Rethinking Genealogy & Releasing Ancestral Shame with Walter English
Click here to read the episode transcript.
As I’ve been trying to reconnect to my ancestral roots, I’ve discovered an organization helping people like me do just that. They call this genealogy work “Reparations for Research” and believe it or not, it’s 100% free.
In this episode, Walter English and I talk about his experience learning the truth about his African-American ancestry and why I finally decided to get my DNA tested and learn about my own ancestry. We highlight a few different ways you can rethink genealogy so you can release the shame you might feel as a descendant of enslavers and/or enslaved Africans. We also discuss the pros and cons of using ancestry and DNA testing companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com.
Walter English is an artist and the Founder of Brister English Project whose goal is to show American descendants of slavery a history that is more than just slavery and dreams. They offer 20 hours of free genealogy work to Black people to help them discover their ancestors and their roots that have been hidden or overlooked for so long.
“To know where we come from is so big and I don’t think a lot of people understand it until it happens.” – Walter English
For a long time, I resisted testing my DNA, but there came a point where I needed to know the truth.
When I got my results, I found out I was 59% Nigerian and 26% European. I nearly lost my mind! I was pissed off because y’all know what it means for an African-American person to have European ancestry…
It can be scary to face something like this where we don’t know what we might uncover about our family history once we dive into it. However, it is part of our history, and there’s power in having that knowledge. Embracing all parts of our history is one huge step towards changing our future.
Walt started researching his family’s ancestry in 2011. He didn’t know much, as his family never really talked about it. Along the way, he ran into several roadblocks trying to trace his roots and find information. In 2021, he found a photo of his great grandfather that changed everything. That’s when he dove in deeper and started the Brister English Project.
How can we think about genealogy in a way that helps us release the shame we may feel as descendants of enslaved Africans in America?
We can think of genealogy as a tool for liberation. We can use the knowledge of our ancestry to continue learning, growing, and finding genuine pride and strength in who we are. We can use it as a way to build and rebuild communities and families. We can use this knowledge to accurately inform our children and ensure future generations understand our history and continue to make reparations.
As Walt says, history is to be remembered, not always celebrated. Understanding history is how we make sense of the present and learn how not to repeat what we went through.
Tune in to learn more about which DNA testing company is the best to use, including 23andMe, Ancestry.com, and more. Plus, Walter offers his advice on what to do with your DNA results after you receive them!
“All the Black people who are doing this work, they want to find you. They want to find people, they want to connect, and they want to figure out who their family is.” – Walter English
If you’d like to donate to the Brister English Project, visit https://linktr.ee/formerlovepoet.
Sign up and join the waitlist to get your 20 hours of FREE genealogy work: https://bristerep.me/take-action
About Walter English (he/him):
Walter English is an artist, poet, and the Founder of Brister English Project whose goal is to show American descendants of slavery a history that is more than just slavery and dreams. They offer 20 hours of free genealogy work to Black people to help them discover their ancestors and their roots that have been hidden or overlooked for so long.
To connect further with Walter English:
Visit his website: https://bristerep.me
Follow him on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/formerlovepoet
Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WaltWayMusic
Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FormerLovePoet
Read the TRANSCRIPT here: click here
This episode was produced by Crys & Tiana.