Season 1 : Foundations
Episode 1: Know Your Why: Identity & Tracing Your Roots
In this episode, follow three 20-something Americans, who are descendants of enslaved people, as we discuss what shaped our racial identities and motivated us to explore our family history. Learn more about our stories below.
"By the time I was an adult it was just too late to ask the questions I was curious about...[So] finding a place to start [researching] has been the hardest because there is so much history."
Sharee Meredith grew up knowing that her skin color garnered different treatment - both because of her race and her fair complexion.
Fortunately, she knew the history on her dad's side of the family and was secured in that knowledge. But, Sharee had less information about her mother's side. She knew that many of her family members were generally fair-skinned, but a family secret revealed information about her ancestry that raised more questions than answers. She is now on a mission to research, uncover, and archive her family history in the hopes that it will never be lost again.
"One of the questions I get a lot is 'what are you' and when someone asks this question what they mean is what race are you."
Chris Baskett is one of the guests on this week's episode. He shares his motivation for looking into his family history, which stems from the conflict between the way his parents raised him (as a proud black boy) and how the world saw him when he grew up (not quite black enough).
From his years of reflecting on the inconsistencies of race and the burden it places on us all, Chris determined to find out the answer to the questions that seem to plague so many around him: what is he? Where does he come from geographically? What mixture of races exist in his family line? With a genealogical DNA test, Chris hopes to find out all that science can tell him about who he is.
And me, your host Cha!
Growing up, I was always identifiably black – mocha skin with dark hair and eyes - it is clear that I have African ancestry (pictured here with natural hair color). But still, I am consistently asked what I am “mixed with” by white, black and all ethnicity of people. So, I want to know the geographic breakdown of my ancestors – so far as science is accurately able to tell me.
I also love stories and storytelling. Nothing excited me more as a child than looking through old pictures and hearing about the stories behind them, “this is when we met, when we fell in love, when we fought, before she died...” And nothing would make me happier than collecting the stories of my ancestors. Like most Black Americans, I can only trace my family a few generations back. But now, I want to learn all of the stories I can, while I can.
We each have different motivations for looking into our past, and we don't know what we will find. But we know it will be worth it! Join us, this season as we trace our American Origin Stories.
Some of the background music from this episode (and others) comes from the artist, Solomuse. Listen here for more!