Monday, June 20, 2011

Roots by Alex Haley. Week #1 of the summer Read-A-Long


Roots by Alex Haley- Read-A-Long Week #1

Chapters Read:  1-20
Pages read:  1-105

I have decided to read ROOTS in honor of my former student Quincy Blue who was recently found murdered, his body burned beyond recognition, in Saint Paul.  Quincy was an 30 year old African American male, who has two young boys, he was a student at a local business college, engaged to be married and a local hip-hop artist and musician.  They have no leads or suspects in the case.  Quincy died a horrible death and it makes me so sad.  Quincy was in my class about 14 years ago and I taught a unit on African History.  I always show Part 1 of Roots to my class and Quincy would have seen it, which is why I feel that I want to honor Quincy and other African American males who have lost their life to violence by reading ROOTS.  Too many young black men are the victims or perpetrators of violent crime and this hurts everyone.  We need to do something to stop the senseless violence.  The first step is to educate yourself.

ROOTS begins in The Gambia on the western side on Africa in an area known as The Slave Coast.  Kunta Kinte is born in 1750 as the first son to Omoro and Binta.  They live in a tiny Muslim village and we learn about their daily life and survival through the season changes.

The first 100 pages are very entertaining as they chronicle Kunta's first eight rains and the reader experiences African culture and history.

Three things stood out to me as I read the book.
First, the African Griot.  A Griot is a storyteller who keeps the history of the people and relays it to others.  Most African cultures didn't have a form of writing to record their history and so they used Griots.  I love reading about how important they are to society and how the whole village would sit quietly to listen to a story.  In my class, I have a Griot Day, where we sit in a circle for the day and share a story of our personal history.  It is one of my favorite lessons.  What saddens me is that some of my African American students say they don't have a story.  How do I convince them that they do and that it is worth hearing?

Second, the amazing Gambian women.  The Gambian, Mandinka women with their babies on their back, work their rice fields.  Then they work their husbands fields, cook, clean, dye cloth, sew, dance and are just plain amazing.  They carry water and all sorts of materials on their head and just strike me as strong, colorful, and faithful women.  So I have to admit, I tried walking around with books and other things on my head all week.  I recently saw a woman walking down a street close to here with a 12 pack on her head and was just amazed by it.  Nothing stayed on my head though, either because my posture is bad or my hair is too fine and slippery.  I will keep trying though.  I am also thankful that amazing women like this came before me, so that I can have time to learn and do the things they never had time to do.

Third, the traveling tree.  OK, I loved the traveling tree that each Mandinka village has.  When you go on a journey you tie a piece of cloth to the tree and each strip represents the prayer of a traveler, so that his journey will be safe.  Kunta and his father take a journey out of the village about a 3-5 day walk.  Each village they pass by has a traveler's tree and a welcoming committee with a host in the community.  The host feeds the travelers and provides shelter for them for the night.  The members of the village take turns being the community host for travelers.  I think this is a great idea and wished we did it here in small communities in the United States.  Just think of how that would change us for the better.  I would love to welcome visitors from all over the world to my home and table.  I also love the idea of a traveling tree where you tie strips of cloth to represent a prayer and your journey.  I just might have to adopt a tree in my yard and begin this wonderful African tradition.

Next week:  I plan to read from pages 106-200 and post on Monday.
These are the bloggers/readers participating in the Read-A-Long.  Please visit them and comment.  Also if you are participating and want to be included on this list, please comment and I will add a link to your blog.
Thanks everyone for participating.

1.  Bre from Booksnob Wannabe
2.  Sherrie from Just Books
3.  Michelle from Truebookaddict
4.  Laurie from Whatsheread
(I know Michelle and Laurie are starting late and so may not have a post this week)

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