How My African Descendant Lineage Came to Light as a White Girl

How My African Descendant Lineage Came to Light as a White Girl

 My Great Grandfather and his grandchildren

My Great Grandfather and his grandchildren

I knew something all along. We are all unique, every one of us. You and I are special and one-of-a-kind. Despite the entirety of human life that will grace planet earth, we will return and decay gracefully one day. Our prior existence will regenerate to new life no matter what we believe, each of our existences on a cellular level is truly divine. It is important for me to express the realization of my African Descendant heritage. Sometimes I use the term African American with confidence as my family over the years, despite coming to the America's against their will, have made a life for themselves where they wound up. Yes, my Great Grandmother's lineage was from Africa and I may never know where on the African continent exactly. With as much excitement and honor, we have discovered through this paternal lineage that we are part Native American as well. I speak highly as if I've known these family members all along, yet I have only been informed of these deep discoveries in the last few weeks and with many years of living with partial answers. There is still more being revealed. I will continuously update my writings here as the details of my family's bloodline come to light. For any of my family members who are reading this, if any of the photo details or information I am writing of is inaccurate please let me know. With all my love.

My great grandmother, who was black, married a Native American man, my great grandfather. Although I never knew them, the love that my great grandparents found with one another, I believe, was in the hopes of a better future for their children, grandchildren, and great grand children - including my brother and myself. A profound union of a man whose people were raped of their land and traditions exploited to this day and a woman whose people were captured and controlled like animals, brutally forced into slavery. I believe that my great grandparents found their way of salvation and held deep respect for each others' ancestral traumas whether this was verbalized or not.

 My brother and myself, early 90s

My brother and myself, early 90s

I recognized my brother's and my uniqueness at a young age. We grew up in a military family. Most military housing looked exactly the same. Military bases are set off from the rest of the city or county in which they are located. Of course we attended the same public schools as our friends who lived in the suburbs. My brother was my best friend as we grew up and we still are very much alike to this day. 

My father served in the US Navy from 1976 to 1996. When I was born, he was stationed in Japan. We didn't formally meet until I was three months old. I do have faint memories as a young child and memories of sensations from infancy that I cannot put into words or form clear images from. However, I always remember looking up and off into the afternoon light from the living room, maybe five years old, wondering when my father was arriving home from sea. That concept of a foreign place, so far away, so mysterious, has formed much of my curiosities, creativity, and independence. I believe the inspiration my father has inspired in me, whether he knows or not, has been a big part of my journey. I have been bold enough as a young woman to travel alone throughout Europe and parts of Egypt in my twenties as well as marrying my husband who is Australian with a Serbian background. 

 My father while stationed overseas in Portugal, mid 80s

My father while stationed overseas in Portugal, mid 80s

My father was truly mysterious to me as a child. At times, when he returned home from being stationed overseas for six whole months, my mother would drive my brother and I to the navy base docks the day my father was scheduled to arrive home. We watched as his ship and crew slowly sailed into port from the ocean's horizon. All of the sailors were dressed in their white uniforms standing proudly on deck. Each in unison with a hand raised above an eyebrow in salute. There was no telling them apart from the distance. As the ship slowly came closer into view, we enjoyed the challenge of trying to pick out which sailor was Dad. I was pretty confident at the task and although I was wrong a few times, it didn't take long to spot him. 

My father has dark skin, it was even darker when I was younger. When I say dark, I mean he always looked deeply tanned and his skin is oily. He has a slender, lean build, a larger nose and distinct features. His hair is thick and tightly curled, also oily. Over the years variations of estrangement and connections have changed the dynamics of my family. Unfortunately, my relatives do not all get along and some family members keep to themselves more than others due to pain and unresolved traumas.

 My great grand father, grandfather, his sister, newphews and sibling.

My great grand father, grandfather, his sister, newphews and sibling.

I was told rumors when I was young that my Grandfather was friends with Sammy Davis Jr. It didn't mean much at the time since I was not familiar with who the man was. Despite who my family chose to keep company with, it was also notable that my father experienced forms of racism from classmates on the school bus as a little boy. He was not fair skinned although his skin was lighter than black children around him. He was not light skinned enough, which put him in the category of separate. This disconnect and the unavailability of his own family led him to leave Boston, Massachusetts and enlist in the U.S. Navy in the mid 70's. Seven years later, he would meet my mother and the following year my brother was born. 

 my paternal Great Great Grandmother

my paternal Great Great Grandmother

What does this all mean and why is it important? Why is it important to share? Knowing one's family, one's roots and bloodline is an honor. In the realization of my work as an artist and herbalist, I believe my true connection to mother earth and love for her is within my family's history and DNA. Since discovering part of my lineage as African Descendant and Native American, although growing up "white", there are intricacies that make sense now to my brother and I. Certain physical features we have, our passions, and certain callings. Lest I not forget my mother's bloodline is of European descent. In some ways I view my brother's and my existence an example of the healing our culture so deeply needs. We both work in fields of humanitarianism and healing. He, a social worker and counselor - myself, a writer and herbalist. If only racist individuals were to discover that they have mix bloodlines of indigenous, latin, or african descent. Sadly, I've heard of these stories before and those individuals find any reason to deny it.

When I speak with loved ones of my family's discovery, some tell me that they can see I have african blood in me. I never noticed so much until now. I'm sure I will be looking in the mirror for a time to come loving these new discoveries about myself. Other friends who are identifiably black and have lived their whole lives as such, assure me that it is okay to use the terminology of "black" and that the term "african american" is less connected; a much colder, politically incorrect sentiment. I never felt comfortable growing up using the term black, as I never believed a color defined a person. I now feel more comfortable as this word can come with a source of pride and love. Most importantly, although I now know I am of mixed race, I grew up a white girl with white privileges and never lived the prejudices that my father and his family endured. My brother and myself were always lucky to be connected, having friends of all races and backgrounds. We never understood how one human could hate another because of skin color or where they came from. It was never a consideration. I can't speak for my family members, but inherently and deeply rooted, I now know why I've always felt this way. 

 

 My Great Aunt Ruby and my Grandfather Alfred Sr.

My Great Aunt Ruby and my Grandfather Alfred Sr.

I want to thank my Aunt Julianne for being the light that keeps my family connected. I'd also like to thank my Uncle Domenic, and Aunt Amanda for coming into my life and being so passionate about our family's history and sticking together. Lastly, I'd like to thank my Great Aunt Ruby, my grandfather's sister, whom I never had the chance to meet. She left this world in December before the new year and is the reason that parts of my paternal family have reunited and our bloodline finally answered.

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Interview with Mila Todorova - SoulSea Botanicals

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