This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Focus On Africa Magazine
Focus On Africa Magazine is no longer being updated.
Focus on Africa Magazine home
Last updated: 12 October, 2009 - Published 17:11 GMT
Email a friend   Printable version
Forum: How African are African Americans?

US President Barack Obama
Does your DNA make you an African?

Spurred on by Obamamania and following in the footsteps of celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock many African Americans are using DNA testing to trace their ancestry. For Example Goldberg found out she belonged to the Papel and Bayote people of Guinea Bissau.

Is it your genes that prove you are an African or your experiences of the continent?

Do African Americans need to carry out such testing to claim their heritage?

If you are an black American would knowing where you descended from make you feel more African?

And do African Americans have a responsibility to Africa and vice versa?

Join the Focus Forum

To take part in the debate simply fill in the form on the right. A selection of your comments will appear below.

Jackie Mali, Kampala, Uganda:

No one on this earth wants to live without having some sense of belonging or belief in something. The African Americans I think miss one thing that the Western world may never possess and that is the rich and diverse culture Africa has in abundance. It preserves all aspects of living whether social, political, economic, technological or environmental. They should not embrace their roots out of pressure but out of a need to be acquainted with a part of their history which can live for ages to come. Remember the saying 'East of West, home is best'. Personally, I am glad to be home, in Africa

Mohamed Bah, Conakry, Guinea:

Knowing your roots makes you know your culture. Your culture identifies you and you are proud to be who you are and what you stand for, as I am proud of Mr Obama, who knows were he came from

Ighomena Enakefe, Warri, Nigeria:

What makes one an African is not one's genes or one's domicile on the African continent, but one's craving and desire to help combat Africa's economic and social problems

Simon Njoroge Waweruy, Nairobi, Kenya:

Knowing one's roots settles the haunting question of one's background and ancestry. African Americans know that it's as a result of slave trade that the majority of them were born in America. So it is important to know exactly where their ancestors came from

 The earlier they identify with Africa, the better for them
Mcedwin Ifeanyi Obi, Aba, Nigeria

Mcedwin Ifeanyi Obi, Aba, Nigeria:

With or without a DNA test, all black persons on earth are Africans. The earlier they identify with Africa, the better for them

Uche Ogueke, Lagos, Nigeria:

African Americans seeking their African origins - that's interesting reading. It depicts this funny quip about butter and bread: while the hungry are looking for bread, the well fed are looking for butter. Take a look at the American embassy here in Nigeria and see how many are desperately seeking visas. We are eager to renounce our origins if it means the citizenship of this 'God's own country'. On the other hand, rich African Americans are looking at how to while away their time. They have fun seeking their African ancestry, organising charities and fund raising for their less fortunate 'poverty stricken' brothers trapped in Africa. Ironically less economically comfortable Afican Americans are not keen about their origins nor do African leaders reach out to them. At the heart of the matter are the African leaders. Most of them still believe that a great deal will come from the sky. They pay lip service to genuine economic and political developments; rather they stretch out their hands for dole outs from rich donors

 Are they going to appreciate the fact that they are truly Africans?
Tennen B. Dalieh, Monrovia, Liberia

Tennen B. Dalieh, Monrovia, Liberia:

Taking a DNA test does not really make you what you are looking for. One's orientation and appreciation for their background should be taken into consideration. Are they going to appreciate the fact that they are truly Africans? I think this should matter most

Limbani Teputepu, Pretoria, South Africa:

Because of being born with a brown colour and black hair, African Americans are Africans. They were forcefully taken from Africa through slave trade and sold to British American business people in order to work for them. Any person who is brown is an African and when one African American comes to Africa I will give him land to stay on because the land also belongs to him or her. Brown people or those who call themselves black are Africans and they must know that repatriation is a must. Come back home and develop your Africa. The time is now, African Americans

Laura Golakeh, Monrovia, Liberia:

I think your experiences on the continent coupled with your contribution to the continent can make you a true African

Mariama Pabai, Monrovia, Liberia:

I am grateful to the BBC for bringing up this excellent forum so that our brothers and sisters in the diaspora can understand the truth about Africanism. It is important for them to trace their own roots, as part of the journey before they lose their origin without knowing facts about the continent. God bless our brothers and sisters in the diaspora

 I am very proud to be an African
Valentine Meyanui, Nairobi, Kenya

Valentine Meyanui, Nairobi, Kenya:

