The excitement is building and I’m looking forward to finding out from where my ancestors who survived journeyed. But the difficult part is that I have to wait 10 weeks to get the results back.
Doing things right takes time, so consequently, I have to let the process happen.
But what to do in the meantime?
Now that I’m all amped up on trying to connect to my African ancestry, I need to do something to occupy my time.
The Sankofa of Shelby County
Memphis is a place directly connected to our local and global history. It is the birthplace of soul, home of the world’s best BBQ, a thriving hub for aspiring entrepreneurs, and a launchpad for greatness.
It is also home to the Civil Rights Moment, the pain of potential ended by bullets and violence, the despair of dreams deferred, and fear.
Memphis is a dichotomy of people and ideologies. What unites us all is the idea that we will likely never exist without each other. It will take understanding and acknowledgment in order to ever move forward into the hope and dreams of which Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently and fearlessly preached. Black history isn’t something that has to be relegated to just one month; Passports and Grub has an awesome list of things to do in Memphis to explore that history a bit more.
In the quest to expose where we’re going, we have to look back to where we’ve been. The direct ancestral link to being able to do this is called Sankofa.
It’s the Adinkra word found in Ghanian culture that means to “learn from the mistakes of your past.” Learning from the mistakes of the past is part of the process of working to connect with it.
Memphis activities that help you to connect to your ancestry
Learning from your past is a truly insightful way to discover how to move forward. It may not be your personal past but we are a people, a community, and a nation. Yes, the things that happened in our collective histories are sometimes difficult to address but they are necessary in order to understand each other and to begin to restore.
Consequently, there is a history to be examined in every part of our nation, even our world. but the healing can begin right here at home. Here are 5 activities you can do to connect with your ancestry without leaving Memphis.
On April 4, 1968, a dream was shattered with a gunshot. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
Remember The Green Book? The Lorraine Motel was one of the places where African Americans were allowed to stay when they traveled and needed to rest.
In 1991, the motel was converted into the National Civil Rights Museum and now it’s an invaluable window into the history of our community and nation. Did you know that African Americans used to be majority Republican? Ever wonder why are we majority Democrats now? There is so much to learn about where we’ve come from and how we’ve become who we are as a nation.
There is also a sister building to the Museum. Across the street is the preserved room from where the fatal shot was fired. It’s not really black and white about what happened that day and this part of the Museum is perfect for conspiracy theorists.
Learn more about the Museum and plan a visit here.
Do you remember learning about the Underground Railroad in school? It wasn’t an actual train system. Inevitably, I discovered that the “Railroad” was a system of people and safe locations that helped fugitive slaves escape to freedom in the Northern states. The people who rebelled against the establishment and decided to protect and assist those who were seeking their freedom fascinate me.
The Underground Railroad actually went through Memphis, TN. A stockyard owner, Jacob Burkle, risked his life to help others live theirs. No one ever suspected what he was doing and he is surely the reason that many of our people were able to have children and establish a lineage.
Plan a visit to the past here.
LeMoyne-Owen College, Elmwood Cemetery, Clayborn Temple, STAX, Robert Church Park.
These are just a few of the places in Memphis through which African Americans have shaped our city…and the world.
A Tour of Possibilities is the city tour that shares just how incredible the contributions are that we have made; our genius has shaped Memphis into the city of Blues, Soul, and Rock-n-Roll. In a city and time when it’s easy to lose hope, this tour shows the possibilities that became reality through the sacrifice and perseverance of our ancestors and elders.
Schedule your tour and see the possibilities here.
I learned that Ethiopia is the only country in the entirety of Africa that was never colonized by a European nation. Considering everything that took place over the centuries, this still fascinates me.
The first time I went to Abyssinia Restaurant in Memphis, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We went with a grad school professor who exposed us to new experiences. While there, enjoy the food as a community.
Located at 2600 Poplar Ave, this restaurant is a direct connection to Africa, its majesty, and delectable bounty.
Furthermore, coming across something incredible on your streaming service, binge-watching becomes a thing. PBS has a series with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. called Africa’s Great Civilizations. Being an undercover nerd, I’m certain to have stumbled across it eventually.
I love documentaries and watch them regularly, but this particular series showed the beauty and complexities of Africa. Riches and history of the continent, the way the many nations and people have shaped and lead the rest of the world, the atrocities that our people have survived. This series is an incredible look into the history of the African continent and its people.
Check here for your local listing.
Have you ever searched for your ancestry or heritage? Are you looking forward to learning more about where you’re from? Let me know in the comments below!