We Have Not Had Nearly Enough “Slave Movies”

At Lincoln Center for the NYC premiere

I was born about three years after Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of An American Family was published and about two years after the novel transformed into a ground-breaking, 9-time Emmy-winning, made-for-television miniseries. Its first run aired for eight consecutive nights and made history by attracting the largest viewership of any series in American history. Over half of the American population watched Roots— unheard of then and even now.

I saw parts of the series as a child and in its entirety as a teenager after I read the novel. Though it was a bit dated by then, it deeply resonated and was one of the things that inspired in me a keen interest in studying the narratives of enslaved people in the Americas. I went on to get a degree in African American studies from the University of Pennsylvania and my coursework involved quite a bit of in-depth historical study of these narratives.

Though cliche, I was motivated, in part, by the saying “If you don’t know where you come from, you won’t know where you’re going.” I still consider the original “Roots” series an essential viewing for everyone, not just Black Americans.

Though there have been less popular sequels to the original series (Roots: The Next Generation, 1979, and Roots: The Gift, 1988), many people agreed that “Roots” did not need to be remade; it was fine the way it was, for the time it was made, and should be heralded as a staple that is revisited over and over as needed. So when the first rumblings of “Roots reboot” echoed across social media, the most common reaction was, “But…why?!”

Roots series NYC premiere

LeVar Burton, the original Kunta Kinte, speaks to the NYC premiere audience at Lincoln Center (May 23, 2016)

Even LeVar Burton, the actor who originated the role of Kunta Kinte, said he was not sold on the idea of remaking the series. At the White House premier, he said he was skeptical, but after consulting with Mark Wolper, one of the executive producers, he was convinced that a re-imagination of the series was necessary for a younger generation and for those who didn’t get to fully experience the original series. I’ve actually met Black folks over the age of 30 who have never seen it. No shade, but it’s one of those things I’ve assumed every Black person had seen at least one part of, yet that isn’t the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Program from White House premiere of the new Roots series

Program from White House premiere of the new Roots series

 

 

 

I received an invitation to view the pilot at The White House at an event that featured panels that included activist DeRay McKesson, blogger/author Luvvie Ajayi, director Mario Van Peebles, actors LeVar Burton (original Kunta Kinte) and Anika Noni Rose (new Kizzy), and some of the producers and writers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luvvie Ajayi speaks t her experiences as a Nigerian-born woman growing up in American culture

Luvvie Ajayi speaks t her experiences as a Nigerian-born woman growing up in American culture

 

 

In the first panel, Ajayi and McKesson spoke on the importance of knowing one’s identity and engaging in the fight for liberation. One of the lasting images/scenes from the original series was that of Kunta Kinte being given his name and defending his right to have it while being whipped by an overseer. “In Yoruba culture, our names are our shields,” said Ajayi. I appreciate the ongoing conversations about Blackness and identity and how enslavement had a severe impact on how we, descendants of the enslaved, identify and understand ourselves ethnically and culturally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DeRay McKesson speaks to the audience about his work as a protestor and activist

DeRay McKesson speaks to the audience about his work as a protestor and activist

In speaking about protest, McKesson stated, “Protest is the idea of telling the truth in public.” When people lament the development of movies or TV shows that focus on the experiences of enslaved people in America, I pushback and remind them that we have not had nearly enough of these stories told. Centuries of enslavement, rape, torture, and murder, and we can barely count on two hands the number of major mainstream projects that adequately present a better understanding of what life was like for our ancestors. We could produce a new movie or TV series every month for a decade and still not come close to telling even a fraction of the important stories.

There are so few visual representations of these experiences and we have to stop pretending that telling these stories hold us back or shames us. When we learn about schools changing the narratives and making attempts to sanitize the truth about slavery, we know that we need even MORE of these kinds of movies and TV shows.

These stories must be told. (I recently interviewed Jurnee Smollet-Bell and Amirah Vann, stars of the hit series Underground on the WGN network about the same idea.)

 

 

At Lincoln Center for the NYC premiere
Me…At Lincoln Center for the NYC premiere (May 23, 2016)

I also received an invitation to the New York City premiere at Lincoln Center where more of the actors were present and greetings viewers and fans. After watching the pilot twice, I cannot help but share my excitement for this new series and encourage everyone to watch it.

Producer Mark Wolper, actor Malachi Kirby (new Kunta Kinte), actress Anika Noni Rose (new Kizzy), and director Mario Van Peebles, White House premiere of Roots (May 17, 2016)

Producer Mark Wolper, actor Malachi Kirby (new Kunta Kinte), actress Anika Noni Rose (new Kizzy), and director Mario Van Peebles, White House premiere of Roots (May 17, 2016)

 

 

One of the critiques of the original “Roots” was that it didn’t hold White people accountable enough and perhaps that was because of the positive associations people had with the primary White actors; they were some of America’s most beloved TV dads at the time. This re-imagination spares no one and does a fantastic job of showing just how savagely barbaric those who engaged in the slave trade and in the ownership of enslaved people were.

There are graphic scenes depicting torture and they will make you turn your head, but they are important! We cannot shy away from this reality, even as we distance ourselves from centering Whiteness in our narratives. There is no room for White redemption in these stories and I’m honestly glad to see little of it in these modern portrayals of Antebellum America.

