Jessica Blanton gave a giggle as she observed her reflection in the door mirror of her bedroom. She had sent in a DNA sample to find out about her African ancestry. Every year almost by rote, her family celebrated Black History month and her former church had a Juneteenth picnic at a park. Only recent black history had been taught to her generation, but she’d had no information about where her ancestors had come from other than the southern states and had moved to the north or west looking for a better life. She found it puzzling because her parents and both sets of her grandparents were college professors and her great-grandparents had been elementary and high school teachers. Her siblings had followed in their parents’ footsteps becoming educators. She was the odd man out as she had chosen information technology as her path in life. When she had received the envelope that contained her ancestral tribal information, she had been elated. She had gone out to the internet to find out as much as she could about where they lived in Africa and what their tribal customs were. She had researched every source of information about them that she could find. She was absolutely fascinated by the history of her African ancestors. She has even found a source to buy cloth that was one of their ancestral designs. The cloth had been made into the outfit that she was wearing. Today was her birthday and she was wearing it to celebrate her ancestry.
As she drove to the restaurant where her family was holding the party for not only her, but her paternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth. She wondered what would be said about her outfit. She had left the family church a couple of years ago and was attending a church that taught a metaphysical philosophy. The family had blamed the termination of her engagement on her change in churches rather than the fact that her former fiancé had still been married at the time and had never told her that he was married. She would never have dated him nor accepted an engagement proposal had she known. She had given grateful thanks that his wife had come forth to let her know. The family simply overlooked such important facts when it came to her. As she parked her car, she could see that all of the family had arrived ahead of her. She sat for several moments and prayed for divine protection so that the family’s comments wouldn’t spoil her day.
She stepped into the restaurant and made her way to the banquet room where the party was being held. When she walked into the door, she could hear the sharp intake of breaths and see shocked expressions on the face of most of her family.
“Dear Heavens, where in the world did you get that ridiculous bohemian outfit?!”, her mother, Eloise Blanton exclaimed to her.
“It’s not bohemian. It’s our ancestral cloth design,” Elizabeth Blanton, her great-grandmother answered before she could answer her mother.
Jessica was surprised that her great-grandmother knew about the cloth design.
“It’s fitting that she would wear it today. Your great-great aunt, Mildred, would be pleased to see you in that outfit,” Elizabeth said to her.
“Well, I guess we should get on with the festivities,” Dominique Blanton said rather pompously.
Jessica laughed silently as she watched the rest of the family in the room. Grammy Elizabeth had spoken. Nothing more derogatory would be said about her outfit on this day. Later, she sat with her great grandmother after the food had been served and the cake cut.
“Grammy how did you know this was out ancestral cloth design?” Jessica inquired.
“Do you think that you’re the only curious person in this family? My Aunt Mildred was one of the pioneers in the back to Africa movement. She left this country to return to where our forefathers had been kidnapped from. Everyone thought that she was crazy, but I admired her. In my day, finding information about our ancestry was very difficult. There were few books about our African heritage and what there were, were banned and had to be kept secret. Wearing of our African outfits could cause you to be beaten or even killed. I am so proud of you that you sought to find out where we came from and embraced that knowledge,” Elizabeth said to her.
“I guess we share more than a common birthday,” Jessica commented with a laugh.
“Be proud of who you are. You stepped out to learn a better way than the ones that you were reared with. Don’t let anybody stop you from knowing the true Spirit. I joined the metaphysical movement, too, but my husband objected and I left it to be the faithful wife that I was supposed to be. Don’t make that mistake. Know who you are and whose you are. Spirit will bring you every thing that you desire and you don’t have to be anybody but yourself. Celebrate you and in doing so, you celebrate where we all came from, Divine Spirit. Know your roots and celebrate them as well,” Elizabeth told her.
The party had ended without the usual litany about her unorthodox behavior from her parents. As she drove home, she felt a joy in her heart that she had never felt before. She knew that she and her great-grandmother were close, sharing a spiritual connection that she couldn’t explain. Now, she knew
why. They shared a bond in Spirit that would never be broken even in death. She would step out from the fear of her family’s criticism and in deed celebrate who she was.