When “Roots” came out in 1977, I was only 7 years old, but I still remember the impact it left on me.
I sat in the middle of the floor with my Hot Wheels while my parents sat on the couch as we watched the story of Alex Haley’s family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte’s enslavement to his descendants’ liberation.
Kunta Kinte was beaten because his slave master wanted him to answer to the slave name Toby. Kunta refused to be broken, and he tried to escape slavery several times but was captured. One of the overseers chopped off his foot so he wouldn’t ever try to escape again.
The story ripped at my heart. It was the first time that I was subjected to how brutal slavery was for my people.
Although my parent’s survived segregation and Jim Crow laws when they lived in the South, the graphic nature of how slaves were treated in “Roots” hit home for them. Both of my parents have been called “nigger” and have been disrespected by white people more times than they care to remember.
To see how Africans were brought to this country against their will on slave ships in shackles and separated from their families and sold for guns angered my father. Several times he had to step away from the TV.
My mother was more sensitive. I remember her crying during some of the scenes. We watched every moment of the series. We also talked about it as a family.
Since Memorial Day, a “Roots” remake has been playing on the History and A&E channels and it may be better than the original. The eight-hour miniseries features a more edgy Kunta Kinte; the events were more brutal; and, as an adult, I have a greater understanding of slavery today when compared to the original.
The miniseries is a must-see not just for African-Americans but for everyone.
Despite the great reviews of the new “Roots,” some wanted to boycott the miniseries.
Snoop Dogg, who helped put gangsta rap music on the map during the 1990s issued an expletive-filled social media video saying that he was sick of slave narratives. “How the (expletive) they gonna put ‘Roots’ on Memorial Day?” he asked in the selfie video. “They just going to keep beating that (expletive) into our heads as to how they did us, huh?”
Snoop Dogg, who also produces porn videos, said movies such as “12 Years a Slave,” which won the best picture Oscar in 2014, don’t help African-Americans.
“I don’t understand America. They just want to keep showing the abuse that we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But guess what? We’re taking the same abuse,” he said. “When you all going to make a (expletive) series about the success that black folks is having?”
Sounds like Snoop Dogg got hold of a bad strain of weed.
My grandfather used to tell me that a man who could not trace his history back at least three generations was lost and lost people have a hard time understanding their value to society. He made sure I knew about my grandparents, great grandparents, and great-great grandparents.
He told me about relatives who were lynched and killed just because they were black. He also told me about the great things blacks accomplished, and because of that, I am forever grateful.
One of the reasons why a lot of violence occurs today in Milwaukee and in urban areas across the country is because young people have no concept of their history. You will not act like a king or a queen if you don’t know that you are descendants of kings and queens.
When I was in school, I rarely heard stories about my African-American ancestors. I think it would be fair to say that I was taught more about the Holocaust than I was about slavery.
Sure, school did a good job of talking about the Civil Rights movement. I was informed about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but I had to learn about the contributions of Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin and Marcus Garvey on my own.
You can never learn too much about your history. Anyone who tells you different is a fool.
Since 2000, there have been at least 22 movies, TV movies or miniseries on the Holocaust, and I have yet to hear a complaint from the Jewish community saying that enough is enough.
After Snoop Dogg made his statement, the criticism was swift and harsh.
Here is what others had to say:
■Will Packer, the producer of “Roots,” vehemently disagrees when Snoop Dogg said a real (N-word) wouldn’t watch the miniseries. “I couldn’t help but think there’s a ghost of some horrendous slave owner that is smiling and smirking as he watches this black man say that and call himself that.”
■News One Now, host Roland Martin went in on the hip-hop icon for trashing slave narratives. He told the rapper if he was tired of seeing those types of films he should put his money where his mouth is and work with the black directors who will produce the positive films he is seeking.
All stories on the black condition need to be told. The miniseries “Roots” was made for a new generation that may have been too young to understand or even see the original. More important, films like this must continue to be made so we never forget.