roots

Lisa Sharon Harper 6-30-2016

THE NATION'S FIRST blockbuster television miniseries, Roots, shocked the nation when it started airing on Jan. 23, 1977. Based on Alex Haley’s research on his own family’s story and adapted for television from Haley’s novel, Roots offered the world its first cinematic depiction of Africa and Africans unfiltered through the conduit of Hollywood’s racialized imagination. White Tarzan and Jane were nowhere to be found in Juffure, Gambia. Kunta Kinte was the leading man. Fanta was his ingénue—black ... and beautiful.

For eight nights the Kinte family unfolded from generation to generation, focused on individual family members’ struggles against generations of evil white slave masters.

But the 2016 “reimagined” version of Roots places the snatched descendants of Omoro and Binta Kinte squarely within the unyielding machine of the international slave trade—an economic system that, fundamentally, sought the well-being of European nations at the expense of the rest of the world.

In 380 B.C.E., Plato articulated a grand idea in his treatise The Republic. There is this thing called “race,” he posited. Race is determined by the kind of metal a person is made of, he said: silver, gold, iron, or copper. A person’s race determines how that person serves society.

The transatlantic slave trade took Plato’s notion and expanded the “republic” to encompass the world. Guided by Western philosophers’ notions of human hierarchy, Western popes and monarchs declared the right of Europeans to enslave “uncivilized” peoples for the benefit of the crown. It didn’t take long for Plato’s copper and gold to morph into Virginia judicial law that delineated between slaves and servants based on skin color. Colonial “races” became white, black, and red.

Lisa Sharon Harper 5-28-2014
Maya Angelou, public domain; illustration by Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Maya Angelou, public domain; illustration by Brandon Hook / Sojourners

When I heard the news I wept.

“Renowned Poet and Author Maya Angelou Dies at 86,” read the NBC News headline.

My fruitless effort to hold back tears was proven vain as I made my way into the bowels of a D.C. Metro station — tears streaming. I felt silly.

“Why am I crying,” I thought. “I didn’t know Maya Angelou.” I met her once, but she wasn’t family or a close friend, yet I was reacting with the same profound sense of loss, as if my own beloved great grandmother had passed?

The New York Times called her a “lyrical witness of the Jim Crow South” in the headline that announced Ms. Angelou’s death this morning. But for nearly four decades Dr. Maya Angelou served as a kind of great grandmother of the African-American community — a bridge between the ancestors and us.

QR Blog Editor 5-28-2014

Angelou reciting her poem, "On the Pulse of Morning", at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, January 1993. Public Domain.

Maya Angelou, a renowned author, poet and civil right activist, has died at 86. Angelou, know for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, also authored six other autobiographies along with numerous collections of poems.

Throughout her career, Angelou she was active in the Civil Rights movement, working with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. She also served a one point as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group founded following the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dr. King and others.

NBC News reports her numerous achievements: 

Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, under the name Marguerite Annie Johnson. She grew up to become a singer, dancer, actress, writer and Hollywood's first female black director.

Angelou had an impressive list of accolades: She was a three-time Grammy winner and was nominated for a Pulitzer, a Tony, an an Emmy for her role in the groundbreaking television mini-series "Roots."

Lisa Schencker 7-27-2012
Tree illustration, Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Tree illustration, Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Whether churchgoers realize it or not, the trees in their churchyards have religious roots.

Those tall, thin-branched trees on the corner of this city's Episcopal Church Center of Utah, Purple Robe Black Locusts, were probably named after a biblical reference to John the Baptist eating locusts and honey.

Nearby, the crab apple tree just outside the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Mark produces a small, sour fruit used by 15th-century monks to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and gallstones.

And the flowers of a nearby dogwood tend to bloom around Easter.

“My hope,” said University of Utah biology professor Nalini Nadkarni, “is [worshippers] will realize that nature and trees are as much a part of their sacred ground and worthy of reverence as what goes on inside a cathedral or church.”

Should we stay or should we go? Being rooted in one place is a good thing, but faithfulness doesn't end where the road begins.

Bryan Farrell 6-14-2011

Hundreds of miners, activists, students, academics, environmentalists, and other citizens are marching to West Virginia's historic Blair Mountain in an effort to save it from mountaintop removal.

Jennifer Kottler 12-08-2010
We've been asked by more than one of our readers and supporters about how we can support the DREAM Act and hold that in tension wit
Don lived for years in the Chicago area, working hard and trying to keep up with the fast pace of his profession.
Josh Stieber 4-19-2010

Recently, Wikileaks, an online whistleblower site, released a video which was dubbed "Collateral Murder." I write as a former member of the Infantry c

With more than a third of our children now overweight and many already diabetic, Americans of all political colors should commend the First Lady for her recently-announced campaign against childhoo
Lisa Sharon Harper 9-25-2009
The following is a message delivered at the "Stand for Freedom in Iran" rally that took place yesterday at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across from the United Nations.

Timothy King 6-18-2009
I have never met you but I have to thank you. You are half a world a way but I'm watching you on TV, reading blogs, looking at pictures and following your Twitter updates.
Mark Brinkmoeller 6-12-2009
"Listen to it loud!" That was the advice that came with a disc of the new film, I Bring What I Love, about Youssou N'Dour, a Senegalese singer who has worked for social justice in Africa.

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