The Lab: The Roadmap

Happy Black History Month. Whenever I think back on the history of my people, I'm driven to wonder what's next. It's our responsibility to put inherited power to good use

The history of black people everywhere is rich, our ancestors were innovative people, artists, and experts at survival. As their descendants, we are the lucky ones to inherit their power and talent. I often think about my ancestors and imagine their lives before colonization. I love a good origin story, naturally, I'm most interested in my own. In an effort to become spiritually closer to my foremothers and forefathers, I shipped a tube of my spit to a lab so that an analyst could trace my lineage.

Researchers went back far enough to determine what percentage of my genetic makeup is Neanderthal. My DNA tests results say I'm mostly a descendant of people native to Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. I'm not surprised at my results but it feels good to name regions my ancestors might have called home. Scientists criticize genetic testing companies’ ability to reach precise results. Based on the limited samples of DNA available, they believe too much inference is needed to come to a conclusion. Perfectly logical observation but, I hold on tight to my ancestry report anyway. In my mind, the regions listed are stops on a complex roadmap that eventually to lead to me.


I often felt as if I idly wandered through life so those results help me to feel grounded. Directed, even. The most painful thing about being so far removed from my ancestral roots was having to explore Afro-American spirituality in solitude. I am one who loves alone time but I often wish for guidance as I unearth my spiritual identity. Since my entire family identified as Catholics, I was raised Catholic by default. I went to church most Sundays with my grandmother, who also spoke casually about witches, and her mother's psychic abilities and powerful oil mixtures. I grew up in a Catholic home sprinkled with folklore and superstitions, but we only tiptoed around the family's mythos and freely affirmed our Catholic status when necessary. Women in my family were aware of their spiritual power, but I think they feared it.

The mystical conversations I loved as a kid occurred less often as I got older.

Those conversations were traded in for subjects with less fuss, less stigma. The false narratives of Earth-based practices created by outsiders were too heavy to carry. At home, a slow spiritual shift happened in order to assimilate. But why should I be forced to erase the generational knowledge and traditions that have kept my people going for so long? Although there are closed religions I won't and can't force my way into, there are still other avenues to explore. Exploration is no easy task given the plethora of misguided information and watered down advice, but it's my birthright to reconnect to magic.

It's not a surprise that on my quest to reconnect, I became a womanist, I gravitate toward women who look just like me and are on similar journeys. A journey that involves the discovery of our black woman, spiritual identities and ancestral reverence. Along the way, I added Moya Blair's term “misogynoir” and Kimberle Crenshaw’s “intersectionality” to my word bank I unlearned the respectability politics I once believed in, and I now cringe at the internalized sexism that was drilled into me. I began to declutter my mind of the fuckery, an act of self-love that never stops. I now embrace the multiplicity of the black woman's identity and am grateful for the freedom to explore my own.

I feel less like a drifter when I hear black women, at all stages of life, talk about experiences I relate to. They speak about anything from the troubles of dating while black to pursuing career dreams, the conversations happen on and offline. I have access to voices that validate feelings I hid deep in the pit of my stomach. I am not living this life in solitude. I am one of many, connected to communities of black women by choice and in involuntary ways. Our shared history forcibly unifies us but there's no doubt that we thrive off each other.

I spit in a tube to make sense of my black history and to fill up the spiritual holes. Here and now, I am one point on a roadmap that will eventually lead to someone else. I am another beginning. A young lady who incorporates womanism and sisterhood into spiritual beliefs to create another generation of such history.