African Ancestry, Changing the Realism of Reality TV


African Ancestry, a Washington D.C.-based company which over the past 10-years has accumulated a collection of indigenous African DNA and proprietary DNA matching analysis created by Dr. Rick Kittles to help people discover their African roots, continues to break new ground in genealogy programming.

During its 10-year existence, the company has helped over 100, 000 individuals discover their African connections.

Kittles has spent years of research on genetic variation in African peoples, resulting in dozens of published works and advancements in field of human genetics and genetic anthropology. He joined with African-American entrepreneur Gina Paige in 2003 to pioneer DNA-based ancestry tracing for people of African descent across the world. According to its website, the company’s methods are able to identify an individual’s country of origin, and often the specific ethnic group they come from.

“I never imagined that my passion for African history and the movements of its people throughout the world would have one day manifested in a much-needed consumer product among African Americans,” Kittles said.

The company’s latest contribution is “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.,” which completes its debut season this month.

“The rise of reality shows has been great in many ways, but it has also been not so great in many ways, especially in exposing the undesirable side of human behavior,” said Gina Paige, president of African Ancestry. “The work we’ve done with shows like ‘Finding Your Roots’ is positively changing the way people see themselves and the way they interact with their families.

“This is the reality I want to see in my people and our communities,” Paige added.

African Ancestry has played a major role in shows such as “African American Lives 1 and 2,” NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?,” CNN’s “Black in America” series and “Faces of America.”

However, the company has met with some criticism, being accused of telling participants what they want to hear. Furthermore, critics have questioned the accuracy of the DNA testing process, among them Gates himself. Gates claimed that two tests run by two different companies traced his matrilineal heritage to very different places—one to Egypt, and the other to Europe.

In a 2007 New York Times article, Paige defended African Ancestry’s mission, and the importance of DNA testing.

“For most African-Americans, there is no paper trail,” Paige told the Times. “We make money, but we see this as a service to a people who have been cut off from their history and culture.”

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African Ancestry, Changing the Realism of Reality TV

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