ROOTS: Slavery Saga or History Lesson


Review by Carla Renata for and Carla Renata's

There is a lot of talk about Roots today and will be for the rest of the week and the other episodes hit the airwaves  For those of you who are not award, please let me educate you and make you think.

Alex Haley's Roots inspired millions of Americans (not just people of color) to look into their ancestry as a means to discover the origins of their family history.

In my own personal quest, I connected with  and remain close with a cousin who now lives in Japan, discovered some historic info about my family and learned that some of my relatives made their living as bee keepers.  All as a result of searching my own "roots".

Historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  even had a show on NBC called "Who Do You Think You Are", in which numerous celebrities had their ancestry researched and aired on national television.  Some results were downright stunning.

Genealogy is the origin from which Roots was born and inspired from, so it is very difficult to listen to masses of people complain about it being a story about slaves.  Slavery is definitely at the forefront of the story, but NOT the main subject.  Roots is a story about how despite the odds, Kunte Kinte, a Mandinka warrior snatched from his homeland, rose above adversity to create a positive legacy for his family.  A family that included Alex Haley.

So, on the subject of slavery, I'ma need folks to calm down!!!

Do you hear people of Jewish descent complaining about a holocaust film every other year?  No. Why?  They understand that for history NOT to be repeated one needs to be aware and remember its existence.  There are actually some schools in this country that are trying to rewrite slavery in America calling it a "migration of Africans to America seeking a better life". Really???!!!  I think not!  This is simply a bold-faced lie.  A migration would suggest Africans were NOT chained like animals on a ship, branded and sold as property.  Let there be no mistake about it...Slavery was anything BUT a migration.

I was one of the 130 million that watched Roots the when it aired on ABC all those years ago.  Back then, you couldn't re-watch it on a DVR, live-stream or even catch it on the internet.  If you didn't see it in real simply missed out.  When I tell you,  going to school the next day was one of the most uncomfortable days in my NO exaggeration.  Roots was the talk of every workplace, school and social settings, just as it is now.

The only difference now is simply the internet.  After the first episode aired last evening, the "twitterers" and internet were buzzing with opinionated reviews of Roots.  Here's my opinion and before you get you pants in a wad...remember this is just opinion.

Roots, which aired its first episode last night simultaneously on A&E, Lifetime and the History Channel pulled in 8.5 million viewers.  The original, which aired on ABC pulled in 130 million viewers.  Not only that, but Roots single-handedly birthed a new genre of television in the 70's (Lonesome Dove, The Thornbirds, Rich Man - Poor Man).

File_001 (4)

The new look at Roots, which begins with the abduction in Africa of Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby) and spans decades to include the American Civil War, is unfolded over four consecutive nights, with a different director helming each night, including Phillip Noyce, Mario Van Peebles, Thomas Carter and Bruce Beresford.

In an era dealing with young black men randomly being gunned down, Black Lives Matter and Donald J. Trump promising to build a wall to "keep the Mexicans/illegals" out  of American, films like Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation,  WGN America's Underground and the reboot of Roots are more timely than ever.

Shot in various locations including South Africa and Louisiana, you heart can't help but break when Kunta Kinte is being whipped for refusing to abandon his Mandinka name for the slave name "Toby".  That one scene clocks in at four minutes.  Four minutes of watching  blood splatter to the ground, skin being burst like over ripe fruit, others slaves, overseers, etc... looking on yet turning away in horror and in silence.  Seeing this scene now, with so much life experience behind me than when I watched as a teenager, stirred up feelings that had been suppressed for decades.  I pray that this generation of people watch and watch intently to learn of a history that is slowly disappearing from America.  A history that should never be forgotten.

The first episode felt a little slow in some spots, but was still compelling mostly due to the performances of Malachi Kirby and Forrest Whittaker.  The producers (Mark Wolper, LeVar Burton and Will Packer) make a point in stating a disclaimer reminded viewers that there is "intense language of the time period" involved.