I hope our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora will accept the challenge of knowing their roots. It takes only one with a humble heart to accept. I am very proud to be an African

Mother Korpo Robert, Zelemai, Liberia:

Oh! It is quite disappointing that some of my African brothers and sisters do not know their ancestry up to the present; if the DNA testing could help them, why don't they all do it. I am proud of the US president, Barack Obama as he knows his ancestry. Go through it, my African brothers and sisters and know where you are coming from

Mohammed Konneh, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA:

Being an African-American is another pride for Africa and understanding one's own history as the late legend Bob Marley said and I quote " If you know your history than you will know where you are coming from", so the issue of DNA is one fact and accepting it is another question. In this light, all those who trace their roots and agree that he or she is an African-American must be considered an African-American like President Obama of the USA, Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg etc

 The young or new generation of African Americans need to know where their ancestors originated from
Albert Sinvula, Windhoek, Namibia

Albert Sinvula, Windhoek, Namibia:

The roots of any person are quite important to any human being. The young or new generation of African Americans need to know where their ancestors originated from. Knowing your roots gives a person a sense of pride of who you are. It is the genes that prove that you are an African, not the experiences on the continent. I think we both have a responsibility to each other, those in the diaspora as well as us on the continent in terms of rebuilding, doing business, etc

Winnie Kou Senneh, Congo Town, Monrovia, Liberia:

I am not supprised to hear such news, I think it is over-due and it has now become a revolution for African Americans. Yes, DNA testing could make them an African if the proces is proven scientifically. Knowing your ancestry is a great legacy and it must be known now by African Americans

Eric-Kenny O. Maduagwu, Awka, Nigeria:

Discovering their African ancestry never makes them true Africans, it can only make them feel more African. Being a true African depends more on our disposition rather than our genes, skin colour or location. Being an African entails sharing the pains, agony and sufferings as a result of Africa's underdevelopment. It is the rise against the economic imperialism and neo-colonialism to which Africa is being subjected. It is neither tracing your gene to see if you are from Guinea Bissau nor living in the continent to have a feeling of it. It is sharing the spirit of Africa with Africans

Denise A Huntley, Clinton, USA:

I listened to a radio program Africa Today-WPFW, I believe, where the reporter at BBC World Focus touring the US, a South African "white" male said that African Americans have this DNA testing and do nothing after they get the information. I would like to know what his thoughts would be if he took a DNA test and found that he had "black African" ancestry and what would he do? Would he feel people would question him about being "truly African" then?

William Kokulo, Monrovia, Liberia:

It is good that African American are using such means to know their ancestry, they were unfortunate and it will help them

 African Americans need not undergo a test before they know their roots
Nana Tutu Yeboah, Accra, Ghana

Nana Tutu Yeboah, Accra, Ghana:

African Americans need not undergo a test before they know their roots. Africa is the continent of black origin and Ghana is the gateway to Africa, so they are always welcome

Jacqueline, Columbus, Ga, USA:

Your past means something, even if you don't know exactly what it is. African-Americans living in America became tired of the definitions they were being given and finally, named themselves. They were Negro and Coloured. If you don't pay attention to such things, it doesn't matter what you are labelled. If you do notice, this becomes a question of great inportance. You will find that many African-Americans don't care for that title at all. Others embrace it and to the extent possible live their lives proving it. Perhaps there will be a name in the future that African-Americans can agree on. Right now, in this country, it's the best we can have. We can talk about the ridiculousness of this need to "define" ourselves. These definitions have repercussions in our political, social and economic lives. I'm ready for the human race....but not many of us are

Julius Batemba, Awassa, Ethiopia:

It's worth knowing your roots (as long as the DNA tests are very accurate, not a mix up like the case of Oprah). It shapes your identity and gives you a belonging. Feeling more African or having responsibility for Africa is a personal issue, it can't be generalised

Harry Aaron, Jos, Nigeria:

The history of African Americans reflects an important part of Africa's past but distance and time seperates them from this past. Certainly, DNA testing will bring them closer to their distant origin. With the rising relevance of the African American community in global affairs, Africa should benefit immensely from their finances, time and ideas as a mark of commitment to their roots

* optional
Your opinion
focus on Africa graphic Focus on Africa
The magazine for Africa from the BBC World Service
Africa graphic Subscribe to the magazine
Click here for current rates and details of how to subscribe
Email a friend   Printable version