 

 

 

 

 

White House premiere of Roots series
Tony Award-winning actress, Anika Noni Rose,
portrays Kizzy in the new Roots series.
White House premiere (May 17, 2016)

I really enjoyed how much more of a focus they put on the lives of people before they were kidnapped and sold into slavery. We got to see and connect with the joy and love people shared in their lives, their traditions and customs, and their strength and commitment to each other. It reminds us that our identities do not begin with slavery; we descend from people whose lives were rich and full before encountering Europeans.

I was one of the skeptical ones, but I am truly sold. I hope you all tune in with your friends and families and watch this re-imagination of the classic Roots story.

Check out the trailer:

Watch the premiere on the History Channel on May 30, 2016 at 9pm/8pm c and join in livetweeting each night using #Roots and @RootsSeries

 

I met Derek Luke. Yassssss.

I met Derek Luke. Yassssss.

Forest Whittaker as “Fiddler”

Emayatzy Corinealdi as Belle

Follow along on social media

I Don’t Owe You Sh!t

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So, the weather is getting warmer and well, people don’t know how to act in these streets.

Some days, you want to be nice. Other days, you just don’t want to be bothered.

You’re already mad because you wanted to wear way less than what you opted for and it’s 90+ degrees outside.

You’re already mad because you just left your house 37 seconds ago and already two randoms had something to say about your ass.

You’re already mad because by the time you got to work, several assholes made you feel like a piece of raw meat in a lion’s den.

So… send a clear message to these folks

I.

DON’T.

OWE.

YOU.

SHIT!

Check out my T-shirt campaign and order yours today!!

Shirts come in various shapes, sizes, cuts, and colors. Be sure to peruse all of the options.

Click HERE for your new bad ass statement tee.

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Celebrating the Life and Music of Prince with @patrickdshaffer

Greetings!!

I’m sharing the podcast I did with my good friend Patrick D. Shaffer to pay homage to Prince, who transitioned from this realm on April 21, 2016.

At first, YouTube banned it because of licensing issues… BUT PRINCE!!! He came through and they reinstated the video. We give lessons and trivia about Prince, talk about songs some folks don’t know much about, and we just rejoice and share in the love of this man and his music.

Enjoy!!

Want to read more of my music writing? Follow me on Medium!!

Follow Patrick on Twitter @patrickdshaffer

“Ratchet & Clank” Reminds Us That We’re All Heroes

My son, Garvey, and I at the "Ratcher & Clank" movie premiere, April 16, 2106

My son, Garvey, and I at the “Ratchet & Clank” movie screening, April 16, 2106.
Image taken by Carmen Staicer

My son and I had the pleasure of attending an advanced screening of the family movie “Ratchet & Clank“, which is based on the popular video game from when I was a child. On April 16, 2016, we joined several other excited families to watch the movie in the heart of New York. While at the event, we were treated to an array of finger foods, drinks, snacks, and popcorn to enjoy during the movie.

IMG_7497 Garvey enjoys finger foods ahead of the private screening of “Ratchet & Clank” in NYC, April 16, 2016.

26379153362_1fb0d18eea_z Coloring table set up.

The movie was in 3D format, which is always cool. My son, Garvey, really loved his Dolby 3D glasses! We were so ready to “kick some asteroid”!! IMG_7498

The movie was definitely interesting and enjoyable. Ratchet is the last of his kind, a foolhardy lombax who grew up without a family. Clank is a pint-sized robot with more brains than brawn. After stumbling upon a weapon that can destroy entire planets, they join forces with a team of do-gooders known as the Galactic Rangers. Together, they must stop the evil alien Chairman Drek from utilizing this dangerous technology. The biggest lesson for children to learn is that you don’t have to do big things to be a hero, just the right ones. I think this is an important message for all children, especially those who are dealing with bullying or other forms of peer pressure. We need more movies like this that teach children to value themselves and take pride in the things they’re good at.

Ratchet & Clank movie premiere in NYC
“Ratchet & Clank” movie premiere at Dolby Studios, New York City, April 16, 2016.

After the event, we were all treated to gift bags with awesome souvenirs. Garvey especially loved the Ratchet & Clank stickers, which he immediately put on his computer. When I asked him if he enjoyed the movie, he immediately screamed, “Of course!! It was amazing!!” We definitely recommend this movie for all families and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Ratchet & Clank movie premiere

Garvey enjoying his Ratchet & Clank gift bag.

Be sure to connect with Ratchet and Clank on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. IN THEATERS FRIDAY! Watch the movie trailer here:

Girls Night Out: A Lil Hood Tale

Girls Night Out

Greetings beloveds!

 

I decided to write a bit of Urban Lit because, you know me, always trying new things! This short story came from a series of tweets I did about “Chanda” and thought it might be fun to expand a bit on this story.

I enjoyed writing this fun piece because I like exploring different real life situations. This was, in part, inspired by some Twitter observations, so I incorporated some of those nuances into the story. I also borrowed your names. Any similarities are purely coincidental :)

 

Girls Night Out

Hope you enjoy Girls Night Out (for free) and if you do, you’re welcome to make a $.99 suggested donation on Paypal on Venmo :)

To purchase and download directly, click the link and get a copy for $.99!!

XOXO,

FJLogo

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