Snoop Dog. Snoop Doggy Dog. Snoop Lion. DJ Snoopadelic. Snoopzilla. Big Snoop Dog. Snoop Scorcese. Over the course of his career, Calvin Broadous has worked under 7 different names. At the age of 45, he has been a rapper, actor, kids coach and rasta lion.
On the other hand, Kunta Kinte has always been and shall remain Kunta. Please DO NOT ask him to call himself Toby.
This week four channels under the A & E network will run the 2016 remake of the miniseries based on Alex Haley ‘s family history. The remake is well made, and as moving a story as before with an all-star team: Forrest Whitaker as Fiddler, and is executive produced by Lavar Burton. The remake is one of a handful of recent productions focusing on America’s darkest chapter of history including Underground, 12 years a Slave and Nate Parkers much anticipated Birth of a Nation.
But Snoop Whatever says these stories are no longer relevant. Is Snoop right about all these slave shows? Is America ignoring today’s racial tension in favor of whiteness’ walk down memory lane? Do these shows about the past keep us from moving forward?
Past present and future and bound together in an eternal equation. Toggling one part of the equation helps you solve for the rest. Snoop’s right when he says black people are still suffering today. Why not then see how those who rebalanced the equation before you did what they could? A lesson history teaches us is that your wokeness is not enough. Fighting, protests and even the changing will of many people has not resulted in equity for blacks–or any other group for that matter.
Watching Kunta take that whipping reminded me of the absolute power and strength that comes from being grounded in home and ancestry. But, at the end, he whispers Toby. This tiny whisper I used to think of as a sigh of defeat. When I was a child I wanted him to never give in. Now I know giving in is not giving up. That you can take a beating and live to fight another day with integrity intact.
As an adult traveling Americas treacherous waters of race, I was moved to see that he was willing to do whatever it takes to live and to keep fighting. That to whisper your slave name is not to be a slave. That Kunta–like me–could always carry his real name on the inside, no matter how the battle beats us down from day to day. Maybe that is what Snoop is missing.
Roots is not a slave story–it is the story of Africans enslaved who never laid down, who never gave up even when they wouldn’t see the fight finished in their lifetime. Roots shows black people in revolt, measuring their subversion for the greatest success, and building a life where there is none. They are not slaves, they are survivors. We are right be reminded that we are the children born of such power.
For young millennials who are hellbent on changing the world, watching Roots may seem like an old folks’ history lesson, but it is their history too. You’re wearing your hair natural, rocking dashikis and wax prints–why not a little throwback history too? When things get intense, its good to know your bloodline fought harder than a hashtag.
That is why Roots is still relevant. Snoop, your African name is still on the inside, too. You’ve referenced Italian directors, Japanese monsters, and Jamaican prophets in your name; maybe it’s time you found your Roots. You’re a child born on Wednesday: we’ll call you Kwiku Dog.