Last week, we met up with Eddie Meeks, Esq., who has had wonderful experiences birthed from knowing his heritage. He joined us on African Ancestry LIVE, which we host weekly on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. with our Co-Founder and CEO, Gina Paige. Eddie shared his journey of learning his heritage, travelling to his maternal and paternal lands and extending the legacy.
Since the age of 13, Eddie has studied Africa and wanted to dig deeper into his identity. He strived to learn more about his paternal lineage and took the African Ancestry PatriClan Test to gain knowledge about the DNA in him from his father’s side.
Though it’s often encouraged to start with your mother’s side, his maternal lineage had already been revealed at a family reunion. Her lineage traced back to the Balanta people of Guinea-Bissau.
At 38, Eddie took the sacred journey to Guinea-Bissau to reconnect with his home, by way of his maternal heritage.
“I had already made up in my mind that when I landed, I didn’t want to be speaking English. I wanted to be speaking my maternal tongue which is Balanta and so I had been practicing,” Eddie shared.
It was his way of reconnecting with his ancestors. With translators and practice, he spoke the Balanta language as much as he could, down to making sure his enunciations were correct. He felt the most connected this way, considering that when the people were taken from there, they weren’t speaking English, so the most authentic experience would include speaking the way that they did.
The 10-day trip was never intended to be a vacation. While he held no expectations for the trip, he was committed to gaining as much as he could from the experience organically, without planning a bunch of tourist trips or even staying in a hotel.
“It was like no one else was in the plane, the room or anything. It was a very surreal moment. When I got there, I didn’t want to go stay in a hotel. I wanted to stay in the city among the people. I got up when they got up, I ate when they ate, I ate how they ate, I didn’t want to be a tourist. I didn’t want people to say ‘oh, the American is here. I wanted to be seen as equal.’”
While he was there, he stayed with Ivo Jose de Barrow, a native attorney there who he’d been partnered up with by a passionate friend, Randy Williams (who he’d met through African Ancestry). He also moved around with a translator, who studied under Rashida Bah, an African-American who taught English there for many years.
“They showed up at the airport and never left my side from the time I got to Guinea-Bissau to the time I left.”
Eddie reflected on how natural the time there flowed. He said the adjustment took about ten minutes and mostly only around the extreme heat. “There wasn’t a time period that I felt that I didn’t belong there. I began adjusting immediately. There was no real adjustment getting all the mannerisms, the laughter sounded familiar, the expressions were familiar.”
One experience he recalls was visiting one of the slave ports of Guinea-Bassau. He noted it was one that many of the folks would have come through and during the slave trade. At the time that he visited, a historical museum was being built on the land.
“I was at the slave port there with my translator and we were walking through and I wanted to feel the vibe there. I wanted to know if my ancestors came through that port.”
He got his answer in two miraculous ways.
In his first story, he notes the heat of the day. He wasn’t wearing a hat but the hot sun drenched him in sweat. Without a hat to shield himself, he opted to wear a towel on his head to capture the sweat. As he was going through the building and touching and connecting with his ancestors and journeys of the past, he continued to use the towel and noted that he didn’t want to lose it.
“I got outside and I realized that that rag that I had was just gone. It just disappeared whatsoever. And I went back looking for it and it was gone. The sweat and DNA that was on my body, literally returned to that location there so it was kind of confirmation for me.”
In his second story, he mentioned that he was able to impossibly get stones from the actual port back home to the US.
“If you ever tried to get stones back through customs, you know that it’s practically impossible to do that. So I fully anticipated those stones being gone by the time that I got back to the United States. When I got to Portugal, I opened my luggage and they were gone. Nowhere to be found. Then when I got to the United States, there they were, right on top in my luggage. It’s literally those types of confirmations.”
Eddie recalled how liberating the return had been. He visited several Balanta villages, in hopes of really getting connected to the place in a spiritual way that couldn’t be bought. It was a homecoming.
He had successfully embraced his heritage and lineage from his maternal line, but the work was only just beginning.
Next, he delved into his paternal line, which he learned about after taking the PatriClan Test. He’d learned that that lineage was of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso.
As he waited for his test results, he recalled being pretty anxious and calling Founder and CEO of African Ancestry, Gina Paige, and inquiring about it. She told him that he had very unique DNA.
When he did get his results back, he learned that the Mossi people lived 400-500 miles inland so a lot of interesting things happened to land them in the United States, but what remained is the resemblances in the people there.
Yes, he set out for another trip, this time to Burkina Faso.
On this trip, he took his tween daughters, who were also excited about the culture and language, along with him.
“Burkina Faso was a unique experience that literally when you go to Ouagadougou, which is the capital city there, it was literally like walking into a mirror because everybody looked the same. Like literally, they thought my US passport was fake. It’s scary when you go there because everyone there looks the same.”
He met aunts and cousins and remarked how similarly everyone looked. “If I didn’t know, at that moment, I knew that the DNA didn’t lie.”
At this point, Eddie is extremely connected to his roots in Africa, both on the sides of the Balanta people of Guinea-Bissau from his maternal lineage and the Mossi people of Burkina Faso by way of his father’s lineage. When he returned, he met and engaged with as much of his family and culture as he could.
“Once they meet you, they attach themselves to you. I would get calls on my birthday. You’re always family. They always remember who you are.”
In 2019, he solidified his identity and experienced two life-changing ceremonies.
“When I went back, we decided that I was going to have two ceremonies: One was a naming ceremony and one a welcome home ceremony.”
His first one was in Flacken, an older Balanta village in the North. They named him Iznaba Ciga, meaning: “Ultimate individual. Ultimate loner, he doesn’t fit in with the group. He doesn’t care about what’s going on around him. He just cares about doing what he needs to do to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.”
“It describes my personality very well. I’ve always been the ultimate individual. That’s why you’ll catch me in Portugal one day, Guinea-Bissau the next, and California the next. I kinda march to the beat of my own drum.”
The second ceremony, which has been documented on our site, was in Gunton, near Cacchio where the slave port lived. The elders travelled from near and far to welcome him home for this ceremony held on the following day.
“I had no idea what was going to be going on. The name I received there was Kumba NKiche Nefando. Kumba Nkiche was the first Balanta person in the village there. Nfando is a family name that means that you belong to them so anywhere in the world, the last name Nfando will take you back to that village.”
He was also given land in both villages.
What’s next for Eddie Meeks?
He is currently running for Judge in Gaston County in North Carolina, the 38th Judicial District. He hopes to make great changes for the county of about 210,000 people and help to increase the number of Black people in law in the area. Currently, of the 15-20% Black population, less than 10 people have law degrees.
While he lives in North Carolina here in the US, he isn’t removed from his homeland. He’s working on building two schools there and has incorporated a company there that will help develop land and create jobs for many people.
His legacy is widespread: here in the US, now in his two home villages in Africa and through his children who have adopted similar deep-rooted interests in their heritages.
He says that the experience and learning who he is allowed him to pass it down to his children and give them back their identities.
If you’d like to learn more about Eddie’s journey, please join the African Ancestry private group on Facebook where family members like Eddie Meeks share accomplishments, resources, information and milestones.
Don’t forget to tune into our other live experiences with Gina Paige this month on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. We’ll be talking with an ethnomusicologist, learning about freedom movements across African Diaspora and having an exclusive visit with a very special guest! Mark your calendars!
Interested in beginning your own spiritual journey and learning your lineages? Get your DNA test now!
*Please note, you can only join the group after purchasing a MatriClan or PatriClan kit.
** Some quotes from the lives have been edited for length or clarity.
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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