In the aftermath of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s police-involved deaths, the fervor for racial justice among a newly awakened and extremely indignant Black populace has translated into a push to implement Black-centered curricula in public schools, support Black-owned businesses and celebrate Black cultural identity.
For African Ancestry Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Gina Paige, this climate has proven opportune for taking conversations about Blackness to another level.
Those who attended the Remember Who You Are Identity Summit did just that, by not only exploring the Black identity through a cultural, psychological and economic lens, but gaining a deeper appreciation of identity’s role in helping Black people achieve self-determination.
“Identity is a personal thing and [as] we know and learned from some of our speakers, it is a constant narrative of self at a very basic level,” Paige told The Informer during the virtual affair that took place for an entire week during the latter part of September.
The lineup of speakers scheduled to appear during the virtual summit included African-centered psychologist Dr. Afiya Mbilishaka, Atlantis Browder of IKG Cultural Center, Tony Lawson of SHOPPE Black, Diallo Sumbry of the Adinkra Group and more than a dozen others who reflected on their work and the condition of the Black identity in the areas of health, the arts and agriculture.
“We’re giving people different lenses to reflect on their own identity,” Paige said. “I hope that they walk away with the tools they can use to study, reflect upon, and pay attention to who they are. Once you know that, you can thrive in other areas.”
Over the past few months, as protesters of various ethnicities have taken to the streets of nearly every major American city, expressions of Black racial pride have significantly increased, while local and state-level politicians and mavens of industry have shown an interest in addressing systemic inequity.
The shifting mindset has also been illustrated among mainstream hip-hop and R&B musicians who’ve taken a more politically conscious tone in their music. Black-owned bookstores and other conduits of Black history and culture have seen an influx of orders, while some Black-owned businesses that have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic have found new life in a customer base hungry to use their dollars as weapons.
Meanwhile, some Black people, nostalgic about the “Year of Return,” have further explored the possibility of repatriation.
Since launching African Ancestry in 2003, Paige and Dr. Rick Kettles have helped more than 750,000 Black people make sense of their identity, primarily by tracing their matrilineal and patrilineal lineage to an African ethnic group with the use of the industry’s largest database of indigenous African DNA.
The Remember Who You Are Identity Summit, indicative of a new normal where people all over the world are communing on virtual platforms, counted among African Ancestry’s more recent offerings, which also include Legendary Roots — profiles of people and places that have contributed to the advancement of people of African descent.
For that campaign, Selah Marley traced her ancestry to the Biaka people of present-day Central African Republic.
During what was one of the most well-attended presentations of the week, Dr. Mbilishaka explained how mainstream psychology doesn’t take into account how the system of white supremacy hampers the Black sense of self.
Later, while engaging audience members in dialogue about the food they eat and spiritual systems they practice, she introduced them to a bevy of notable Black thought leaders, including Franz Fanon, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Dr. Marimba Ani and Amos Wilson — each of whom have addressed the importance of fostering an Afrocentric identity and value system.
The best part of the entire experience, Dr. Mbilishaka said, was the number of requests for book recommendations she received immediately after wrapping up her presentation.
“This is the hungriest I’ve seen people wanting to get to the root of things,” she said. “We know the current system doesn’t work for us. The response to the information I’ve shared was very strong. People are ready for the concept [of] actually practic[ing] a cultural alternative to the one being fed to us. I don’t know how long it will be [but] it’s going to be a process.”
To download the weeklong lineup of videos, go to AfricanAncestry.com/summit.