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Black to our Roots

Jacqueline Olive & Tresubira Whitlow / United States / 2007 / 53 ' / English


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How important is cultural heritage to African-Americans today?


Black To Our Roots is the inspirational story of a group of teenagers’ journey from the inner-city of Atlanta to Ghana, West Africa in search of their ancestral home. The film will feature 16-year-old Sylvia—streetwise, yet self-conscious about the stigma of living in housing projects—and 15-year-old Kweku along with his 13-year-old sister Afua—home-schooled and sheltered in a markedly different African-centered home. Determined to transcend their environments, learn more about their history in America, and see their connection to Africa first-hand, the teens travel with Habesha--a non-profit community-based organization—to Washington, D.C. to trace their genealogy through a groundbreaking new DNA test, spend the weekend at a Yoruba village on the Gullah Islands of South Carolina, and ultimately travel across the Atlantic Ocean. Through their journey, Black To Our Roots highlights how far inner city African-American youth must go to uncover their identity.

By spotlighting the range of emotions the teens experience as they expand their horizons, Black To Our Roots will tell a dramatic story that answers the questions even DNA tests can’t answer: “How important is cultural heritage to African-Americans today?” and the often contemplated question, “How do Africans react to African-Americans; Will the teens be accepted as brothers and sisters of a common ancestry, or will there be divisions instead?” By confronting their issues of identity, the teenagers of Habesha are asking these same questions in an attempt to better understand the legacy of slavery that began 500 years ago.

Black To Our Roots is an observational film that highlights the courage and determination of these underestimated teenagers as they work to raise money to fund their travels, grapple in focus sessions with issues of African-American/African history, and leave their familiar surroundings.

Finally, Black to Our Roots will reveal the teens’ feelings about Africa, as well as America, and how they navigate this dual-identity. Their attitudes, as well as those of their families and peers, are bound to evolve after they return, and we will be there to document these changes, as well.


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