Tell us about your education background.
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. I also hold an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from Global Oved Dei Seminary University.
What inspired you to create African Ancestry?
I was inspired by the passion that Dr. Kittles had for transforming the lives and psychologies of Black people as well as the fact that we would be the pioneers of genetic ancestry tracing for people of African descent.
How many people have utilized your product and service?
Our tests have impacted over 750,000 people since 2003.
What has been the most memorable response of a client when receiving the results?
I have had the honor of interacting with a number of people who have received their ancestry results. One of the most memorable reveals was with a graduate student at the University of Maryland. Even before taking an African Ancestry MatriClan Test, he was convinced that his maternal ancestry was Sierra Leonean. He had a tight knit group of friends from Sierra Leone. He had the Sierra Leonean flag in his bedroom as a teenager. He loved the food and the culture. When I confirmed that his ancestry was indeed Mende in Sierra Leone, the excitement and anticipation immediately turned into shock. He was speechless and could not say anything as he was completely overcome with emotion. To be honest, most of us in the room were too!
What has been the most difficult challenge that you have had to overcome in this journey?
There have been many lessons learned along my African Ancestry journey for the past 13 years. One of the more difficult, yet most rewarding challenges has been working with people to help them understand the value of knowing where they are from. We are very well educated about the “American” in our “African American.” We can recite the Pledge of Allegiance, name the Founding Fathers and sing the Star-Spangled Banner. Yet we know very little about the “African” part of that label. Based on the negative stereotypes of Africa, it’s understandable why people are not as eager to embrace that part of who we are. When we learn about the specificity of our African lineages, we experience a stronger sense of identity, belonging and community. We open our minds to our potential because we feel empowered by who we are.
Entrepreneurship is very challenging. What keeps you motivated?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs on my father’s side. I also know that I share paternal ancestry with the Hausa people living in Nigeria and the women are the business people of that culture. So entrepreneurship is in my DNA. During challenging times, I remember how critically important our work is. African Ancestry provides a tool that allows Black people to connect to our genetic pasts and define positive narratives that position us for success.
Who are some of the more notable people that have experienced the work of African Ancestry?
We are honored to have traced the ancestries of some of America’s most notable influencers and trendsetters, including Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, Dr. Dorothy Height, Congressman John Lewis, Taraji P. Henson and Common.
Where can people find out more information about African Ancestry?
Where do you see the business in the next five years?
Our goal is for everyone in the African diaspora to know their roots: meaning their ancestry, their genealogy and their family health history. We also expect our work to expand to help eliminate health disparities in Black communities.