I was thinking about genealogy over the Christmas holiday from school. My daughter got me thinking about it because she had just touched on the Irish famines and revolution in history before the break. She had remembered that we were related somehow to one of the signatories of The Proclamation of The Irish Republic. She had been proud to be able to tell the class about the historical context of the Irish revolution since much of what she knew was not in their textbook. This is always the case when my kids are learning about history in school, at least about anything Irish and anything black, Carribean, or African history. It is important to know how history impacts you personally, so I have done my best to provide them with their own historical context.
I must admit I was tickled to see how proud she was of her revolutionary heritage, even if it was only as close as a second cousin three times removed. I too am proud to claim that in my heritage because It makes me feel as if I have a birthright to that greatness.
All this got me thinking about the other side of their tree and how much of that side is missing and will never be traceable. It is not that her Carribean/African side is did nothing great, but simply that much of it is untraceable because of the systematic destruction of, dismantling of, disregard for, and deception about the many wonderful things black people have done throughout history. It’s something I have thought about a lot, even more so since having children. People may dismiss the desire, the need, to feel as if we belong to something great in history, but it is vitally important to have heroes who look like you. It makes dreams feel attainable.
When we stepped into an elevator, stopped at a stoplight, passed a hospital, I would tell them about the Otis, Morgan & Drew. When they needed to do research on and dress up as a notable American – I would take out my books on Great African American Inventors, Historical Figures, Activists, etc, and have them choose from them. Even if no one else knew who Miss Nina Mae Mckinney was, my daughter did and she was able to educate her classmates. So much of world and American history is wrapped up in the hidden figures of people of color who shaped the world – yet, if I were to believe my school history books, I would think only white people had done great things. It’s not that this is explicitly stated, but lies of omission are just as deceptive as blatant falsehoods.
So, to counterbalance this, I set about making sure my kids didn’t miss out on any of their own great heritage. “I know they just said Egypt and Africa but let’s look at the map – where is Egypt? That’s right, Africa.” “Why are the noses destroyed on the sphynx?” “Where does this happen in the bible?” “Who are the Ethiopians? Where is Cush? “Where is Moses’ wife from?” Heritage is important, lineage is important – why else would there be so many passages in the bible explaining who was related to who and how? Most of the bible takes place in Africa and the Middle East, it’s not even until the New Testament that you even hear about the Mediterranean Regions. Through these biblical genealogical references, God illustrates that knowing who and where you came from is vital to understanding Jesus’s humanity, the historical truth of the Bible, our common human heritage, and illustrating that He can do amazing things with ordinary people.
A family tree isn’t just the branches of the generations to come, but also the deep roots fortifying, enriching, nourishing, and enabling us to become who we are.