“The Book of Negroes”

Unfortunately, BET’s miniseries “The Book of Negroes” did not get as much fanfare as say the “Love and Hip Hop”, “Real Housewives”, or “Bad Girls Club” franchises. I have to admit the only reason I heard about it was because I watch “Being Mary Jane” and “The Game”.

For those of you who have never heard of it, “The Book of Negroes” is a 3 part miniseries based on the true life of Aminata Diallo, an African woman who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery.  What is unique about Aminata is that she wrote The Book of Negroes, a ledger of free Blacks that lived in New York, most of which sailed to Nova Scotia to escape the injustices of America.  Aminata was an educated woman who was not afraid to back down from anyone.  In a time when slaves were to “know their place”, she demanded respect.

This miniseries is one of the best things I have seen on television.  It was well written, included amazing acting, and was well produced.  For me, it made me think about the Black community as a whole and how we are looked at by other cultures.  Of course, the first thing that came to mind was the separation of the Black family.  Chikura, a young African boy that Aminata met right before she was kidnapped, found Aminata once they were adults on plantations in South Carolina.  They ended becoming husband and wife, only to be torn apart NUMEROUS times.  And both times Aminata gave birth to their children, they were not together.  The great thing is that Chikura ALWAYS found her, which to me shows that even though their family was not always together and was broken many times, Chikura never gave up on her.  Not to mention Aminata never had eyes for any other man.  Something else I noticed were the enslaved Blacks.  It’s no secret, if you know the history of the US, that whites commonly referred to slaves and Blacks as “animals”.  Watching slaves in chains, practically dying from thirst and starvation, I couldn’t help but think that there was something animalistic about them.  When given water and/or food, with no utensils but their fingers…how else is one to act?  I wonder how non-Blacks would think if they saw (or knew) that their ancestors were placed in chains, having to use the bathroom on themselves, using their fingers to eat.  It’s a super disheartening and disturbing sight.

There are some of you, a friend of mine and Southern Dad included, who believe that “I’m tired of slave movies” or “I don’t want to see anything like that”, and you have no interest to watch “The Book of Negroes”.  The thing that I will say to you (and the same thing I said to them) is that this miniseries is SO much more than a slave movie.  It’s an opportunity to learn about our history and heritage and a story that is not widely known and that was not shared in any history class you had in school.  So, if you’re snowed in (like I am today), you should definitely start watching it. Or look up the actual book.  You will learn so much.

Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

Advertisements

My South Carolina Heritage

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of going to the Museum of African Art in SW DC.  A friend invited me along and since I had a day off (from both jobs) I took her up on it.  And imagine my surprise when I saw that I had not missed an exhibit I really wanted to see! 

This past May I read an article in The Island Packet, the Hilton Head newspaper, about an exhibit that was coming to the Smithsonian museum in DC.  Grass Roots: African Origins of American Art was going to be on display at the Museum of African Art from June 23 until November 28.  Sweetgrass baskets are a staple and very important to the Gullah people and other inhabitants along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts.  Looking at the baskets and watching the videos of the basket makers made me think of my home state.  As my paternal family is from the SC coast, I am very familiar with the history and significance of these baskets.   And I remembered making a sweetgrass basket and learning Gullah during my 8th grade SC History Class. (I wonder if Southern Mom still has my basket…)  In addition to baskets from the coast being on display, there were also baskets from various African countries.  As I walked around, I felt a little nostalgic and homesick.  It really made me appreciate my history.  Suprisingly, the slave auction signs they had hanging didn’t upset me.  (I don’t think that’s really significant to the story, but I felt like sharing. *kanye shrug*)

The time and patience it takes to create these baskets is amazing.  If you ever visit Charleston, Beaufort, Hilton Head, or Daufuskie Island, SC or Savannah, GA, I highly suggest you purchase a basket.  It will be a beautiful decoration to your home.  Most importantly, you only have 10 more days to go see the exhibit in DC before it moves on.  I may even go see it again.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.