Just a few thoughts that are conjured when movies such as: Roots, Twelve Years A Slave, The Help, or Free State of Jones hits theaters. There is a great divide that occurs in this country among African Americans when it comes to the promotion of slave movies or movies that reflect the most disparaging time to be African American’s or should I say Negro. Lately the most notable controversy between Snoop Dogg and Roland Martin really inspired me to delve into this issue as these men brought valid points to opposite views and remained entrenched in their beliefs. (I will leave you to Youtube to review the playbook on the controversy.)
Roland Martin –
“Maybe if Snoop actually watched Roots, he’ll realize Kunta Kinte wasn’t the n-word?” Martin stated.
“You will never find someone Jewish saying there’s way too many Holocaust films,” Martin continued.
The talk show host then went on to list the countless Holocaust films over the last 10 years.
“Slavery happened. Slavery is real. Black folks are survivors since the first slaves touched down in Jamestown, Va.,”
"How the f*** they gonna put Roots on Memorial Day……They going to just keep beating that s*** into our heads as to how they did us, huh?"
"I don't understand America," - that "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,"
Beyond Snoop Dogg and Roland Martin both supporters and opponents have their reasons for viewing or boycotting these movies. Let’s explore both sides of the argument, shall we? Let’s agree on the following facts/beliefs:
#1. The facts are the facts. Slavery did exist. Jim Crow Laws did exist after slavery. Murder, death, beating, rape of both men/ women/children by slave masters did occur.
#2. On the backs of the labor of African American ancestors profits were generated and building of America occurred for FREE.
#3. Distrust, mistrust, division was planted in the minds of African American ancestors to further divide and conquer. (Willie Lynch Letter/ Jim Crow Laws) These expressed and implied systems are practiced and exist today.
Roland Martin -Pro New Roots
“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”― Edmund Burke.
These movies are often based on true stories or have been reconstructed to accurately portray true conditions of the characters depicted in the movie. These movies often show elements of interaction we miss today like trust of each other, doing the right things for those who are in need, medicines and rituals practiced from African ancestry, respect for elders, and the desire to naturally better oneself which is part of the human spirit. Slaves were innovative, talented, in tune with nature, had love for each other, shared what they had, valued/loved their families, and naturally had the desire to go further by learning/reading even with the threat of death. Slavery was terrible but to watch and have your children watch is obtaining knowledge about your history, your past, strength of endurance, and the desire to do better. The hope of every slave was for the next generation to do better and have better. Under threat of death slaves were not allowed to read, yet they read and taught others to do so as best they could. There were those that jumped ship and died rather than exist under the conditions of their captors. There were those that ran away facing death rather than oppression. To experience the story of the ancestors is necessary to show them their sacrifices were not forgotten, the culture was not forgotten from Africa, and the fact is you owe them a better life.
If you realize what your ancestors went through and how hard they struggled, you could never be content to be nothing and not fight for equality of all. If you do not know who you are you’ll never know where you are going. Knowledge of self-propels you forward. If you knew your history you would understand and act differently rather than being programmed. Your children need to know the right to apply and go to college, or even read a book, was not common. The ability to decide to do better for your family was not a given. If you are aware you could never live a welfare life, disrespect your culture while valuing others, walk away from the families you created, and rush to harm others that reflect what you see in the mirror-you. The ancestors can become a catalyst for success. Without the sacrifices of the ancestors African American’s would not be where we are today and have the desire to continue to fight for equality. Guidance from the ancestors was a practice of the African culture passing down traditions, heritage, rituals, and guidance.
Lastly if you knew your history and what the ancestors experienced could you continue to:
Add to the degradation and hyper-sexualization of black women
Could you love to love your skin tone in whatever color/shade?
Could you walk away from your families in mass droves?
Could you prostitute your body when your ancestors were taken, seeing no value in your body/soul?
Could you continue to adopt the act of twerking as if that is what makes you of value? (Sara 'Saartjie' Baartman)
Could you accept low paying jobs rather than embrace entrepreneurship knowing in your soul you have the dna to endure and be successful?
Could you be content not to stand up for what’s right?
Could you be content to act as if you don’t have a history and legacy – A story that must be told and remembered in your heart that guides the man/woman you are today?
