Coveted Awards For Slavery And Roots ♦ by Farouk Martins Aresa

Jan. 22, 2014


The history of men enslaving humans must not be forgotten and we must be reminded of that cruelty to prevent it against any other ethnic group. Romans, Greeks, German, English, French and Asians captured one another. In not so recent past, the Irish, Italians, Polish and Jews were discriminated against in Europe and America. However, each of these ethnic groups has moved on and become masters of their own destiny. They can relax up to a point but not the Africans.

People have to realize that while the wounds and scars of slavery have healed in other races; those wounds are still open and sour in blacks because no matter where, they are still at the bottom of the ladder. Some young people in colleges did not even know white slavery existed! Nevertheless, Africans have excelled in all fields from sciences to discoveries on every continent but are only rewarded in driving Ms. Daisy, Roots except Kunta Kintey and now 12 Years A Slave.

Charlton Heston Ten commandments is history, so it is only Africans that are still living through the vestiges of slavery and portrayed in images and movies, as victims as if white slavery never existed. Blacks seek sympathy as victims that turn the other cheek and whites respond with empathy and awards accordingly. Both are guilty. However, blacks like other minorities and women that portray assertiveness, rebellion or seek self-actualization are still punished.

Professor Ali Mazrui documentary The African: A Triple Heritage, which was jointly produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation  and the U.S Public Broadcasting Service  generated so much controversy that some of the sponsors had to withdraw. These were living facts from the so called Dark Continent but it was too much for some people to stomach. Facts repeated by Professor Louis Gates.

Unfortunately, this bias only spill into entertainment and movie industries. Before Professor Cheikh Anta Diop and other Africanists, historians painted ancient Egypt and Sudan as if they were European countries and as if there were no free Africans in Europe and America before slavery. African university students can’t appreciate enough how some exposed historians tried to distort their history. We now have African/African American departments in universities.

The wider communities are still struggling with the image of Africans in movies and literatures. Indeed, until recently professors and civil right leaders exposing their research of Egypt were labeled ethnocentric and hate mongers for no other reason than revealing distortion of archeology and history as recently as 19th and 20th centuries.

How many coveted awards rewarded movies about Shaka Zulu, Haiti’s Bookman in rebellion, Amistad voyage revolt or Marcus Garvey? We must remember that Martin Luther King was labeled the most dangerous man and Malcolm X was a marked man. It was debated amongst African Americans if Minister Louis Farrakhan’s problem with most people was out of preaching self-help or spiritual upliftment or emulating Jews. But many Jews may rightly see it differently.

Fred Williams and Pam Grier in the so called “black exploitation movies” in the early seventies, were admonished for behaving like cowboys replacing Indians with whites that crossed them. They could not sustain their early success before it was lost to more condescending movies.

Nollywoods from Africa is so popular internationally; it will be share ignorance for Hollywood to claim they are the only ones unaware, even when foreign films are recognized. There is this   tendency to ignore the achievements of indigenous African Europeans or African Americans in their countries. When similarly situated, they get harsher punishments and disproportionally projected for negative behaviors as borne out by statistics in their correctional system: see here.

Well, Africans can start their own awards, research teaching hospitals and country clubs like our Jewish brothers and give themselves whatever award they think is desirable. But as part of international community, we must be careful not to reinforce stereotypes in the name of awards. Some documentaries are uplifting to Africans/blacks but the ones that carry the prestige of the most coveted awards only put Africans in their place like old Tarzan movies.

If Africans in Diaspora or at home wanted to be recognized for these coveted awards, they would have to play submissive roles recreating their sufferings while others would ask them how easy it was to play that role all over again in new movies. Better still, in Nollywood they could feature a George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio to get attention for Oscar nominations.

Actually, some Africans were so star struck, they paid one of the Kardashian sisters a million U.S dollar to appear for a few hours in Lagos? Many Africans condemned it as colo-mentality. We have to be careful, otherwise we get the most desirable award for the least desirable role.

A great deal of education in schools on slavery regardless of race is needed before it can permeate everyday life including plays and later in movies. Since the youths naturally explore, they are more exposed than their parents, as in every generation because of African Americans ingenuity in arts and music relating back to Africa. So Sports are the only other avenues Africans have blown out the concrete ceilings.

Red Fox in the old Stanford & Son Show said that he was tired of “roots” he wanted the “fruits”. If we want to be sincere, many Africans or black as you may want to call them, were not surprised when it was leaked that a Republican said he could not bear to look at the face of the President of United States. It was a reminder, that no matter the achievement or success as a black man, you could never get your due respect from some people. Thank God, only some!