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Tia Mowry on Ancestry and Her Inspiring Great-Grandmother

Tia Mowry Learned About Her Ancestry — and Was Inspired by Her Great-Grandmother

This Black History Month, we wanted to learn about the personal histories of women we admire — so we asked changemakers to tell us about a Black woman in their life who has been crucial in shaping who they are today.

In this installment, Tia Mowry tells us about her great-grandmother Cecilia, who was the "pioneer" of her family. Mowry is an actor and entrepreneur who recently launched her new hair-care brand 4U by Tia.

A few years ago, I really took the time to learn more about my roots and learned more about my ancestors. I wanted to pay homage to them because I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for their decisions.

And I was just so in awe of the strength and courage of my great-grandmother Cecilia. She was born and raised in Eleuthera, which is an island in the Bahamas. I was able to go over there and visit some of my cousins that I had never met before. And this island is so small, meaning, first of all, you have to take a small plane to get there (and I hate small planes). But when you land on the island, it's almost like you could see the water if you look in front of you, behind you, to the left of you, and to the right of you. It's crazy.

My point is that this is such a small island. And at the age of 14 or 15, Cecilia ended up leaving with her partner. She was very young, he was a little older, but she ended up going with her partner and leaving her comfort zone for a "better life." She went to Miami, and she worked in the cotton fields there. And that's where she started her new life, and that's where my grandmother was born, and that's where my mother was born — and then, lo and behold, I'm here.

But the reason I credit her is because it had to have taken a lot of faith, a lot of courage, a lot of strength to do what she did.

I actually got to meet her. She ended up passing away from Alzheimer's, so she was not really able to constantly recognize me being her great-granddaughter. But I wish that she would have known how much I just appreciate her courage, because I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for her — she was the "pioneer" for my family and why we are here today and we have the opportunities that we have.

I consider myself a strong woman, and I've been surrounded by such strong women. My great-grandmother was incredibly strong; my grandmother was incredibly strong, she passed away a few years ago; and my mother. These are Black women that have paved the way for me and have shown through example that no matter what comes your way, as my grandmother would always say, "Continue to look to the hills." Meaning, don't look back, continue to press forward: you've got this.

— As told to Jessica Harrington

Image Source: Adam Rindy and Photo Illustration: Michelle Alfonso
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