The Sling Diaries, Volume VII. A photo-documentary chronicling the art of baby wearing in the lives of families around the world. Over the course of six months, Sling Diarists will create their own Sling Diary though a series of diary entries interpreting a unique theme given to them each month.
Meet all of our Sling Diarists here.
“Where are you from?”
“But where are you from? Are you Ethiopian?”
“No… I don’t think so. Maybe?”
The look of disappointment that always crosses their face is brief, but there.
Then the conversation either moves to where they’re from, the weather, or ends completely.
A part of me wants to know. Wants to claim somewhere else.
Several weeks ago, I took the 3 minutes it was to spit my saliva into a tube.
Careful to reach the line, but not overfill.
Careful to twist on the cap and shake the plastic container.
Careful to secure the box and preregister my account, thinking
how ironic it would be to ship off my DNA without a means of tracing it back.
It’s going to take weeks, months even for my results to hit my inbox.
And even then, it’s only half the story - my maternal genetic ancestry.
So, I did my own searching.
Southern Tennessee, the 60s and 70s.
My own mom never knew her real father. She was raised by her grandparents. Her mother’s secret child.
Fond memories of living on a sharecropping farm lead to my questions of how this business even came to be.
“Two white sisters owned the land. Their last names were also Harris.”
Also. Harris. My mother’s maiden name.
“I was in middle school,” she said.
“People used to ask if I played the piano, I said, ‘Nope, these are cotton-picking hands.
I was really good. You put it in your sack, then when you get to the end of the row, they weigh it.
My sack was always heavier than everyone else’s. I would talk shit. I was bad. Showing off to them.”
I don’t need a DNA test to tell me.
We were once slaves.
Does it matter from where?
The World, the 60s and 70s
Your Poppy grew up a bit here and a bit there.
He was a military brat. New Jersey, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, New York - all before the age of ten.
There’s a special quality that comes with being immersed in military life
An innate camaraderie when you’re forced to work and live as Black and White. Black and Asian. Black and whoever.
But did he ever wonder where we came from?
Why our family settled in Maryland?
Did we migrate here from farther South?
How did we get here in the first place?
He tells me,
“I don’t attribute my lineage to being the cause of the person I am today.
The person I am today is a direct relation to my mother.
You’re an individual and you build your own legacies.”
I know I’ll be filled with anxious excitement when my reported history comes in.
But what does knowing change?
I still won’t know the intricacies of the lives my ancestors were stripped from.
So you see, we must discover ourselves. Poring over old records and genetic testing is not a requirement.
It’s an added note.
You are a blend.
Of a grandmother who left everything she knew, and yet still didn’t know, at the age of 18, to pave her own path.
Of a grandfather who experienced the world at a young age, only to realize everything he needs is right in front of him.
Of me, your mom, who always wants to know more.
And this is only half of the story.
What will you discover?
About me, about your dad, about yourself?
Remember our stories.
Write them down if you have to. Record our voices. Capture our every day.
This is all we have.