I recently received the results of a DNA test from My Heritage and apparently, I have one of the most ethnically diverse profiles which includes 8 ethnicities:
3.6% Central Asian
1% Middle Eastern
Sierra Leonean: 22.2%
Ashkenazi Jewish: 1.2%
Central Asian: 3.6%
Middle Eastern: 1.0%
Given that I am African, European (which includes Ashkenazi Jewish), Asian and Middle Eastern, I am essentially mixed race, with multiple heritages that include African and Caucasian. However, visibly I am Black and despite my mixed heritage will always be seen such.
Although I have yet to trace my ancestry back to its roots which predominantly lie in Nigeria, my ancestors and present-day relatives of African descent, like me, continue to experience the legacies of slavery, colonialism and anti-Black racism and therefore my education practice, research and consultancy focused on race and gender equality remain of paramount importance.
It was during the period that I undertook my PhD that I started researching my family tree and traced ancestors in Jamaica on my maternal grandmother’s side back five generations with Francis and Eliza Harriott from St Elizabeth at the top of my tree.
I have always thought of myself as being African Caribbean. My mother was actually born in Cuba, where my maternal grandparents worked, met, fell in love and married, before returning to live in Jamaica.
I am now curious to ascertain how my African and predominantly Nigerian ancestors fit into the picture – and especially to learn which ethnic group in Nigeria I am from: Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa-Fulani…and to connect with my living relatives.
It is fascinating to know that I am Nigerian, Sierra Leonean, Kenyan and Somalian. When I visited Kenya in 2007 I felt at home…now I know why…I was home!
Another important piece of the DNA puzzle is where my European ancestry fits into my family history.
My focus on cultural democracy as a political and educational ideal makes perfect sense, given that I represent almost every major ethnic identity.
My mixed heritage shows just how misleading racial categories are – I will no longer be ticking the ‘African Caribbean’ box on application forms.
What my DNA proves is that I am predominantly and proudly Black and African…but I am also mixed race. I suspect that everyone is of mixed heritage, though most people probably have fewer ethnicities than me.
This means racial categories are deceptive and largely misleading, though racism and racial inequality based on visible features that have their origins in scientific racism are very real and must be challenged.
Despite my mixed heritage, my work around race equality remains as important as ever and I am determined to complete my family tree and locate my living relatives around the world.