Carmelo Anthony, a well-known Puerto Rican basketball player, revealed in a recent episode of the PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” that he is a descendant of slaves and the son of a political activist. Just like Anthony, many individuals in the United States are unaware of their roots and often times find themselves being asked where they are from. Latin Americans, which Anthony identifies as, are an ethnic group in the states especially prone to being asked this question consistently.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Anthony was very aware of his Puerto Rican background because both of his parents were from the island. Unfortunately, his father died of cancer when he was only two years old. Like many Latin-Americans, he found a love for the country that his parents were from and because of his father’s death at such a young age, it drew Anthony to want to know more about his lineage.
“When I was younger, I remember just shadows of him and then you start being suspicious and asking more and more questions about who you are and your family, your foundation,” said the 33-year-old.
It was 10 years ago when Carmelo first decided to really question his mom about his father. Around the same time, Anthony and his wife Lala had their son, Kiyan Carmelo Anthony. This seemed to have been what sparked his desire to know about his roots. After digging deeper, he found out that his father was part of the Young Lords, a political group in the United States that was comprised mainly by Puerto Ricans. His father’s connection to this group is what Anthony says to have inspired his “social conscience.”
“He cared about everybody, so what he stood for is what he passed on,” said Anthony.
But Anthony didn’t know any more of his history besides that of his father’s.
That’s when the show “Finding Your Roots” came in to help him with discovering his lineage. They were able to track his family history back until the early 19th century to his third great-grandmother. Although she lived most of her life in Puerto Rico, “Finding Your Roots” initially couldn’t find a birth certificate for her but after extensive research they discovered that she was born in Venezuela. This shocked Anthony especially because he expressed in the show that he didn’t even expect for them to trace his roots so far back. “I would’ve never even imagined that,” said Anthony.
The ten-time NBA All-Star learned that his third great-grandmother was actually a slave brought to Puerto Rico, with 39 other slaves by a wealthy Spanish planter and slave owner who were escaping the Venezuelan revolution at the time.
"I'm speechless," Anthony said, “It makes me feel open now. Open-minded to really understand where it all comes from. It changes a lot of things.”