Why I am hesitant to claim my Native American heritage

My mother was raised by her mother. My maternal grandmother identified herself as African American and there was no more said about it. Mom only knew of a handful of relatives on her mother’s side of the family. All of them lighter skinned.

Despite not knowing her father, my mother always checked the African American or Black box on slips and medical forms. But, my mother always felt that there was more to her story. She was too light for some and too dark for others.

When I was in high school, my mother came to an event. A classmate said to me, “I didn’t know your mother was white.” It was the first time I realized that my mother was not distinctly African American.

It’s not the first time mom was called out. She’s been mistaken for Hawaiian, Spanish, and Caucasian. Most ironic, she’d always get approached by local Native American tribal members and asked “Are you one of us?”

A few years before my grandmother’s passing, I saw a picture of my great grandparents. There’s no way you could convince me that they were Black. But, my mother insisted they were! After all, she never questioned her mother’s word that she was anything other than African American.

So, Fast forwardto a few years ago… My mother started a search for her father. It was a long and arduous search that started with a DNA test. All the matches on the platform for her were of Native American descent, more distinctly, the local tribe that always asked “Are you one of us?” Conclusively, mom is Native American on both sides of her parents. Literally, I went to school and befriended many from this tribe, so it’s crazy to think that we are all estranged.

Based on conversations with others in the tribe, and a wealth of proof, my mother and I became official members of the tribe.

I am excited to learn about the culture and the opportunity to share these things with my son. But, I feel like an impostor. It’s as if all of that “passing” my mother and grandmother did when it came to other ethnicities now haunts me as I try to claim and embrace my actual heritage. Granted, at no fault of my mother.

My mother, whose parents are now deceased, has no deep bond or real connection with any tribal members she’s come into contact with during her search. And let’s be honest…no one is exactly jumping through hoops to help her navigate to the right lane or to fill in the blanks. Remember, my grandmother was estranged from the tribe, and who knows if my great grandparents were also. There’s certainly a disconnect and no life-line for my mother nor I to cling to going forward.

At any rate, I was already proud to be 100% African American before discovering my true heritage. But, now I am also just as proud to be 50% Native American. And I am just as excited to share with my son that he is also part Native American. But, I have to be fully comfortable saying it out loud, right?

Once again, impostor syndrome kicks in. What will the tribe think of me saying it? I have no idea of their customs. Will I become that flamboyant “LOOK AT ME! I AM NATIVE AMERICAN, HEAR ME ROAR!” distant cousin that no one wants to acknowledge? Even though I’m proud to have the tribal enrollment card, share the same DNA as the Chief of the tribe, and have proof of my heritage, I do not feel worthy or as if I belong. 

Furthermore, my impostor syndrome really kicked in when my son’s class did heritage week. I proudly told my son that he was of African American and Native American descent. When he relayed that to the class, the teacher became ecstatic and asked what customs he could share with the group. Oh oh… My son looked at me and I shrugged because I have no idea!

I have no idea what happened between my grandmother and grandfather. The truth remains with them. My mother currently assured me and the rest of her family that she feels highly blessed, serene and complete; knowing “Mission Accomplished” in finally knowing who her dad is, his final resting place, and most importantly to obtain a (middle-aged) picture of him. Surprisingly, when she showed me the picture, a sense of peace came over me.  His picture is below.  My mother looks like him.

Beautiful Chaos

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I fell in love again.

This time, the pace at which I’m dancing is different. He and I bounce to new age hip hop and grind to the chopped and screwed version of our song titled “Beautiful Chaos.” The beat is too up-tempo for me; he leads and I clumsily follow. My heart races, my body aches, and I’m out of breath. No doubt, I am the amateur in this club – no matter how many times I follow him to the dance floor.

He enjoys hip hop much more than me. He’s awake but not annoyingly “woke.” Pride of who he is and what his people stand for is encoded in his swag. He mingles and vibes on a deeper level than me. But there’s so much more to him than hip hop.

He listens to understand, speaks to encourage, and adds a steadfast element to any group. Honestly, he’s an awesome person to know.

