, I discovered my genetic makeup.
The Discovery Zone
I found out my people were mainly brought to the U.S. from Cameroon, which is at the western and central junction of Africa (and east of Ghana.)
I also have percentages of Malian and Nigerian blood. As you can see, there are minuscule percentages of Benin, Togo, and Senegal (and more), but it now gives me a better understanding of my family‘s history.
Though I am proud that I am a mixture of many cultures, it’s also a bittersweet discovery of how my ancestors got from the coastal shores of Cameroon to the deep south of Louisiana.
As a student of life, I decided to use this information to learn more about the main countries that pour through my genes: Cameroon, Mali and Nigeria.
The Republic of Cameroon 🇨🇲
According to Britannica, because of its more than 200 different ethnic groups, Cameroon has been described as an “ethnic crossroads.”
The three main linguistic groups include the Bantu-speaking peoples of the south (where my ancestors came from), the Sudanic-speaking peoples of the north, and those who speak the Semi-Bantu languages, situated mainly in the west. The official language is French and English.
Get this: Bantu languages consist of some 500 dialects! It’s spoken across Africa from southern Cameroon eastward to Kenya to the southernmost tip of the country.
That being said, I want to complete an official African Ancestry DNA test, which by the way, is a black-owned and Black-operated company, to determine the specific African tribe and ethic group I am apart of.
The Republic of Mali 🇲🇱
Also situated in the west, Mali, a landlocked country, is one of the largest in Africa. The area that is now Mali was once part of the three great precolonial empires: Ghana, Mali and Songhai.
It’s interesting to note that “the notion of ethnicity is fluid in Mali.” Some who marry outside their ethnic group speak languages different from those of their ancestors, but they don’t change their cultural affiliation, as stated by Britannica.
In other cases, however, identity does change, especially as people moved to adopt Bambara, the most widely spoken African language in Mali.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria 🇳🇬
Located on the Gulf of Guinea, west of Cameroon, Nigeria is also host to hundreds of languages, including Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Edo, and English. There’s an estimated 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Fact: Nigeria is not only large in area—larger than the state of Texas—but it’s also Africa’s most populous country.
Bottomline: Though the percentages of my ethnic background are large estimates, I am thoroughly satisfied in knowing my DNA is all kinds of Blackness.