In a contest held for UMD’s annual Pan-African Conference, a student won a package from African Ancestry, a company that traces people’s genetic ancestry, to find out where in Africa she was from.
Freshman Animal Biotechnology major Ariana Bailey was offered an opportunity to take a deeper look into her past when she won a video contest put on by the W.E.B Du Bois Honor Society that prompted students to explain why knowing where you come from was so important to them.
After winning, Bailey took a DNA test with Naya Frazier, president of the Du Bois Honor Society. They mailed the test materials in to the CEO of African Ancestry, Gina Paige who along with Bailey, revealed the results at a workshop during the Pan-African Conference.
To her surprise, Bailey found that her maternal ancestors could be traced back to living in the Middle East at one point thousands of years ago.
“It was really an emotional experience for me,” said Bailey, who had been researching African Ancestry since high school when she realized she didn’t know much about her family heritage. “I definitely expected my lineage on my mother’s side to be African, and especially not European.”
Paige, who started her company 13 years ago, told the workshop, “We weren’t recorded as people [in the U.S.] until the 1870 Census…We deserve specificity and we deserve to know where we come from.”
Bailey explained to students who attended the workshop that it was hard for her to learn she had ancestors from the Middle East, being that she had assumed she would be from the land of a people that look like herself.
“You are what you defend and I defend being an African American woman…with Middle Eastern lineage,” said Bailey. She says she will definitely be conducting more research on her own in hopes to learn who her ancestors were.
The African Ancestry workshop, one of three sessions held at the 2016 Pan-African Conference, was apart of the conference’s theme of “Black Brilliance” used to celebrate the African diaspora.
Several campus organizations including the Black Student Union, the Caribbean Students Association, the African Students Association, the Society of African American Studies, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Community Roots and the W.E.B. Du Bois Honor Society sponsored the event.