Embodying Ancestry: Anika

Themes: DNA, mixed race, dark-skinned, colorblindness, colorism, scars, healing, self-love

“A lot of my reasoning for this Embodying Ancestry exploration was about confronting my own shame “I’m Anika. I’m from Long Island, NY. My parents are from St. Andrew, Kingston, Jamaica. I’m participating in Embodying Ancestry because I feel like everybody has a story to tell and its not really something I’ve gotten too deep into. My dad did the whole DNA swab and his results were different than what he thought it would be. This brought up questions and ever since then I’ve been thinking about it. My last name is Stewart so my grandfather always had so much pride because he’s from the “Stewart clan,” royal lineage. Its funny that a black person has so much pride in this white institution, that, who knows what role the black people played. So we’re supposed to be Scottish and my grandma is half Portuguese and none of those two things came up on his results, but Irish did. So it was weird. I don’t know how much of that my grandfather made up out of his own pride or how much it really goes back.”

“If we lived in a colorblind society, I don’t know if I would claim those other [mixed race and multicultural] aspects of my identity… Growing up I hated my skin. I wanted to be light-skinned so bad. I thought my dark skin took away from rather than added to who I am. I would be the first one to try to pass as Dominican or Cuban or something like that just to say that I have some extra culture because it doesn’t “show.” But if it was a colorblind society, I don’t know if it would even matter.”

“My mother did mention that there is Indian in there somewhere, but I don’t know exactly where. My mom is dark-skinned and my dad is light-skinned. I always feel like I inherited more of her side so I never really considered myself Portuguese or Scottish or anything like that. I was always just black. And then people would always be like, “Are you from Trinidad? Are you from Guyana?” And they would pick out Indian features in me. So I guess it’s somewhere.” 

“It’s about the thought process. I think blackness is in your mind more than on your skin. I think it starts in your body. I say equal parts – mind and body. I think it’s in your body and you interpret it in your mind as you grow up and you live and you experience.”

There is strength in our scars

I always saw my mom and my grandma who have similar skin tones to me and they never really let that stop them or make it an excuse for why life is hard or say ‘my life is a struggle because I’m black.’ It wasn’t really a factor until I got to high school and middle school when you know, you’re exposed to TV and nobody looks like you on TV. And the only person who looks remotely like you is lighter than you. So how do you even relate? Like yeah, it’s a Black girl, but we don’t even look alike. So the women in my family were really the models for me for how to be in my skin. And not on purpose, just by being there and being themselves amongst all the other input that I was getting.”

More Participants

Lontia | Marylin | Amy | Jasmine | Christie | Geraldine | Patricia | Laura | Angela & Diana | Tsedaye | Eddie | Lola | Briana | Simone | SINI | Italy | Ekua | Anika | Reem | Bobo | Kei | Macy | Sarah | DaMonique | Nandi | Anise | Yadira

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