A Family Tree With Roots Deep In Slavery

Posted in Autobiography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2018-12-03 01:03Z by Steven

A Family Tree With Roots Deep In Slavery

Code Switch: Race and identity, remixed
National Public Radio

Nabil Ayers

All families have histories.
Man_Half-tube/Getty Images

“Well hello there Nabil!

“I welcome your letter.

“So in the little bit of information you shared with me, I am intrigued.

“I have worked for a number of years, 26 in fact, on my genealogy. It has been a passion and at times an obsession.”

In her initial email to me, Karen surprised me with her excitement and candor — neither of which I was expecting from the woman whom I had gently accused of being the descendant of the man who owned my ancestors…

…My mother, who is white, chose to have me and raise me on her own. My father is black, but because he has never been part of my life, I’ve never held a strong black identity or felt I belonged to any single race. I grew up in very diverse and liberal surroundings where, if anyone asked, I was racially mixed, and that was fine.

I’m often asked the question, “What are you?” Or the less invasive, but still pointed, “Where are you from?” I’ve always described myself as “half black and half white.” It’s a phrase I still use for simplicity…

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You Got a Little Soul in You, I See

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2017-11-10 02:29Z by Steven

You Got a Little Soul in You, I See

The Root

Nabil Ayers

Nabil Ayers with his mother (courtesy of Nabil Ayers)

I am often asked about my name. “Nabil. It’s an Arabic name,” I’ll say. “It means noble, learned and generous,” which usually demands further interest.

“Where are you from?” They’ve likely narrowed down their guess to somewhere in the Middle East, hoping for a story as interesting as the name itself.

New York. My mother found the name in a book she liked.” I rarely take the time to explain that I’m named after Nabíl-i-A`zam, the author of The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil’s Narrative, which chronicles the Babi and Baha’i faiths’ beginnings in the mid-19th century.

It’s not unusual for people to then grow more curious, as if I’m withholding something remarkable. Their eyes look more closely at mine, or my nose, or my beard, searching to latch onto a distinguishable feature. I know that they’re trying to determine my race.

“My father is black and my mother is white,” I tell people…

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