Last night, I watched the first of a 4 part series of “Roots” on the History Channel. I clearly remember watching the original in 1977 and was profoundly changed. Back then, we were all riveted each night to the series and could not wait until the next night’s episode or to talk with others about our emotions and our views on what we had seen. It was the topic of conversation everywhere. It opened many of our eyes to searching out our origins, our family history and striving to connect with our past. I do not think I know of any black person who was not impacted in some way by the series.
But let’s fast forward to 2016 and the remaking of this profound series. In watching it last night, I found myself cringing and hardly able to watch the inhumanity shown on the screen of man’s depravity towards their fellow man. This remake shows the horror of the physical nightmare of slavery, but even more so, it shows the profound horror of the mental anguish in ways that far surpassed the original series.
I was highly impressed with the detail that was shown in the lives of the Africans prior to their capture and the details of the family structure and the lives of the people who lived with such dignity, grace and intelligence, and a deep commitment to family values.
What troubles me a great deal however, is the reaction of today’s audience in viewing or not viewing this mini-series. Many refuse to watch it because they do not want to see another movie about slavery. Some whites, feel why keep showing movies about slavery, that they feel they had no part in. This bothers me because if you see this as another movie about slavery, you are missing the point entirely. It is so much more than that. It is the story of strong, intelligent people who overcame the most vilest of evils ever perpetrated on humanity. It shows their strength, their endurance, their spirit and their determination to hold on to their humanity. It reminds me that we come from people who were strong, determined, and were warriors.
We are deeply in need of reminders today, of who our ancestors were. They did not bow down, before being broken. They did not sit around, without purpose. They were deeply committed to their community (village) and viable in living a life of purpose and fulfillment.
Anyone who sees anything less, loses the point of what overcoming looks like. I fear we have given in today to living lives shattered and focused inward. Some of us have even bought into the fact that we need to be taken care of, when in fact, what we need is equal opportunity to live our lives to the fullest. What we need is to remember who we are and to know that what we are seeing, in so many around us, is not who we are.
We would do well to remember, from whence we have come to propel us towards who we must be. We must look back to know where we must go. I know for a fact that I stand on the shoulders of some amazingly strong people who endured atrocities I hope I never see in my lifetime. And I thank them and will honor them by remembering them and telling my children who they were….