I wanted him from the moment I laid eyes on him, but the timing has been off. There’s a verse in Jay Z’s Lost One that resonates with me:

I don’t think it’s meant to be,
But she loves her work more than she does me
And honestly, at twenty three
I would probably love my work more than I did she
So we ain’t we, it’s me and her
‘Cause what she prefers over me is work
And that’s where we differ
So I have to give her free time even if it hurts
So breathe, mami, it’s deserved
You’ve been put on this earth
To be all you can be, like the reserves
And me? My time in the army, it’s served
So I have to allow she, her time to serve
The time’s now for her, in time, she’ll mature
And maybe we can be we again like we were
Finally, my time’s too short to share
And to ask her now, it ain’t fair
So yeah, she lost one
Lose one, let go to get one
Let one, lose some to win some
Sorry, I’m a champion, sorry, I’m a champion
You lost one

I absolutely relate to Jay Z’s ability to withhold showing his love for Bey until she experiences life. The muse behind this piece (also the inspiration behind The Dangerous Libra) hasn’t been married nor does he have kids. When we talk, he mentions he may want these experiences. I want him to have those experiences. Irony exists in this entire paragraph and now is not the time to explain.

J. Cole’s video titled Kevin’s Heart depicts Kevin Hart, the comedian, fleeing from the temptation of women. Something about that video strikes a cord with me. There’s a small part of me that feels like I’m chasing a dream. I told you, I’m not familiar with the hip hop tempo.

We have our moments; when we do, they are amazing! The other night we grooved to the R&B mix of our song “Beautiful Chaos.” The tempo was more my speed. Nearly eight hours passed, but it only felt like three. We ate, drank, toasted to life’s goodness, and pleasured each other. I shed a few tears while he was inside of me (I always wondered if I could do that). I held on to that moment and stored it in the back of my mind. It’s safe in that space.

You might not have heard of Usher’s song titled Tell Me. It doesn’t get its fair share of play. If I were to keep our situationship in my world, it would constantly reflect the message of the song: closeness, love, admiration. He didn’t just steal my heart, he snagged my soul. He’s imprinted in every thought, my every breath.

As beautiful as our situationship is and as euphoric as it feels, it’s torture. I played too many hearts and not enough spades, and I will be stuck trying to learn this new age hip hop if I cannot separate our beauty from our chaos. Except, I’m not quite sure I want to do that since there’s a lot of beauty embedded in our chaos.

She’s Gotta Have It, So Do I

Friend: “B, I feel like I understand you now!”

Me: “How so?”

Friend: “You are Nola Darling from [the Netflix series] She’s Gotta Have It. She’s a free-spirit that can’t commit to one lover. Most beautiful, she is unapologetic about who she is.”


Naturally, I had to see what the fuss was about and how I am portrayed around town. So I turned to Netflix to check it out for myself. If you haven’t seen the series, the official synopsis reads:

“Nola Darling struggles to stay true to herself and her dreams while juggling three lovers in this Spike Lee series based on his breakout film.

It took me two days to complete the 10-part series. By the third episode, I high-fived Nola from across the room a few times. My friend was right, Nola and I share the same core.

Her Craft: Just like Nola, I vibe with my craft above all else. As I wrote in the piece titled Suck It, Disney, I am a writer, mother, and lover…in that order. When nights get lonely and the days are long, my work brings solace. Just like Nola, some of my best work was birthed during dark moments.

Her Openness: Nola is afraid of commitment. Possibly because there’s a smidgen of complacency within each commitment. Complacency scares me too; therefore, I struggle to find balance. I thrive in situations that I can act on impulse and intuition, simultaneously.

Her Lovers: Nola is energy-focused. She embraces the energy of those that captivate and cultivate her. Though I’m not in a position to vibe with various people, I completely understand her position. If I had not had my share of lovers, half of my portfolio would not exist.

She’s Gotta Have It is inspiring. It proves that there is a shift in the atmosphere that encourages women to be unapologetic about their beauty, defiance, and intimate desires.