I struggled with this one. So did many other folks. Frankly “weez” tired of “dem” slave movies. When I first heard they did a remake of Roots, I initially thought, “Oh Lawd! They done came out with another slave movie. Ain’t nobody got time for that!” And not just another slave movie, but a repeat of an original. How many more times must we be reminded of this horrific past? How many more times will we be given the role of slave, mammy, butler, domestic worker, Jim Crow victim, ratchet ghetto chic or any other black theme under “A raisin in the sun”?
It seems as though the media enjoys portraying blacks as lesser than, destitute, vicious, corrupted, and inhumane. This is what I initially expected from the 2016 Roots film. I went in somewhat apprehensive, overly critical and judgmental. I dreaded the thought of another slave film which made me feel helpless, destitute, ashamed, and “pissed off”! This was my initial thought; and then, well then something changed. Roots had me at hello.
As I began viewing the film, something happened which I did not expect. I smiled and even laughed a bit. I appreciated how the director put more effort into the customs and traditions of this African tribe prior to the capture. This film showed our humor, humanity, young love, competitive nature, how we adorn ourselves and family feuds. At that point, I imagined Kunta never going into slavery. I imagined him living his life as a Mandinka Warrior, who against his father’s better wishes, traveled to Timbuktu to study at the University taking his lovely bride along with him. I imaged him working hard to prove his worth at a world-renowned University with judgmental eyes from the upper echelon sneering at him because of his humble upbringings. He would have proved them all wrong of course. The beginning of this film gave me so much hope, which was not
what I expected. The doom and gloom swiftly brought me back down to reality and told the story of how Kunta’s life was dramatically shifted to a more dreadful a tale.
When I reflect back on my thoughts leading up to viewing Roots, I wondered why I felt so negative and angry at the thought of another slave film. During my pondering, I realized two things.
1. The Jews, Japanese, Native Americans, 9/11 victims, etc., are not heard saying, “stop making
films showing our torment, enslavement, torture, murder, and injustice. Stop showing the inhumane acts done to us by our enemy.” Instead they chant, “NEVER FORGET”! They choose to never forget their past, so they are not doomed to repeat it. I realized it is imperative to never forget the horrific events done by cruel and wicked people. We must continue to create reenactments of our history through film, books, media, etc.
2. African Americans are bombarded with films that seem to be solely focused on our servitude and
struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate viewing films of my strong, powerful, and beautiful
ancestors, but I would equally love to see films which depict our Kingship and Queenship before
the “Great Fall.” What film out there has been created to show this side of history?
So where’s it at? Where are these untold stories? And why must I see repeats of our inferiority? Again, let me reiterate. I love history and I appreciate well-made films that depict every aspect of our success, struggles, and even slavery. Every aspect of history is important and all facets should be told so we can complete the jigsaw puzzle of the black culture.
Ok, so let’s get back to it. My thoughts on the film Roots. The 2016 version not the 1977 one. Lawdy, lawdy, lawdy. I loved it, loved it, loved it! I cried like a weepy willow. I called up my momma immediately after watching the film and we spoke for about an hour, one history buff to another. We spoke of the underlying philosophical messages. We both yammered on with anxious rhetoric, excitement, and light-hearted debate. Needless to say, we both loved the film.
Overall, I realized one extremely important thing. I yearn for the day when novels and films will not only show the torment and cruelty placed upon the African race but also the true beauty, success, and ruler-ship of this rich and spiritual culture. This will be the cure to the repetitive negative depiction of the black people.