Kwame Kwei-Armah looked at the impact of the television series, Roots, on the psyche of those who watched it. I vaguely remember Roots, but nobody will ever forget the name of the main character, the slave, Kunta Kinte. Roots has particular resonance for Kwame Kwei-Armah because it was watching it at age 12, that made him pledge that when was older, he would trace his roots and change his name. So Ian Roberts from Hillingdon, became Kwame Kwei-Armah, Ga names from Ghana.
The last ten minutes of the documentary is as poignant a piece of radio as you will ever hear. A class of pupils in South London watched the first two episodes of Roots, and gave their reaction afterwards. At the risk of patronising them, the eloquence with which they express their horror and disgust made me shift uneasily as I listened. One white student said the treatment of the slaves brought shame on white people. Most evocative of all seemed to be the beating Kunta Kinte endured as he was forced to change his name. There's nothing as intertwined as one's name and one's identity. Being removed from one's land is criminal, and being stripped of one's name is just evil.