I’m hoping that by the time you read this you would have watched this three part series aired on the BBC last month.
Based in Jamaica, the Long Song retells the story of enslavement happening on the Island by the British. As a Jamaican British woman – just its setting made me feel on edge but I was immediately glued to the series as most TV/ Film documenting the events of slavery focus on the African American experience.
Note – I guess in some respects the Caribbean is considered a part of the America’s
We follow the story of July – a young girl who is conceived by rape and taken away from her mother at a young age.
Note – this moment reminded me of that famous moment in Colour Purple… the Hell No moment – Please watch with caution!
Now in the Long Song, Kitty, July’s mother does not react like Sofia (Oprah Winfrey’s character) as there is a difference in time and Kitty is enslaved. But it triggered this scene for me because as well as ownership and control of Black people in the psyche of Europeans, there is a fascination and obsession with Black children that I think still exists that is seldom spoken about.
#shoutout to Sharon Duncan Brewster who plays Kitty – a fantastic Actress!
July then goes on to what we would call a “House Negro” working directly Ms Mortimer. What I found very interesting is the theme introduced by the casting of Tamara Lawrence and the issues therefore raised around colourism. You see, but for privileges surrounding being in the house, July did not benefit from the privilege of being bi-racial as her complexions darker than usual. I was impressed that this theme was included, and chuckled uncomfortably watching July needing to tell both Black and white people of the race of her father, despite what he had done to her mother.
Note – this happens today –with Black passing people feeling the need to tell Black and White people the non White parts of their make up. How sad!
Now the majority of the first episode in particular, is very barbaric and not for the light hearted, or those that do not feel they are in a strong mental state to see the atrocities that happened not so long ago. It is also more horrific if you are of Jamaican (Caribbean) descent living in the UK. But for me I was spell bound and had to continue what I started!
Interestingly though, my mother who I watched the first episode with, refused to watch the other episodes. I don’t think she was alone in this and there is a danger of losing a lot of Black audiences because we actually relive what we watch. I think what made it easier for me to watch is my ability as an Actress and Writer to watch things critically. And I invite all who read this to always watch everything critically as a programme is called a programme because it programs.
The other episodes were an easier watch because physical violence and murder isn’t so prevalent (although still traumatic) as slavery is coming to an end. Although there is the mental violence that increases with the introduction of Racism and what were once physical shackles has complications as July becomes a mistress for the new plantation owner and has his child... and so the saga continues, hence its title.
The Long Song is still on BBCIPlayer check out more information on other Andrea Levy books too.