She had always identified as mixed-race. Her DNA results changed that.
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AncestryDNA

When Shayna Watson decided to get an AncestryDNA test to reveal her ancestry on her 30th birthday, she had a certain idea of what the results would look like.

"I expected to see African, I expected to see a little bit of European, just based on colonization, and I definitely expected to see at least a little Native American," she says.

Watson had grown up with stories of her partial Native American heritage. In fact, her father had proudly shown her photographs of her grandmother on a Pequot reservation.  


When Watson was asked, frequently, throughout her childhood and adulthood, "What are you mixed with?" in regards to her distinctive curly hair, she had responded with "Native American" — although she had never known for sure.

Image courtesy of Shayna Watson.

"I get my ancestry results back and there's not even a drop of Native American," she says.

"It was a shock."

Immediately, she took a screenshot of the results and sent them to her mother, followed only by a question mark. Questions initially popped into her head — like "Am I adopted?" "Is my dad really my dad?" But that wasn’t it. She wasn't adopted. And her dad was her dad. There was just more to the story.

Screenshot of AncestryDNA results via Shayna Watson.

"It made everybody kind of stop and recognize that a lot of the oral history that we know in our family may not be true," she explains. "It opened up this conversation of whether my grandma was passing as Native American at the time."

That discovery led Watson to some difficult questions about her family's history. Had her grandmother been told the same stories she had? Or did she have to downplay her African heritage because of anti-black sentiment she faced?

Watson continues, "I think what the DNA test did that was great for me and my family was that it kind of allowed a truth to be told without people having to tell the truth."

Screenshot of AncestryDNA map results via Shayna Watson.

The experience has even inspired Watson's mom to take her own AncestryDNA test, and she is eagerly awaiting the results.

In addition to revealing her family’s past, the AncestryDNA test results helped Watson better understand how her ancestry can inform her identity.

Once the initial shock of not having any Native American heritage died down a little, Watson was able to really process her results, which showed that 73% of her ancestors came from the continent of Africa and 25% came from Europe, mostly Scandinavian regions.

"I was kind of pleasantly surprised with the percentage African-American that was there," she says. "With us black Americans, it's not an easy narrative to come back and see such a large percentage of European because, for a lot of us, we know what that means. We know the tough history behind that."

Seeing such a large African percentage, she felt relief.

Finding out her family history and where they came from, she says, has given her more confidence in her identity as a black woman. Knowing that some of the unique physical characteristics she receives compliments on are, in fact, a result of her African ancestry has become a source of pride for her.

Image courtesy of Shayna Watson.

"There was a lot of times when I was growing up that I kind of clung to this idea that I was mixed with a bunch of things and I used that to set myself apart a little bit," she says.

"Now when people ask if I am mixed with something, I say 'no,'" Watson says.

"Hearing that question again as an adult," she wrote in her article for The Root, "especially now — when I know the legacy of squeezing into spaces in order to exist that has come out in my history — has really shifted the way I view beauty and blackness."

Watson is a writer by career, and while telling her story to others, she found it resonated with a lot of people. So, she decided to write about her experiences of digging into her ancestry in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.  

"I think for those of us that are labelled as minorities in this country, it's a difficult place to find where you fit in," Watson says. "What this allowed me to do was decide for myself — even though the results came back with six different places I was connected to — it allowed me to decide where I wanted to identify."

For her birthday this past year, Watson took a vacation to Africa and spent a lot of time exploring Morocco.

Watson on her trip in Morocco. Image courtesy of Shayna Watson.

"That trip … it definitely felt different, just knowing that such a huge percentage of me was from where I was standing," she says. "And it definitely makes me want to go back and visit Nigeria and Congo and all of the places that showed up on my results that I never knew I had a direct connection to without doing this test."

Watson says that she recommends that other people take the test too even if they think that they know what the test will show.  

"There are so many things in your ancestry that  your  family may never know to tell you ... It lets you get a part of [your past] that you could never get just from talking to people and family members," she says. "Even if you think that you know, and even if every story going back in your family is from a certain place, I would still suggest doing it because we are such a melting pot and it's a beautiful thing."

Did you know? April 25 is DNA Day. Have you celebrated your heritage today?

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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