Who Do you Think You Are?
Last night I had the gift of speaking to the freshman and other members of the campus community at The University of Indianapolis. I write gift, because all of the folks there had read my book The Ties That Bind as a campus-wide project.
Now, you probably know that this was a real kick for me. Before I even began, students came running up to tell me how the book had changed their lives. One young woman said that until she read my book, she had never really cared about who her father was, but now was determined to find out. Another student told me that she read the book and decided to talk to her parents about her family’s background and learned that they had descended from the King of Scotland.
One young man said that he felt all alone; that he had no trace of family anywhere, but he left knowing that his peeps were on that campus and his new auntie lived in Savannah.
The book traces my family along with the one who owned the Delaware plantation they lived on during slavery. It turned out that my family had lived on a plantation with the abolitionist, John Hunn and although I had not been aware of it, I too was a descendent from free folks who participated in the Underground Railroad. Before writing the book, I had been completely unaware of this and had used Hunn’s name in my first novel, Redemption Song, but had done so improperly.
I wrote The Ties That Bind as an apology to Hunn and my ancestors. By not knowing who I was, I was not being true to my own heritage.
Last night I urged the students to learn who they are, to find their purpose and to seek ways to connect to others.
Recently, I’ve been in touch with one of the decedents of John Hunn, we jokingly call ourselves cousins, but yesterday, before going out to give the lecture, I opened an email from Roland Hunn. He’s also looking into his family story and has done his DNA testing. It turns out that we might be right; a little more than 10% of his heritage is African American and that’s enough to know that we truly are connected.
Who are you?
Who your people is? (Yes, you read it right.)
How do you connect?
Be you, be found, be connected.
Bertice Berry, PhD.