The image above is derived from the fresh series, Roots, the 2016 adaptation of Alex Haley’s ‘‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’’.
I’ve decided to write on it quite early right after watching episode one because it gave me such immense Pan-African feelings I had to share with you.
The girl displayed above is a beautiful Afrikan, a reflection of the continent’s vast beauty and history, a history that is not as heavy as it once was.
Fast-forward to the Slave Trade: the main character, Kunta Kinte from Roots, is shipped to Virginia and is under the realms of ‘John Waller’, his slave master. What strikes my eye is Kunta Kinte’s resistance towards the name he is given, ‘Toby’ and his restless attempts at escape. It is also quite discouraging that the other slaves look at him with pity at his ‘futile’ attempts to be a ‘free man’. Fiddler, the Black man in charge of training Kunta Kinte on how to become a slave, remarks that ‘Stupid never scared’ and underlines that Kunta Kinte must leave his African ways to survive in the plantation.
The heavy irony in Fiddler’s statements are daunting bearing the fact that he too is a Black man yet he asks, why fight when it is one man against the Supremacy? The Supremacy being the White man. Frankly, the issue is the fact that Kunta Kinte must leave his African ways and acquire the life in similitude of the White man, though in a discriminated and segregated form. You can call Kunta Kinte’s new life, as well as the other slaves’ half-african, half-caucasian or phrased better, ‘White washed Blackness’.
During Christmastime, the slaves are provided with gifts from the slave master’s wife, a champion of cruel kindness and they all smile and dance to their former African tunes in merry. The next day they might receive a half-day’s work then probably play-time is over. One might say at this point that this sort of life is ‘involuntary servitude’ with benefits such as acquisition of the English Language and a slight upward improvement from the ways of the jungle. However, I’ve always pondered as to why Africans could not voluntarily offer to work in plantations without lashes and pain but then again one remembers that as humans ‘we are all born free and equal’, with a free will to protect the desires of our hearts according to the rhythm of our beat. The Afrikan life pre-slave trade was such a happy existence, but then again, didn’t they also inhabit slaves in their kingdoms?
I believe there’s a fundamental meaning regarding the Afrikan past that rose and fell from splendour to disillusionment and now to hope. We still might be called a ‘White washed Blackness’ evident from the imbalance of poverty and wealth in the dark continent. There might still be silent colonialism that is plunging us into the depths of dejection but one fact remains: there is increasing colour-blindness and multiculturalism. Being color-blind is to reject the definition of a person based on their race, and being multi-cultural is accepting the various cultures and barely noticing the differences in each one.
I am now left with three more episodes and I’d recommend it to anyone feeling like they don’t want to discard the African continent based on its present because knowing the Roots lead us to ways we can better our present. I would also recommend the original book because if we do not understand these things, who will?
I’ll leave you with this poem Fiddler from the series recited to Kunta Kinte. It is beautifully endowed with meaning of the sameness and equality of each and every person. Enjoy.
Rain that fall in Virginia
Get burned off by the Sun
Rise up to the clouds
And then them clouds, they drift away
They may drift away all the way across
Till they get to that river, Kamby Bolongo.
Maybe the same rain that fall here fall there
On your own people.
So remember to forgive and learn from the inherent racial prejudices: we can overcome this.