Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Delving into Her Heritage Meant a Lot

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Delving into Her Heritage Meant a Lot

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

As a child growing up in Starke, Ok Sun Burks hungered for answers about her heritage.

The thing that stirred her appetite, however, wasn't the Korean and African-American features that looked back at her from the mirror, but the kindly intentioned remarks from other African-Americans.

"I was an only child, but I was considered a special child because I was biracial," said Burks, who was adopted from Korea by an African-American family.

"They [her black friends and neighbors] would always compare the texture of my hair, which was a bit straighter than theirs, and say how I had 'good hair.' But it would make me feel bad because it made them feel somewhat inferior."

Experiences such as that one left a mark on Burks. So much so that for much of her life, she has been consumed with illuminating African heritage -- a heritage that she not only saw marginalized and maligned in popular culture and media but, unfortunately, by other African-Americans as well.

"It seems that many of us [African-Americans] have to deny what's African about us in order to be pleased with ourselves," Burks said. "It's sad because it defeats us."

These days Burks, who with her husband Volume once owned Kemet House, a shop that specialized in African and African-American art and literature, is still trying to be a force against such self-defeat. She started The Orisha Temple for Ifa Heritage and Tradition, an African cultural arts organization. …

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