Saturday, June 4, 2016

Roots: What we learn from History & Our Story


Last night, I finished the final episode of the History Channel's TV miniseries Roots.

To say I was pleasantly surprised at the historical and emotional depth of this remake of Alex Haley's 1977 miniseries Roots, based on his personal genealogical history and biography, would be an understatement. I was a young girl when I watched the first Roots with my family, and I'll never forget how much that movie impacted me so many years ago.

As a matter of fact, as I watched the first episode of the remake, I sadly thought, My parents would have loved this movie. I'll miss talking about this with my Mom tomorrow.

Well, in honor of my sweet parents, and my other ancestors that have gone on before me, today I want to share three themes from Roots that moved me. I could probably list ten, but here's just a few that spoke the loudest to me.

1. We African Americans were blessed with strong and brave ancestors

I loved the focus on the pre-slavery era of African slaves. Kunta Kinte's story did not begin on a plantation in the American South. Born into the strong Mandinka tribe, his story began in West Africa. 

As an African American, I have often seen my people portrayed during the era of American slavery. This is a fascinating and important part of our history that displays our strength and resilience as a people. Yet our story did not begin there. It began on the continent of Africa -- a continent that endowed us with inner strength and resilience.

Roots mastered the display of this strength and resilience, with Kunta Kinte's proud resolve and fortitude.

2. Strong families were the roots that stabilized and upheld a strong people

When Kunta Kinte completed his tribal "rites of passage" into manhood, one of his elders asked (paraphrased), "As a man, what is your most important contribution to your tribe?" The answer was not as I thought - defending the tribe or providing material needs. No. Their most important job was to raise and lead a strong family. 

Amen to that.

This theme of strong families permeates throughout Roots. From generation to generation, we witnessed devoted fathers and mothers lead their children and grandchildren to create legacies of love, integrity and faith.

3. Our communities, country and world are strengthened by unity

From the disunity amongst various African tribes that facilitated the American slave trade to the institution of slavery itself to the disarray of the Civil War era, we see firsthand how disunity infects our communities like a cancerous tumor, leaving sickness and death in its wake. Roots illuminated the ancestral roots we share with one another. One example: Chicken George's birth was the product of his African American slave mother Kizzy and his Caucasian slave-owner father Tom Lea.

I look at my biological children today, my "Brown Gingers", and think of the different races that are represented in the blood that runs through my veins. To reject any other race is to reject the blood that possibly runs through our own veins. As a nation -- and a world even -- we are more the same than we are different. More connected than apart. We Americans are interconnected, much more than we realize -- our history intertwined. Likewise, our future depends on our interconnection, our support and respect for one another. 

I'm not here to preach y'all, but during this presidential election season, it's painfully obvious that our country is horribly divided, splintered even.

Roots reminded us that we rise when unified. We fall when divided. 

Whoever makes it into the White House, we must work towards unity as a nation.

Can I get an amen?


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