This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.
Juneteenth is not only a celebration of freedom, it’s a celebration of knowledge.
The celebration of June 19, 1865, commemorates the moment African American slaves in Texas learned they were free.
“That knowledge gave them the power to celebrate their lives in a different way,” Gina Paige, President and Co-founder of African Ancestry, Inc says. “And tracing your ancestry to a specific place and people in Africa gives you the power to know who you are.”
The D.C. native says most African Americans walk through life with what she calls an “identity void.”
“Because we don’t know our original names. We don’t know our original languages. We don’t know who our ancestors were and we’re the only group in this country who suffers from that type of void,” she says.
Paige says Africanancestry.com helps to bridge that gap by tracing the lineage of people of color.
Visitors decide whether they want to trace a maternal lineage of your tree or a paternal lineage in order to focus on providing specific information about specific branches of the family tree before the transatlantic slave trade.
Clients get a corresponding test kit, swab the inside of their cheek and their lab unlocks an inherited DNA code — only from your mother or father. They provide the code to their science team that then compares your DNA to samples all over the world.
They say they offer the largest database of African lineages in the world which allows them to make specific matches in Africa.
Paige, who founded the company in 2003 with Dr. Rick Kittles, the Scientific Director of African Ancestry, Inc. says they’ve helped over one million people across the world connect with their roots.
“Tracing ancestry is an ancestral imperative,” she says. “Our ancestors want us to know who they are.”