Several Things My DNA Results Revealed Besides My Ethnic Background

When approaching the observance of Black History Month in recent years, I’ve opted to focus more on the obscure and the provocative. Most people who attended public school in the United States at one point in their lives or another knows that Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape to New England and Canada, but I highly doubt that many know that she is also an honored (though questionably compensated) war hero.

Another way that I’ve been celebrating the quieter moments in black history is by looking into my only family history. I may not be the great-grandniece of an NAACP founder or kin to NBA royalty, but every bloodline is unique as the next and it makes us all who we are. Stories like that of Henrietta Lacks are the truest testament to this. Embracing and cherishing your eccentricity and singularity is truly an act of self-love.

And what better way to embrace your own uniqueness than to mail your spit off to a DNA testing company? It should be no secret now that with the help of modern science and technology, anyone can learn about where they come from. T’Challa has the right idea.

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I opted for a DNA test that looked at everything from ethnicity to disease variants. I had always been interested in learning more about my ethnic background, particularly my African and Native American ancestry, and medical history. My results were very surprising and I ended up learning more about myself than I expected.

Music is in my blood

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According to my DNA results, I have a 50/50 chance of being able to “match musical pitch”. 50/50 might seem like too neutral of a stat, but lucky for me, I’ve got historical proof to back it up. 

Guess whose maternal grandfather is the lead singer.

My family is no more Motown royalty than they are NBA royalty, but I still, he’s my grandpa, not yours.

“Big-boned” and sickle cell free

The good news is, based on my genetics, I’m not at risk of having it. The bad news is that people of African descent are most likely to suffer from the disease.

“Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder characterized by anemia, episodes of pain, and frequent infections. A person must have two HbS variants in the HBB gene in order to have this condition.” – 23andme

Although I’m not at risk of sickle cell, I am prone to naturally weigh nearly 10% more than clinically suggested for someone my height.

Shocking.

This undoubtedly means that I have to work harder than the “average” (whatever that means) person to stay in shape. But, it also means that “in shape” might look different for me than what it looks like for you. And that is ok because science says so. I am okay because I am me.

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And furthermore, the way I see it, women who look like me had to look good, women my grands and great-grands didn’t have trouble finding husbands.

The brilliant moral of this story is that I’m attractive, I’m black, I’m not tone deaf and there is absolutely no one else quite like me.

Happy Black History Month.

 

 *Featured image of Henrietta Lacks is from Medical Daily via Wikimedia.


 

downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

“Good Hair” Is A Myth

The release of Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary film introduced many non-black people to the mysterious world of black hair. As articulated in Rock’s film, “good hair” is essentially any natural-grown hair texture of hair that is not an afro or in the 4 category. Like most black people, the concept of “good hair” and “bad” or “nappy” hair was instilled in me well before 2009.

These days, you’ll find me hitting up my beloved barber the minute my hair gets long enough to require a comb. In college, I rocked my then trademark ‘fro and on my predominantly white campus, I was like a local celebrity. But I would be lying if I claimed that those were not a challenge at times.

Straightened or natural, black hair care takes time, money, and discipline. Many say that black hair takes patience. I believe that it takes discipline. The unintentional “messy bun” was always intentional, that is, if it could even be even be achieved. Natural black hair is certainly more accepted in pop culture than it was 15 years ago, however, it hasn’t gotten any easier to manage.

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I don’t take a lot of pictures.

I came across a very interesting video which featured a black woman and a white woman swapping hair regimens. After my first time watching the video, I felt embarrassed for the black woman as the white woman complained about all of the heavy products and tedious steps she had to follow to execute the black woman’s regimen. To make matters worse, when the black woman finished completing the steps to the white woman’s regimen, which appeared effortless in my eyes, her hair looked dry and deprived.

 

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photo by Tyler Nix

Watching the video the first time all the way through made me feel as if black beauty had been revealed to be fraudulent. Beauty should be effortless, yes? Real beauty is messy buns! All hail the messy bun!

For whatever reason, I watched the video once more. After the second viewing, something that the black woman said stuck with me. While reading aloud the products needed for the white woman’s hair routine, she jokingly referred to the products as different forms of “air”.

As cool as it would be to be able to run my fingers through my hair on command, I’m not quite sure how I could handle paying for “air”. Also, be reminded that people with oily and/or 1 and 2 type hair have to wash and style their hair more often than someone with hair like mine; this means they would have to replace products more often. My college roommates were potentially spending $40 a month on “air” and colorful advertising!

