On Wednesday, we were in for a treat on our African Ancestry LIVE with our CEO and Co-founder, Gina Paige. Regarded as something that we hold for only very special occasions, we got to enjoy a DNA reveal live on the show, with our cousin, our friend, Founder of Brown Girl Collective: Marcie Thomas.
She joined Gina on the LIVE, rocking her African-land shaped earrings, cultural headband and a signature African Ancestry shirt, adorned with the words “Made of...The Blood. The Culture. The Land.” in traditional red, yellow and green writing.
Coming up on the celebration of Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day and Emancipation Day), this reveal felt timely and positively personal. At African Ancestry, we celebrate the freedom and empowerment that comes from tracing your lineage and knowing deeply who you are and where you’re from.
Who Is Marcie Thomas?
Marcie has held down a community-centered Black owned organization for the last twelve years. The site, Brown Girl Collective, was created for “bold, beautiful and brilliant Black women'' to be able to connect with one another and talk to and about one another in a very positive way.
She took to Facebook to market her virtual creation, making sure to post about historical achievements of Black women on a daily basis. She invited women to share their stories, discuss things going on within their families, relationships with their daughters and things of that nature. And people just kept coming back. What initially set out to be a private online community, transformed to a more open forum as Marcie saw that Black women wanted in. They wanted to be a part.
Now, the group has expanded to more than 492,000 members and followers.
“That’s from just sharing information and talking about us in a positive light. I look to steer away from negativity and gossip. I like to talk about our boldness, our brilliance and our beauty,” Marcie explained.
As the business grew, she felt a need to look back and find ways to connect with women on a more intimate one-to-one level. During the early stages of the pandemic, she started a virtual book club where she reads Black-authored books with others and invites those authors to be interviewed during the club’s meeting time. She notes how powerful the experience has been.
“I felt good because one lady said ‘I really wasn’t reading as much. I didn’t know about all these Black women authors, but now I do.”
She followed up, too, with the start of Live Well Sister, which is an extension of the more intimate group settings she birthed. “You know Black women -- we are bold. We are beautiful, but sometimes there may be things going on behind the scenes where we aren’t feeling that way as much. So we talk about mental health, or our relationships with family members, with others, or ourselves. And just learning how to enjoy life.”
“I wanted to branch out and add a little more meat to the bone.”
Coming to African Ancestry was serendipitous.
Through her business, she was led to African Ancestry, in an indirect way, but clearly it was by fate.
Early on in her business, she’d posted something about Brown Girl Collective on Twitter. She’d gotten a retweet or like from someone with the handle @FayeTreks (who she later learns is Gina’s biological aunt Faye). With curiosity around the “Treks” and what that meant, she did some digging and learned about the organization, Girl Trek, another Black-owned business built around inspiring a health initiative for Black women nationwide.
Gina notes here that we are all connected, whether we know it or not. Marcie became a part of this organization through her own personal interests in walking and exploring and found her way here.
“People can see how we are all connected because we support [our Black] organizations,” Gina shared.
Marcie had been following the business for quite some time, even before she knew Aunt Faye was the founder’s aunt, but this year, she really felt like it was time to take the plunge into her identity and let the company trace her lineage, too.
It was time to know who she was.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in, knowing who I am, knowing where my people come from. The reality is that so much of our history has been lost. I did my mom’s line. My mom’s part of the family is really kind of small, for me to do this is to honor my mom while she’s here so she can know more of her history but also to get more of a connection to an even bigger family to what I may have had in actuality. That’s why I wanted to do it and now this is the time.”
She took the MatriClan Test to deepen her knowledge about her mother’s maternal lineage. As an only child with a small nuclear family, she didn’t know that much about her history, though she did have the privilege of knowing her grandmother and maternal great-grandmother as a child.
On the show, she let Gina reveal to her the results of the test.
After a call for guesses to where her lineage could be traced (she guessed Senegal; others on the live chats guessed that she may be from Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, or Guinea-Bissau), we got to see the live reveal alongside Marcie.
The results were in. Her maternal line traced back to the Mende people of Sierra Leone. The impact was brilliant.
Gina shared a bit of the history of the Mende people and highlighted the secret societies they hold. They’re called Sande societies -- all women -- collectively initiate girls into womanhood.
“I can imagine that Part of the process is teaching them history, having the embrace of all of the women of the community, the collective, the history and the wisdom of the elders and the brown women who came before them,” Gina said.
In the video below we see a Sande celebration video captured during an African Ancestry trip to the Moyamba village in Sierra Leone. The mask, worn by an elder woman (Sowei), is the only time a mask is worn by a woman ceremoniously.
It brought a feeling of strong connection for Marcie, as she realizes that her affinity for mentoring your girls and fostering those communities is deeply rooted in her ancestry. “It makes sense.”
How does Marcie feel after knowing her results?
“I feel great! I’m so excited because I’ve always wanted to know and now to have knowledge with specificity to know some things and make some decisions and I see I have some cousins here,” she says, referring to all of the welcoming flags, notes, and emojis that were flooding the chat boxes.
She’s excited about the exclusive opportunity to gain dual citizenship as a U.S. citizen and one from Sierra Leone. Through a powerful partnership with African Ancestry, anyone who takes the test and learns that they share DNA with those from Sierra Leone can gain citizenship there, a privilege that they only allow for descendants, even to this day. You become part of a very special group of people who can call Sierra Leone your home.
The benefits don’t stop there. If you choose to get the citizenship and return to your homeland -- even if for a trip -- you have the opportunity to travel throughout West African countries without a visa.
She looked forward to sharing the results with her mother, who, in part she took the test for.
“She’ll be happy. She’ll probably be cheesing like me. Just to know. These are our roots. I can dig deeper and learn about the Mende people and know that those people are my people and connect with people in the community and meet people here - an expansion of family. I’m an only child so now I got some brothers and sisters and more cousins. I’m excited.”
Marcie couldn’t stop smiling from the time she got her results through the rest of the LIVE. “It’s important. So many ways that people try to strip our identity from us. I feel a sense of pride knowing this is where I am from.”
“I am Mende Marcie, this is who I am.”
It sounds like more African Ancestry kits are on the horizon for Marcie! She’s already thinking about who she can get on her dad’s side to help figure out where they’re from.
Are you inspired by Marcie’s story? Get your African Ancestry DNA Test Kit (or two!) and share your story. We can’t wait to welcome you into the fam!
* Some quotes from the lives have been edited for length or clarity.
African Ancestry Family Stories highlight African Ancestry customers as they share their history and experiences in their own words. Share your story with email@example.com