Blasian Perspective: Discovering My African Roots

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Are Asians descended from the African continent? While many side with historians who believe that civilization started in Europe or China, I have believed the answer to the above question to be an emphatic yes since reading The Destruction of African Civilization by Chancellor Williams and The African Presence in Early Asia by Runoko Rashidie and Ivan Van Sertima.

But recently, thanks to another virtual breakthrough called DNA technology, my beliefs have been reinforced. And made quite personal.

Last month, my brother Max had his DNA analyzed via a Web site call Familytreedna.com, and results showed his DNA belongs to the chromosome group known as Halogroup 03 Y. To refresh your memory from biology class, DNA is an organic substance that encodes and carries genetic information and is the fundamental element of heredity; thus, the most accurate genetic indicator of whether we are related to someone else. The thousands of genes that make up each chromosome are composed of deoxyribonucleic acid.

The results also indicated that my family originated in Africa, then migrated to the Middle East, then China and consequently the Philippines. Because matching DNA results are posted in Familytreedna.com, my brother and sister-in-law have been able to learn the surnames and respective countries of people around the world who have the same DNA results – relatives we’ve never known. Could the day that many Asian families discover their African relatives and ancestors – and vice versa – soon come to pass?

At this point in time, Familytreedna.com’s database contains over 200,000 people. Eventually, when it quadruples in size and includes more testers who are of African descent, maybe I will verify that my African descendants are from Senegal, which is my conclusion based on some research. For now, I can try to discover this by communicating with the persons from Hawai‘i, China, Russia and other parts of the world who belong to the same chromosome group as the Cacas family.

Last month, the New York Post reported that “the latest social networking is not on Facebook or MySpace. It’s happening at DNA-testing parties across the city. Rather than getting trashed at bars, New Yorkers are swabbing their cheeks en masse at house parties and then sending saliva sample back to labs to help trace their ancestors.” With online DNA projects like Familytreedna.com, I can see how FaceBook, MySpace and all those discussion groups on Yahoo may have met their match.

Sam Cacas, author of BlAsian Exchanges, a novel blogs frequently at at blasianexchangesanvoel.blogspot.com and beyondborders.asianweek.com.

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