Box braids are a popular style worn by many black women with an afro and curly hair. In addition to their versatility, when taken care of, they can last anywhere from 1 to 3 months (and, yes, our hair can be cleaned in that time). If you’re unable to install the braids yourself, stylists charge at least $120 or more for box braids depending on clients’ desired length and/or braid thickness. Black women from penthouses to the projects are willing to pay for this expensive style, and I believe its worth it.

 

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photo by Ato Aikins

At first glance, one would wholeheartedly disagree. And that would be understandable. But let us dabble in a little something I like to call perspective.

Another style gaining popularity is the messy bob. I absolutely adore this style and its another style, like box braids for black women, that is versatile and looks good on pretty much anyone. I wish that my hair was naturally straight so that I could achieve this effortless look. Based on pricing at Hair Cuttery in downtown DC, it would cost the average client a minimum of $40 for a hairstyle like this. But is that $40 dollars really worth it for someone with 1 and 2 type hair if a) the curls will likely fall within 24 hours and b) you are going to need to wash your hair in 48 hours?

 

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photo by Allef Vinicius

And just what about 3 types? Isn’t that life a coveted happy medium? 8 words: heat damage, frizz, crunch, no perfect products. Not to mention, getting too over-zealous with a comb could very much end in you being a 4 type for a day anyway.

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photo by Philipe Cavalcante

Pretty will inevitably hurt your wallet or your scalp, or both. I should have known better than to doubt Beyoncé. We will continue to buy into because, well, pretty is pretty darn pretty. 

But who is really winning?*

More importantly, why, in the 21st century are we still competing?

Regardless of race or texture, even in a society still desperately clinging to eurocentric standards of aesthetic, it’s hard to say that there’s really any group of women or metrosexual who is having a smoother time in the hair department.

*I am electively bald, and therefore the winner forever. 👴🏽

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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Not Having Kids? Not Buying a Car?: My side of the Story

I recently learned that I might very well be contributing to the decline of the natural born U.S. citizens. As a college-educated urban millennial woman, I find myself on the edge of my seat these days, itching to learn what new institutional-crushing superpower market researchers and journalists have uncovered about me.

I’m 26 years old and, in addition to not having or planning on having kids, I don’t own a house or even a car. I use to feel ashamed of my lack of control over my life and how I was potentially letting down my family by not actually manufacturing a life for myself to mirror that of my mother and grandmother (women who firmly believe that children are what make life complete).

I  have no idea what my life will look like in 3 years, let alone 6 months, and I’ve recently accepted that I really don’t have time right now to think about it. Long story short, here are 5 reasons why I’m told need to have kids and why I absolutely will not.

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knowyourmeme.com

 

You need to pass on your legacy.

Seeing as you likely skipped the intro, I’ll reiterate the fact that I don’t own any property of value such as a house or vehicle and have no desire to. So, if I died today, what exactly would I be leaving to pass down? My refurbished laptop? An Instagram account of barely 50 followers?

You would make such cute babies. 

My S.O. (significant other) is cute and she thinks I’m cute. But I am literally a meat sack of recessive genes and, well the logistics of us reproducing aren’t readily plausible logistically.

You will have more people to share the fruit of your success with.

My over-21 friends have loads of fun attending brunch and paying for alcoholic beverages with our hard-earned money.

Babies smell good.

That is a very very strong argument. Babies do in fact smell heavenly. Sometimes, when I’m feeling down, I will randomly request to hold a baby. Babies are wonderful. They love you unconditionally and they can’t walk into the kitchen steal your leftover Thai food when you’re not looking. However, a 6-year-old can, a 15-year-old can, and so can the 23-year-old college grad who will inevitably be living in your basement rent-free for another 5 years. I’m good.  

Children are a reflection of the love you and your spouse share.

Please see #3. The love of my life, too, enjoys the brunch. We drink mimosas and talk about our feelings.

So Here I Am, Spitting In A Tube For 5 Minutes..

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been interested in culture, heritage and the things that make us all unique. As an African-American, it’s disappointing to face the reality that knowledge of my African family history will never reach farther back than my great grandparents (for most of us, knowledge barely surpasses our grandparents). My resourcefulness and love of history led me to discover my Native American (Haliwa-Saponi) roots, but I was always curious to learn more.

I finally gave in and purchased a DNA test kit which promises to give me answers to all my questions about my identity. Not only will my ethnic makeup be broken down, but I will also learn about my physical traits and diseases I’m more or less likely to carry. I’m excited and anxious at the same time. Imagine having a laundry list of all the diseases you have an 80% chance of dying from..