I trust that LeVar Burton (the original "Kunte Kinte" actor who was an unknown when shooting the 1977 miniseries) will treat the legacy Alex Haley left with the dignity, honor and respect it deserves.  Will 85% of households be watching this time? No, but this time around Roots will have a different impact.  Roots is not just about slavery, the "N-word" or pain.  It's about the courage and survival of a group of people who are resilient.

Please watch with your family, friends and every young person you can gather.  Make sure they know now that slavery, just like the holocaust and Pearl Harbor are events that should always be remembered.  If you missed last night, no worries...each episode will re-air right before the current one

Keep your eyes peeled for Emayatzy Corinealdi and Anika Noni Rose in the future installments. These young women are forces to be reckoned with and will no doubt re recognized for their brilliance along with their co-stars Malachi Kirby and Forest Whitaker.

File_005 (1)File_002 (4)File_003 (3)

Don't be silent on this one.  Le me hear from you and what  you feel.  Let's keep the conversation going for the next generation.  Remember I will respect and honor your opinion in the same manner in which you have allowed me to express mine.


To get the conversation this video of journalist Roland Martin "going in" on Snoop Dogg for his suggested "boycott" of the miniseries.


Straight Outta Compton

IMG_0816 March 3, 1991,  in Los Angeles, South Central resident Rodney King was repeatedly beat by numerous LAPD officers.  The incident was captured by video and broadcast nationally.  However, when the cops were tried by the courts...they were all acquitted.  Sound familiar?

Gangsta rap was in full effect and a west coast group called N.W.A. (NIggas With Attitude) were at the forefront of the controversy along with many of their cuts including F*&k the Police!   N.W.A. was made up of Compton teens Ice Cube, Dr. Dr,  Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren, who at the time had no idea that they were changing the trajectory of hip-hop music for a whole new generation.


They spoke up and out, which thrust them into the spotlight making them the poster children (along with west coast rapper Ice-T, and his controversial hit Cop Killer) for gangsta rap and any negative stereotype associated with black men, violence and gangs.   Unfortunately, like most groups, money was at the forefront of their demise and the label they formed - Ruthless Records.

Straight Outta Compton is smacking you in the face with the realities of being a young black man in America (especially South Central LA), AIDS (being a disease that was striking straight men, women and gays), the ugly side of the music industry and how escaping the choice of being a gang-banger or being an inspiration for these kids to move in a more productive direction.

Paul Giamatti is having a great year in film and this is the second time he has played a smarmy music manager.  However, he easily takes what could've been a one-note performance and layered it like one would do to stay warm in a winter storm.  Brillance at its best - for sure!

O'Shea Jackson (Ice-Cube's son) bears an uncanny resemblance to his Dad and is a natural actor in his first feature film.


But, it is the performances of Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E and R. Marcos Taylor as Suge Knight that are going to be the talk of tinsel town.  They are equally stupendous in their respective roles and it would be nice to watch these brothas get their props come awards season. Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Lisa Renee Pitts as Dr. Dre's Mom are letting us have too!!  Their scenes together are simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-warming, as a mother and son trying to defy the odds of what society dictates where their lives should be.

The film has already grossed close to 56 million dollars and has aided Universal Pictures in already securing 2 Billion dollars for 2015, making it the most successful film to have an August release in quite some time.  Not bad for a film that police across the country were positive would insight rioting and gunfire.  Too bad...too sad for them.  Sorry...not sorry.

In addition, Dr. Dre is donating all of the proceeds from his latest release Compton:   A Soundtrack by Dre toward the completion of a performing arts center for the City of Compton. iTunes reported album garnered more than 25 million downloads n its first week of release.

So, the next time you see a group of young black men hanging out on a corner or on a stoop...don't be so quick to judge and typecast.  Not all black men are a threat to society.  Many of them during the course of history have made America a better place like Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Julius Bond, Roland Martin, Bryant Gumble and of course The President of the United States...Barack Obama.

N.W.A. may have been unorthodox in their tactics to express their message, but it was heard and people listened.  We are still listening and waiting for a change to come.

Check out my video review blog, as well as, the trailer for Straight Outta Compton