Roots, Roland Martin, & Snoop Dogg

This Memorial Day, the reboot of the 1977 series "Roots" premiered on The History Channel. "Roots: The Saga of an American Family" is originally a book about the story of author Alex Haley's ancestor's journey to the United States from present day Gambia on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. When I first heard of the reboot of the series, I asked "Why?" Don't get me wrong, y'all know I'm a lover of history, especially Black history, but I could not understand why The History Channel decided to remake this series. In the past few years, many Black people have complained about the promotion of slave narratives from the mainstream media and the lack of historical films that showcase Black people prior to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I think it's very important to continue to talk about slavery, and I don't have a problem with slave movies being made, but it's the lack of balance in historical films that rub others and myself the wrong way.

One must peel back the layers, tap into the spirit of discernment and pay close attention to the symbolism of why a film like "Roots" would be rebooted in 2016. I can't help but to point out the on-going conversations of police brutality that has been erupting the country, as well as the revival of "Afrocentrism" in the past few years. One can't help but to question the sincerity of The History Channel.

O.G. rapper Snoop Dogg (or "Snoop Lion") took to his Instagram to go in on the remake stating he will not be watching and will be boycotting. Snoop Doggy Dogg proclaimed that the media always portrays Black people as losing and in a subservient manner.

On his show, journalist Roland Martin responded to Snoop Dogg's plan to boycott and stated that Snoop should put his money where his mouth is and contribute to creating films about Black history, such as the upcoming Marcus Garvey film starring Delroy Lindo. He also spoke on Snoop's past filmography in creation of the funny, yet very stereotypical 2004 film "Soul Plane" and directing porn movies.

While I understand where both men are coming from, I didn't agree with what Martin has to say in regards to comparing slave movies to Holocaust movies. In his response, Martin stated that the Jewish community never complains about Holocaust movies being made. He even stated that he could easily name ten that have been created in the past few years. My response to that is that the Jewish community owns their platforms, as well as the platforms of other races, like Black people, and they are in control of their own narratives. Even though there are a few Black people contributing as writers and directors in the 2016 "Roots" series, the History Channel platform is NOT Black owned. Which means that in order for our story to be heard, the History Channel has to edit, cut, approve and green light it. This goes back to what Snoop was saying about the mainstream media never telling our stories other than films about slavery and Civil Rights Era movies. This is one of many reasons why you won't see series about Mansa Musa or the Zulu Warriors on The History Channel, because we're not in control of our stories.Plus, why can't we want more than slave movies? 

Not to mention, since the Holocaust, the Jewish community has economically and socially advanced while the Black community, unfortunately does not so I understand the portrayal of trial to triumph stories to some extent. This does not negate the fact that in the Black community we have many individuals who have reached success, nor does it ignore that no community is without flaw, but as a unit, in regards to economics and socially, we still suffer from the psychological chains of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. The sight of witnessing these 18th century images of slavery along with images of police brutality in modern times can even be psychologically overwhelming. This is not to state that we don't need to watch slavery themed films, but there is an abundant amount of trauma the Black psyche is witnessing from repetition of said images. 

On social media, I saw many people agreeing with Roland Martin and "dragging" Snoop. People were pointing out how Snoop has been a major player in the degradation of Black women, celebrator of Black death, drugs, and other types of negative content in hip-hop in the past few decades. I totally understand where people are coming from. I don't have an issue with him or his legacy being called out as a contributor to the same negative images that Snoop Dogg is calling out "Roots" for. My thing is, did he lie though? Does that make his point invalid? Some people are anti-Snoop in this situation, but in turn support rappers who create similar content to Snoop as well as other equally stereotypical, negative forms of media (I think we're all guilty). That's another part of the problem we can discuss some other time. 

At the end of the day, I don't think slave movies need to be totally ignored or casted out, but we must bring in some balance. But to bring in that balance we need to stop looking for White validation from the media and tell our own stories with our own money. Don't shit on a 100% independent, successful film series like "Hidden Colors" but turn around and complain about the "lack of representation", celebrate when massa throws you a crumb, and get on people who call out the crumb throwing. I can't tell you how many "woke" bloggers and vloggers I always see talking about "White supremacy"/"White tears"/ho much they're not here for White people/"we need to support our own", but sing a totally different tune when the same White media they claim to hate so much, puts out some symbolic gesture to convince Black people we're included and progressing. It goes back to the idea that many people aren't really mad at the system, they don't really want Black independence, they simply want to be included in the system and will regurgitate the said rhetoric until they get a piece of the pie. That's the honest truth. Some people are just happy a White owned network has validated a portion of Black history and will fight those who call them out. 

The original series of "Roots" was a game changer because it followed the story of Kunta Kinte from Africa to the United States. I think the current series could be beneficial to teaching and showing the youth the story of our ancestors, but it doesn't stop there. I don't think the mainstream media thoroughly displays Black people in a negative light. There are a few exceptions with shows like "Blackish", movies like "Bessie" that do a good job at representing a Black narrative, both historical and current. There are directors like Ava DuVernay and John Singleton who are trailblazers and create amazing content. But as a whole, and in specific regards to historical representation, I don't think the mainstream media is reliable, and regardless of the exceptions, Black people need to economically own and control our own networks the same way other races do with theirs. As long as their is a parent network like The History Channel in charge, our stories beyond the plantation fields will more than likely not be told by the mainstream media, and if it is, there will be a catch. 



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