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  • Writer's pictureShabazz L. Graham

SHABOOM 💥: If we don't know where we came from, how do we know who we are?

Updated: May 17, 2021

I first heard this provocative question whilst editing a documentary for an amazing filmmaker and singer-songwriter last year called Ashirah Sounds. The film was about the singer's eye-opening trip to Kenya, to understand her maternal heritage.

As a film editor, I was always paid, and trusted, by my clients to be brutally honest and decisive about choosing the best parts of a story (the scenes and shots) to tell the entirety of a live-action narrative. I trained for 25 years to be an 'edit-suite-samurai' willing to trim, splice and cut film clips to make the story I was hired to tell as clear as possible. Whilst editing this film for Ashirah, I ‘brutally’ almost made this quote hit the cutting room floor, meaning I almost cut it out of the film, but its provocative power slowly pulled me into the truth of its challenge.

"Shabazz L. Graham, how do you actually know who you are, if you don't know where you come from? Who are you really? Where DO you come from? and how can you help navigate your 2-year-old son, so that he doesn't feel as lost as you have in the life that's ahead of him; so when he's 45 and has a desire to 'find himself' in the vast expanse of human history, how can he find his heritage better than you currently have?"

This question is the thing of epic quests in Hollywood blockbusters, as all stories tend to lean towards the heroes asking questions about themselves, like the one's I'm asking myself now.

Not only did the quote make the cut, but it challenged me deeply, sending me on a journey of my own as I was forced to contend with the truth that although I am more confident in knowing who I am based on who I have 'shaped' myself to be (meaning I am self-aware of my own character, worldview, personal experience, values and other things that make up my life), I am unsure about so much of my heritage, distant past and recent past, that it causes me to question 'what more' I could be, or even 'who more' I could be if I knew more about my heritage. This really calls to mind how important it is to pass down our knowledge, especially of our family identity, to our legacy.

At only nine months old I was placed into the care of the British Social Services; I became a genuine child of the system. I remained in children's homes and care all the way up till I was seventeen, so you can imagine I grew up wanting to find belonging. I wanted to know who I was, who I TRULY was, based on where I came from. A lot of my 'belonging questions' became buried under the weight of life, up and until I turned forty when the identity questions began to once again be heard in the caverns of the echo chamber of my mind.

So with this in mind, I recorded this musing video blog below. I hope you're able to get some insight from it, if not for you maybe for a friend, your child, nephew or niece or anyone. If you do find anything beneficial, please comment, as I'd love to know, and learn from, your thoughts.

Ancestral Mathematics
Sobering Ancestral Mathematics


We think we know who we are, but how much of the knowledge about who we think we are is limited to us only knowing about our 'presence' here on earth and not the heritage that we descend from?

How much of our heritage do we need to know in order to have more of an appreciation about who indeed we truly are?

Whatever the answer to any of the questions I've shared in this post, and the video blogs, those of us who are parents (know it or not, love it or not) have inherited the responsibility of helping our children know who they are, and where they descend from (with wisdom and discretion of course).

We all need to belong.

Let's give our children true belonging.

I am Shabazz, and these are my thoughts. (Thank you for listening to them)

An Addendum

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