African Americans have spent the last few months thinking again about their African roots, thanks to the Black Panther movie. And depending on how the Black Panther character features in the new Avengers movie, this Wakanda effect might become something else. As we pointed out in our previous Black Panther article, Chadwick Boseman who plays T’Challa, traces his own roots to Sierra Leone. Well before the Wakanda buzz, many African Americans have been looking into their roots to find out what part of Africa they really come from.
Thanks to DNA tests offered by platforms like AfricanAncestry.com and Ancestry.com, many celebrities have traced their roots to some conclusion. These sites claim that they can analyze your DNA to trace your ancestry to a specific country and ethnic group dating up to 500 years ago. Boseman trusts the veracity of one of the DNA sites over the others. During a February 14th interview with radio host, Charlamagne, the actor insists that Charlamagne has taken the wrong test. He insists that the one he took “can tell you the specific ethnic group you come from”.
If you ask me, the inquiry into one’s African roots is not complete until they visit their home country and then their village. Still, I see this renewed trend of tracing one’s roots as a positive thing for the individuals and for Africa. For one thing, we’ll have more ambassadors to prove that we are not shithole (no typo, I’m just trying my Hollywood African accent).
There are actually two ways by which an American can trace his ancestry: either through the DNA technology, or by piecing it together oneself through painstaking research. The latter obviously takes time and could end up being a life-long passion and quest. There are so many difficulties that a person might face in their investigation. For instance a lot of former slaves in the years after the Civil War, rejected their former ‘owners’’ names and created new surnames for themselves. They took on names of beloved clergy men etc.
If it’s technologically advanced Wakanda that’s inspiring these African Americans to look into their ancestry, then one might expect them to use the more hi-tech method of investigating their ancestry; DNA technology. And if we are to trust the integrity of these DNA researchers then they need to explain why so many of the celebrities who have come to them have been traced to Cameroon. So many famous people have been told by these sites that a percentage of their ancestry can be traced to one tribe or the other in Cameroon. From Oprah to Chris Rock, Condoleeza Rice, Common, CNN’s Don Lemon, Chris Tucker, Taraji P. Henson, Quincy Jones, Anthony Anderson… Everybody: Cameroon. How?
Without checking what volume of the trans Atlantic slave trade came from Cameroon, I want to see if that country has had a history of producing creative people. I mean, most of Africa’s confirmed celebrity exports seem to be of Nigerian or Ghanaian descent (Chiwetel, Idris, Agbaje). So I ask again jealously, why is it that the ancestry of so many celebrities is being traced to Cameroon?
When I am able to think past the jealousy, I realize that the Wakanda buzz has rekindled an interest among Americans in connecting to “the Motherland”. Since Africa is an emerging continent it seems timely, this new trend. And if Africa stays on the right track, perhaps we’ll have more Americans returning to their Wakandas like Killmonger.