African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In Search of Our Roots -- Buy the companion book now from ShopPBS
Sharing Stories: One Family's Story
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grandmother aiken south carolina 1800s aiken south carolina my grandmother

My grandmother often told me the story of her grandmother who came from africa on the slave ship. She said that when she arrived, her hair was in Knots and they had to cut it off because they were unable to comb it. The memory of that story stayed with me as well as the confusion of "who we were" some people said that we were half indian and others said that we came from Barbados. Needless to say, my lifes existence was centered around the way that I looked. In Hempstead, New York, I was teased constantly because I didn't look like anyone else. To most we looked like indians because of our High prominent cheekbones and red skin. Thus, all of these stories made me contact a company that can trace your DNA to Africa. Needless to say, I traced my maternal bloodline and low and behold. I turned out to be of KhoiSan descent. KhoiSan people are indigenous to South Africa. They have very tightly coiled hair, golden brown skin , high prominent cheekbones and epicanthic folds on the eyes that make the eye appear slanted like the Asians. We are also of American indian and 3% white on that side. This was so refreshing for me because I was able to look at pictures of those people and feel as if I fit in there perfectly. Now I can put to rest all of those feelings of inadequacy that were imprinted in my mind when people told me, "you are too skinny to be a black woman", " She ain't one of us, she looks like she's from another country" "You're unsual looking but beautiful". of course, I struck the last part out and concentrated on the unusual part. I spent years in an all black environment being told that I was ugly, that I looked like an alien, asked if I was a boy of a girl as a child. Always trying to adjust to the traditional black standard of beauty or the white standard of beauty. I was ashamed to look in the mirror because I didn't understand what was looking back at me. At one time, I wanted to have surgery to reduce the size of my cheekbones, widen my face and reduce my lips. I was ashamed of my body because I was thin and muscular. Now, I can say with pride: I am KhoiSan a descendent of Nomads who live in the Kalahari desert. My people were the first inhabitants of the earth. My people are artists and Dancers. My people are healers and medicine men. My people are KhoiSan.

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Major corporate funding for African American Lives 2 and its outreach initiatives is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson. Additional corporate funding is provided by Buick.
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