African, Native American, Irish, and Italian: The Magnificent Sum of My Parts. A Personal Story
My name is Linda Simpson [Bradford] Jenkins. I am the youngest of three siblings, and the only biological child of my parents’ union. I grew up in a deeply spiritual family who loved and fought fiercely for what they believed in.My father, the great grandson of freed mulatto slaves, was raised by his maternal grandparents.
Although my grandparents weren’t married, cemetery records and oral accounts from my father’s second cousin, reveal a long history of connectedness between both families (Simpson and Bradford). The Bradfords (African and Cherokee heritage), and the Simpsons (African, European and Cherokee heritage) have been buried in the same Tennessee cemetery dating back to the 1700s.
My mother’s lineage on her mother’s side is Ethiopian and Choctaw. I remember my mother talking about conversations between her mother and grandmother (who she described as Black Indians “with coal black skin and long straight coal black hair that shined as if it was always wet). She said they would “shoo the children outdoors to play” as they talked in the Choctaw language.
To both my mother’s and my dismay, my grandmother’s children never fully learned, and ultimately lost the language of their mother because my grandmother was insistent that “You kids must learn to speak English”. I always felt “different” as a child–never really feeling as if I “fit it” or “was accepted”. At visual appearance, I was African American, but I was always reminded at some point, that I “don’t talk like us”. I remember being teased by a young classmate who called me “pie face” for years. Almost 50 years later, “it all makes sense”. In recent years, I started conducting my ancestry research, and the discovery has been nothing short of “liberating”.
Every child and individual should know and have access to their “culture and heritage”. We are a magnificent sum of our parts, and I have much to celebrate, as do we all. I am proudly African Native American, with a dosing of Irish and Italian. I celebrate life and my ancestors each and every day, and I am loving the reddish-brown skin I’m in!
~Linda Simpson Bradford Jenkins
Photo by: Creative Silence and Edited by Carlton Mackey
TELL MY STORY: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future
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