A new book has been launched that is aimed at helping people of African descent reconnect with their ancestral cultures and rediscover the glorious histories of the lands from which their ancestors were uprooted and sold into slavery.
Entitled Bloodlines – Tales from the African Diaspora, it’s a collection of short stories written by authors from around the world. The launch is being spearheaded by Veronica Henry, the cofounder and webmaster at MyAfricanDiaspora.com, a cultural news and information website targeted at members of the African Diaspora. The authors could not have wished for a better editor and advocate to help them tell their stories.
An IT professional, Veronica quit her 20-year corporate career in information technology a few years ago and succumbed to the call of her inner voice, urging her to embark on a journey of self discovery. Together with her partner Eric Deal, they decided to try and authenticate their biological links to Africa by using DNA testing and analysis to help them trace their roots.
In 2006 they submitted DNA samples to africanancestry.com in the hope of uncovering their ancestral birthplaces. Founded in 2003 by Dr. Rick Kittles and Gina Paige, African Ancestry, a Washington D.C. -based company, has reportedly helped over 100,000 people reconnect with the roots of their family tree.
To understand Veronica and Eric’s longing to trace their lineage, you need only consider the dilemma facing people of African descent. It is estimated that between the 1600s and the 1900s about 10 million Africans were sold into slavery in the Western hemisphere, including 4 million who ended up in the United States. Nearly 500 years later, the vast majority of their descendents scattered throughout the world, including the Caribbean, North America, Canada and Europe have virtually no idea which parts of Africa they came from.
When Veronica and Eric received their test results a few weeks later, it was confirmed that Veronica’s maternal lineage matched with the Mende people of Sierra Leone. Eric Deal’s roots were also traced back to the Mende, as well as the Kru people of Liberia and the Balanta of Guinea-Bisseau. This discovery made them yearn to know more about Africa and their ancestral homelands. They also felt the need to reach out to other people of African decent and help those who felt a need to reconnect with their roots.
“We were inspired to create a place where members of the African Diaspora could learn more not only about their cultures, but others as well,” says Veronica.
The internet with its unlimited reach and its ability to connect people in all corners of the globe, afforded them the perfect medium.
“We launched myafricandiaspora.com in August 2008. Our mission is to provide cultural information aimed at dispelling myth, eliminating stigma and showing how our common ancestry still binds us,” said Veronica. They also wanted to use the website to promote positive images of Africa and show the potential of people of African descent to excel and achieve greatness.
Last November Veronica and Eric decided to launch a contest via their website, challenging other writers from around the world to submit pieces reflecting the diverse imagery of the world’s African Diaspora communities and featuring a main character of African descent.
“We were frustrated by the lack of stories featuring people of African descent. As both Eric and I are writers, we had firsthand experience with the publishing challenges faced by people of color. We wanted to provide a solution, rather than continue to lament the problem,” Veronica explained.
The end result is the publication of the short-story collection Bloodlines – Tales from the African Diaspora. It features 12 stories from talented new voices. They span the genres of literary, mystery, romance and science fiction. The authors hail from Nigeria, Niger, the U.S. Trinidad & Tobago, Canada and the UK.
“The Trans-Atlantic slave trade scattered millions of Africa’s children across the globe. They are together, once again, in the pages of this short story collection. Through this collection, we weave another chapter into the fabric of our shared ancestry. In these twelve short stories by authors from across the African Diaspora, we, the seeds of their struggle, pay homage to our ancestors,” Veronica added.