A documentary film by first-time film maker and director Nware Rahsaan Burge will be screened at the 2020 ANS Conference. The event will be held on Friday evening, January 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the Steering Room of the Hilton Riverside Hotel, New Orleans. Titled “DNA—Using Genealogy to Change my
SLAVE Last Name,” the film poses the question, “Should Black people change their White last name?”
The film features Dr. Gina Paige of African-Ancestry.Com as well as New York State Senator Kevin Parker and other university scholars who provide their responses to what Burge terms “this complex and sensitive” question. Nware’s film proposes that people of African descent in the Americas should contemplate using DNA genealogy test results to change their European surname to one of African ethnic origin.
With his film, Burge hopes to facilitate a global discussion on this subject. He states, “Regardless of personal opinion, the legacy of chattel slavery, specifically plantation ownership, will forever live when the current surnames of African-Americans are passed from generation to generation without much grievance.”
As a result of the transatlantic slave trade, thousands of Africans were stripped of their names and their identities. Burge notes, “Many of the surnames that were given or forced, if not all, were of European ancestry. So instead of African-Americans having surnames such as Diallo, Agbaje, or Nkrumah, African-Americans carry surnames such as Smith, Johnson, or O’Connor.” Burge recommends that African-Americans use DNA genealogy test results to change their European surnames to those of African ethnic origin. In fact, Burge plans to use DNA genealogy test results to decide on a new surname for himself. “
“DNA—Using Genealogy to Change my
SLAVE Last Name” has already garnered critical acclaim. It received the Yaa Asantewaa award for Best Documentary at the Black Star International Film Festival in Accra, Ghana and was nominated for Best Documentary at the Newark International Film Festival in Newark, New Jersey. He has been interviewed by the BBC-radio in London to discuss his work. This past April, Nware was invited to screen his film at the Festival International Du Film Pan-African in Cannes, France.
In addition to being a documentary filmmaker, Burge is an Adjunct Professor at Kean University in Union, New Jersey and a history and special education high school teacher in Newark, New Jersey. He also co-owns Good Vibes Clean, an all-purpose organic cleaner and is a clothing model. Nware earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts/Political Science from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York and an M.S. in Education from Brooklyn College, in Brooklyn, New York. Nware has worked and taught in urban public schools for more than 15 years. Born in Hackensack, New Jersey, Nware currently resides in Newark.