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AncestryDNA

For an artist named Detour, a very deliberate trip to Tanzania changed everything.

All images via Upworthy.

Thomas "Detour" Evans was there as part of an outreach program. He didn't know the language or the culture, yet it was being outside of his comfort zone that made him feel most at home.


Which sparked the question: Where was home, originally?

The curiosity excited Evans. So much so that as soon as he came back to the U.S., he took an AncestryDNA test to dive deeper into his heritage.

When Evans got the answer he was looking for, he turned it into one of the most inspiring works of art in his career. More importantly, he sparked a much-needed conversation in the community.

The moving experience led Evans to start the "They Still Live" project.

It's a photography exhibition in collaboration with art collector Paul Hamilton.

Evans took some of Hamilton's traditional African masks, paired them with different members of the African-American community who took AncestryDNA tests, and started snapping some amazing shots of them in modern-day settings.

"As African-Americans, we still have some of that DNA within us," Evans explains. "We want to show it visually."

Well, the results are fascinating.

I mean, how awesome is this?

One of the coolest parts? The models for the shoot actually learned their AncestryDNA results at the show itself.

More than anything, "They Still Live" is a project that's bringing the community together and engaging young people in the arts.

During the exhibition, people even marked places on maps that showed where they believed their ancestors were from. From there, those that attended the event would spark conversations with others about the origins of their ancestors.

"When people were learning about themselves," Evans says, "you saw other people learning about themselves as well."

"It helped bridge a gap between us as people, and it kind of helps you just learn more about what's in your community."

In fact, with the help of activist Panama Soweto, Evans is now expanding his project to help 40 young people who are at risk of gang involvement.

The youths will start by creating their own mask based on how they see themselves. Then, after three months, the youths will do it all over again. Only this time, they'll have their AncestryDNA test results with them.*

"If you understand where you've come from," Soweto adds, "then the negative things that we put with ourselves every day in order to get by, we can chip away at them if we truly have a unique understanding of each other’s experiences and what that really means."

Each and every one of us has a unique story to tell. And sharing those stories with others only makes our bond even stronger.

As we learn more about the richness of our past and shared history, it undoubtedly lights the way towards a brighter and more unified future.

"Everyone has this background that they can shine a light on," Evans says. "And I want to try to give that to everybody, and this was a really unique way of doing it."

Watch how the entire experience unfolded right here:

This artist created a beautiful and moving photography series, inspired by the results of this AncestryDNA test.

Posted by Upworthy on Friday, June 30, 2017

*The AncestryDNA service is intended for adults. Minors can only use AncestryDNA with the consent of their parent or guardian.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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