BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The explosion of at-home DNA tests allows people to find and connect with family they didn’t know existed, which can lead to emotional reunions.
But when UAB freshman Kayla Philliips Monday night that her mother’s DNA linked her to the Akan people found in and near Ghana, words were hard to come by.
“I still don’t know what to think...it’s still kind of overwhelming” she said, tearing up.
By winning an essay contest, Phillips had won a DNA test package from African Ancestry. The package says based on its database of more than 30,000 samples from indigenous Africans, it can link African-American customers not only to geographic regions of the continent, but to individual ethic groups.
African Ancestry co-founder Gina Paige presented Phillips’ results in person during an event called “Finding Your Wakanda: Family Trees, Tribes and Genetics.” It was put together by UAB’s Black Student Awareness Committee, its College of Arts and Sciences’ African American Studies, Student Multicultural and Diversity Programs and African Ancestry.
While Paige would not discuss African Ancestry’s sales figures, she says the 16 year-old company she founded with geneticist Rick Kittles saw a boost in sales after release of the blockbuster film Black Panther last year. She says demand is also strong this year which is the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans’ arrival in what is now the U.S.
Paige says her company provides vital information for African-Americans whom she calls the original victims of identity theft. “If you don’t know your name, if you can;t speak your language, how can you know who you are” Paige says. “So, having this connection to Africa is not a novelty. It’s not some interesting information you pay $59 for. It is an absolute necessity.”