Would you be less eager to war within oneself by adopting gang culture if you knew better?
In a time when we the first black president Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Isabel dos Santos, Folorunsho Alakija, and Aliko Dangote there seems to be a rise in slavery movies. In the midst of all this progress is Hollywood and others trying to continue to portray enslavement when African Americans are soaring to new heights? Are there movies in the work to highlight Farrah Gray’s life or little Cory Nieves CEO of Mr.Cory’s cookies or Dr. FoyeKemi Ikyaator or or how about telling the story of The ‘Soul Bros’ from Cincinnati? African-Americans are achieving like never before. African American’s are achieving milestones that most thought they would never see in their lifetime. At a time when the white house has been dominated by an African-American president there seems to be no ceiling to what can be achieved. Odd timing that while this achievement alone gave inspiration to young African American men here comes an assortment of slavery movies. It’s no secret that other cultures are watching the movies but the reasons behind why-I dare not speculate. The big question is what is the motive of others for the sponsorship of such films?
At times disproportionately there appears to be science behind the release of multiple films that continue to display slavery and oppression. We do need more films depicting achievement, marital (not baby momma) relationships between men and women, and achievements of those reaching higher levels. In August of 2016 ‘Southside With You’ will be released, a movie that should inspire so many people-the story of Barack and Michelle Obama’s romance/story.
Why aren’t there more films about loving, healthy, relationships with intelligent African Americans that are positive role models operating within a marriage?
Why can’t we have more documentaries about Pharaoh’s, those that turned their lives around for the good, or movies that inspire thought addressing the issues of today?
Why is it the audience can watch the whipping and murder of African American’s in film’s but behavior such as ‘buck breaking’ and raping of young children is not seen nor mentioned in these slave films? Why are filmmakers not depicting the ENTIRE story?
Why are there not films about individuals such as Mansu Musa who ruled in West Africa from 1280-1337, net worth 400 billion?
John Singleton type movies are needed today. He made movies that delivered a perspective that gave a message to younger generations and audiences- Higher Learning, Baby Boy, AND Boys In The Hood gave messages to address young African American audience about life and how things are designed (truth be told) for your failure but you can make choices to have a better outcome. There is a strategy and methodology to the movies that are being presented. Money rules in our society so what will make the most money: Free State of Jones or Southside when it’s released in August of 2016? If the point is to watch a story of another culture, will the need to witness oppression overshadow the need to witness success and breaking racial barriers?
Southside With You - August 2016
A Penny For Your Thoughts
My questions for you:
What is your reason behind viewing movies such as Roots, 12 Years a Slave, or The Help?
How do you feel when you experience slave movies?
Are you motivated to make this would a better place after leaving the slave movies?
The Elder Speaks
My 2 Cents
Both schools of thought have valid points to their beliefs. Now as for my household my mother, more-so than my father, made sure we watched Roots (the original). The belief behind her making sure we watches movies such as Roots, Harriet Tubman story, Jim Crow Law documentaries was knowledge. For me it taught me to take in what the African American has experience planting in me a belief in myself, a sense of endurance, knowledge that it is UNACCEPTABLE for me to amount to nothing or do nothing with my life because of the blood sacrifices of my ancestors spilled for my ability to progress. These films taught me that being a failure/loser is not an option along with the importance of family and helping others. I became aware at an early age that freedom isn’t free and I did not magically obtain freedoms but other sacrificed for me. Now today as a woman, because I know my history, there are things that are beneath me:
- Prostitute myself
- Disrespect my significant other or seek to destroy him but rather appreciate and show support –love/caring. Knowing what we’ve been through if I adhere to your leadership I will always be your biggest fan
- Go out of my way to disrespect and harm those people that look like me but treat EVERY OTHER GROUP OF PEOPLE w/respect (kissing up to other cultures) – God help the south with this practice.
- Relationships of any kind with someone knowingly involved/married. I respect another woman’s household like I would want mine respected and would never seek to take part in destroying an African American family (or any other).
While I do believe there is a motive behind the continuous release of these movies I can't deny the history. We do not need to forget our ancestor's past experience-such a practice is dangerous. There needs to exist a balance between films depicting the past and films that reflect great achievement leaning more heavily on over-coming obstacles and achievement. That can only happen if the profit generated from such movies takes place.