In Tracy Thompson’s new series Back to My Roots, Thompson seeks to unlock the mystery of her history.
In the first episode, Thompson hits the streets of Harlem to find out if many of the issues plaguing Black Americans are directly connected to our “lack of identity.” During the episode, she happens on an intense debate between Black Israelites and several onlookers, which leads Thompson to wonder if the biggest question plaguing African-Americans today is: “Who are we?”
I understand Thompson’s concerns. I’d love to know where in Africa my ancestors hailed from and, like Thompson, I will probably undergo a DNA test to figure it out. However, I doubt that simply having this knowledge will magically soothe the wounds of slavery and correct the issues some African-Americans still face today.
Moreover, imbedded in Thompson’s well-meaning question is the idea that African-Americans have no culture of our own. This is that same line of thinking that exalts the culture of West Indians or Black people in Latin America, but doubts that African-Americans have created our own culture here in the States, despite the fact that West Indians, Blacks in Latin America, and African-Americas all landed in their respective countries via the slave trade and suffered the same disconnection from Africa.
Despite my slight hesitation with the series’ premise, I am excited to see Thompson explore her identity and that of other Africans and African-Americans in New York City.
Take a look at the first episode of Africa in the City’s Back to My Roots:
h/t Shadow & Act