In a little over a month I should have my results. In the meantime, I’m enjoying this process as a nice conversation starter.

 

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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

HIV And The Case For Men In The Closet

I’ve come across two major thought camps of homophobes, with one being, not surprisingly, anti-everything-that-isn’t-heterosexual-and-or-heteronormative. I wont’t waste time on a multidemensional explanation for such a shallow group of people. The second group, however, manages to be only slightly more interesting, in that they are homophobic at the core, but they’ve somehow designated themselves as diplomats. This group may consist of the people you will hear saying, ” If you’re gay, just be gay! It’s these men on the down low who are causing problems.” More on my issues with this in a minute…

Homophobia in the black community is a deep dark rabbit hole of opinions and miseducation, but for now, I’d like to focus on the subject of closeted gay men in relation to the subject of HIV/AIDS. People of all levels of anti-gayness  will often use the spread of HIV as a justification for their ostracism. But mainstream and even “black” media does an excellent job of demonizing closeted queer men in addition to misrepresenting LGBTQ people (including not respresenting them at all). With total disregard to how openly gay men of color are judged and mistreated in society (and even within the gay community) and no consideration for how still very uneducated even the most educated of black people are on social issues that aren’t viewed as a “black issue”, people are still baffled at the idea that a man would go so far as to marry a woman to cover up his homosexual inclinations. It’s 2016 and people still practice skin bleaching! But I digress…

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that half of all black African-American men will be diagnosed with HIV. I appreciate objective material that presents fact and encourages people to use the information to work toward more education and positive change. But I’m a pessimist (yes, I know..sorry). I am not convinced that the people sharing articles about 50% of gay black men having HIV care about the health status of the gay community. Assuming that folk actually read past the shock jock-y headline, these types of articles will likely be shared to say, “Hey! See? These gay people are at it again.”

Just as poverty in the black community isn’t as simple as “black people are lazy”, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the gay community isn’t just “DL brothers” effing things up.

(Cheating on your spouse or partner ain’t cool no matter who is doing it, but that is a matter of character, not sexual identity.)

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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Think Like a Hero : Do you share the same learning styles as your favorite superhero? Possibly!

Based on how this learning style inventory describes these seven different ways of learning, here is how some of your favorite heroes and heroine might be categorized.

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Visual or Spatial (learning with the help of imagery)

Spider-Man – In addition taking pictures for a living, Spidey spends a lot of time people watching from the top of New York’s skyscrapers. That’s a great way to snoop out criminals, locate kittens who may need rescuing…or, learn what Gwen Stacy’s favorite new restaurant is. 

 

Aural (learning with the help of music or sound)Mikeys pizzas

Michaelangelo – As the free-spirited and fun-loving brother of the Ninja Turtle bunch, Mikey’s fluidity and colorful personality meshes well with that of an aural learner. If Drake put out one of those 90s style math hip-hop albums, no question this ninja’s mom is buying it.

 

Verbal (if it’s written or spoken, you get it)

Hermione Granger – Harry and Ron would be completely lost without her. Many consider her twice the magic maker as The Boy Who Lived. Part of what made her such a smart and skilled witch was her genuine love of reading. Spell books, potion recipes, newspapers, you name it. She was always reading ahead, even to some professors irritation. Reading will forever be fundamental.

 

Physical or Kinesthetic (you’re a hands-on learner who probably can’t sit still)

Zack Taylor , the Black Ranger – Before that brief period when Zac Efron was a pop star, there was Zack, the original Black Ranger. He was famous for his saving folks, practicing martials arts with his buddy, Jason, and more importantly, his dance moves. He is what I like to call a “master of movement”. 

 

Solitary (you need some time to think it over…alone)

Batman – Obviously.

 

Social (brinCookg oooon the group work)

Natalie Cook – So what makes this Charlie’s Angel a social learner? She’s smart bubbly and is a real people person. One could bet that she was really into group work in school.

 

 

 

Logical or Mathematical (objective, calculating, by the book)

Blossom – You just wait until the Powerpuff Girls graduate from college, Reed Richards. Blossom might have the smarts to…well, at least intern for you while she’s working on her master’s. She is the “Commander and the Leader” of the trio and is usually the one resolving conflicts between her sisters, kicking butt, strategizing missions and following all the rules. That definitely takes a sharp, logical and objective mind.

Knowing your individual learning styles is useful in and out of the classroom. Learn more here.

 

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Jiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.