3. Something that "happened 200 years ago" ABSOLUTELY relates to contemporary issues.
When Roots aired in January of 1977, the nation was still recovering from the Vietnam War, civil unrest and economic crisis. The manufacturing jobs that drew southern black families north during the Great Migration began to dwindle in the mid-60s and were being outsourced to other countries where the cost of labor was cheaper. But the burden of a national trend affecting cities across the country was disproportionately suffered by black and brown, working class families, as white families began moving out of cities (see white flight) to avoid the desegregation of schools and Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968—the Fair Housing Act—which prohibited housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. What does slavery have to do with this? Systemic Racism—Jim Crow, employment and housing discrimination, incarceration, the school- to prison pipeline, the wealth gap, the war on drugs and infant mortality all stem from the systematic stripping of constitutional rights established during the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877). Roots is a saga—and it begins with slavery because that’s where the story of blacks in America begins.
4. Should we watch Soul Plane instead or nah?
You're right about one thing—we need more black stories in mainstream media. Stories and images that showcase who we are culturally and celebrates our diversity, because we are not a monolith. Please!—make movies and media that tell multiple stories of a rich culture and diverse people. In the last decade, television has seen a resurgence of black characters in leading roles in the coveted prime time television spot. The rise of social media and streaming services has also provided previously unknown black actors, writers and producers— like Issa Rae— with a powerful platform in which our stories can be seen and consumed by the masses, jettisoning black actors and black stories back into traditional media outlets. Shows like Martin, Living Single, Girlfriends, A Different World and many more, have reintroduced the contemporary black experience to new audiences and a new generation of viewers. What’s more is that the characters are three dimensional, beautifully nuanced roles written, produced and directed by people of color. The creation of these complex roles provide more to mainstream media consumption than bland, unrealistic, stock "black" characters, previously written by writers who knew nothing of what it is like to be black in contemporary America.
So yes, Snoop, I will be watching—well, streaming—because in a time where states are violating voting rights and where activists have to remind society that Black Lives Matter, it is extremely important that we go back to our roots.
Assia Micheaux Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator
Images: Roots (2016) Via History Channel, Still from Stormy Weather via MGM and allposters.com