Please watch the video above before reading my comments.
I must admit from the start that I have not had DNA testing and thus cannot claim that I have felt the full power of the experience the people in the video felt upon receiving their results. However, I was powerfully affected by watching the story unfold over five and a half minutes, and I recognize there is extraordinary likelihood that I would be similarly surprised by the circuitous routes my various ancestors followed that led to my birth. I do not well up often, but I welled up watching the end.
Watching it today was perhaps doubly powerful as I have just read Jon Meecham’s 2015 piece, “G and G Interview: John Lewis”, in Garden and Gun Magazine about John Lewis and his life as a leader within the Civil Rights movement. There are a few quotations that stood out to me made every more powerful because I have heard Lewis’ voice enough that I can hear it as I read his words.
Here are a couple of quotations from the article:
- “For Lewis, the civil-rights struggle always centered around whether the best of the Southern soul (the grace and the love, the godliness and the generosity) could finally win out over the worst (the racism and the hatred, the fear and the cruelty).”
- “I always felt growing up that in the South there was evil but also good—so much good,” Lewis says. “We are still in the process of becoming. I am very, very hopeful about the American South—I believe that we will lead America to what Dr. King called ‘the beloved community.’ I travel all the time, but when I come back to the South, I see such progress. In a real sense a great deal of the South has been redeemed. People feel freer, more complete, more whole, because of what happened in the movement.”
- “The march of 1965 injected something very special into the soul and the heart and the veins of America,” Lewis says. “It said, in effect, that we must humanize our social and political and economic structure. When people saw what happened on that bridge [The Edmund Pettus Bridge], there was a sense of revulsion all over America.”
- “In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house—not just the house of black and white, but the house of the South, the house of America,” Lewis says. “We can move ahead, we can move forward, we can create a multiracial community, a truly democratic society. I think we’re on our way there. There may be some setbacks. But we are going to get there. We have to be hopeful. Never give up, never give in, keep moving on.”
With the backdrop of the DNA video, I am particularly interested in Lewis’ last quotation. The end of the video illustrates point worthy of the hope Lewis expresses. As the participants realize that they were not exactly who they thought they were, you can see it dawn on them that they are more than they thought they were. I am struck by the idea that humankind’s work is not about bringing separate groups together; rather it is about remembering that we have never been apart. It is about remembering something deep inside us that recognizes what Maya Angelou gently reminds us: “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”