At the Roots of Fences

In Culture by Reggie LegendLeave a Comment

My wife and I went on a date to see Fences this week. At the base of August Wilson’s play however, I saw another of the African-American family play out: Roots.

When Roots was re-cast and updated for a 2016 premiere, I remember a lot of fuss being made about whether the story of slavery’s impact on 4 generations of an African family forced to assimilate in really needed to be retold again. Personally, I didn’t have the same reaction as many of my peers as I wanted to witness retelling the adaptation of Alex Haley’s heralded albeit controversial book. I knew that with modern day technology and new knowledge concerning the slave trade in America, something different was going to come out of the story that the original version (with Lavar Burton as Kunta Kinte) could not capture. I also wanted to watch the series as a father and avid disciple of Christ – two vantages that weren’t afforded to me when I watched it as a youth.

The simple truth of the matter is that I couldn’t remember or appreciate much of the intricacies of the story when it was first released. As such, I was not disappointed. What I saw in the retelling of Roots was the broken bond between father and son that has become a cursed generational inheritance in far too many African-American homes. I had intended to write this piece months ago but never got around to it. With the release of Fences however, I see that God’s timing, as always, supersedes and transcends my own.

Before I get into the meat of my message, I feel that it’s only right to briefly recount my relationship with my father. He and I are not estranged. He and my mother have been married for 50+ years. Though he and I did go through a period of being at odds (diametrically opposed because we were so much alike like two magnets with the same polarity facing one another) – it was a natural stage that we entered into as I progressed into the formative years transitioning from pre-teen to teen and teen to adult. I have come to understand now that I am an extension of the best and worst of my father. He saw his worst in me and did his best to purge me of them in an attempt to exorcise his own demons; yet, he steered me towards nurturing the best in me even if he never wanted to attribute them to himself. So this piece is not about a little boy aiming at his father to expose his flaws… I just wanted to set the record straight!

As a father now myself, it is all too clear to me that I am called to accomplish what my father could not; even as my own children will have the same responsibility. It is even clearer to me that whatever I achieve is due to the gifts and talents handed down to me by my father but also placed in our lineage by our Heavenly Father – achievements that the prince of the power of the air does not want to see come to fruition lest he begin to lose the grip that he has clawed into this world. You see, if I begin to focus my and my children’s attention on the REAL enemy – the spiritual enemy which seeks to steal, kill and destroy the spiritual inheritance and delegated authority of the Kee family – the countdown of his numbered days will quicken. In fact, it’s not that the Kees are particularly important in the grand scheme of things – EVERY family plays a role in establishing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven by raising up each household into the full knowledge and might of God to make His enemy the footstool of Christ.

In fact, the next verse in Acts that appears after its writer Luke recounts this prophetic word from Psalm concerning all of the Lord’s enemies being made His footstool is the following:

‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ – Acts 2:36

The word ‘house’ is a spiritual reference. Every family on earth is established as a house. Every name bears witness to a lineage that is being raised both as a standard and army on earth to combat the devil and his children of disobedience. However, the devil has done such a fabulous job of causing in-fighting and discord to run rampant in families – rooted, often times, in the relationships between fathers and sons – that he’s fenced in our potential to uproot his false claim upon this world. He’s done so by perfecting the art of the set up: perpetuating the visitation of both condemnation and the sins of the father upon the third and fourth generations of his children.

This is what’s at play and at the roots of Fences. Troy gives us a glimpse of the destructive nature concerning his relationship to his father which instantly gives us an understanding regarding the dysfunctional relationship he has with his sons Lyons and Cory. To coin a base ball expression, he entered into his parental role with two strikes against him (and his sons) the minute he stepped up to the plate. Troy did the best he could to foster a good environment for his family to function… but it was build upon a broken foundation from the start.

At my church, we practice addressing and renouncing the generational curses of our families as a form of deliverance. We identify curses seen in Fences such as violence, alcoholism, infidelity and anger as iniquities (internal sins that are passed down through bloodlines and often remain dormant until external prompts and lifestyles bring them to the surface) or works of the flesh. If we are able to interview our parents and grandparents, we ask them to discuss the good and the bad patterns in our families so that we can embrace and denounce them as blessings and curses, respectively. Whether or not we are able to address them with our forefathers present, a key part in being freed from the accursed works of the flesh is expressing forgiveness towards our forefathers.

When we address the curses, it’s not done in a way so as to become angry with or chastise our parents and grandparents who remain living but to free them from the guilt, shame and dishonor often associated with the darker inheritance of our ancestors. For example, if you would have known the name of the Kees back in my father’s youth, it wouldn’t bring about the same thoughts you may (or may not!) have of me right now. In his hometown of Branchville, VA – a stone’s throw away from from Courtland nee Jerusalem, VA where the insurrection of Nat Turner occurred – the Kee boys were known for being drunks. My father made a conscious decision to avoid alcohol to break the yoke of this curse so that his future family would have one less limiting agents to cap the possibilities we could achieve. I am forever indebted to him for that not only for myself but for my children and their children’s children. There are other things that I have discovered about myself that I have had to confront him about but it was done in love (which covers a multitude of sins) for the purpose of making sure that we are all able to walk in the spiritual inheritance of our ‘knew’ (the original and reclaimed spiritual righteousness of our heavenly Father in Christ) familial birthright.

I had to do so at a time when my father was recovering from a stroke. Unlike Troy and his father, wishing him dead was the furthest thing from my heart, mind and lips as I’ve had the privilege of ministering to him over the years. The potential for contention is there no more or less than it was when I was a teenager – but I’ve grown to understand that though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh… for a greater enemy abounds.

That greater enemy is the same enemy pulling the strings behind in this country. Though we see the racism built into American systems and played out before our eyes in the police shootings that marred much of 2016, the wound it picks at afresh stems from the advent of slavery in America.

What I saw in Roots really opened my eyes to the damage that this enemy has intricately and spiritually woven into the fabric of African families in America. Every new generation that came after Omoro (Kunta Kinte’s father) had to deal with abandonment and (eventual) bitterness aimed at their father. Kunta’s removal from his father is an extremely sinister, vile and strategic move of the devil. If a man is unable to communicate and receive blessings from his earthly father, he will be ill-equipped, ill-prepared and fail to see the need to do so with his Heavenly Father.

Kunta now has a curse to pass on to his daughter Kizzy who, also taken from her father, had to learn how to operate in isolation from what she knew to be her source of strength in a foreign land designed to siphon and plunder said strength while playing up and preying upon her weakness. However, it is not until we see her son George and his children (the third and fourth generation from Omoro) that we begin to see resentment set in. As each generation gets farther and farther away from their fathers, they lose a connectedness that then blurs and blends the hatred of their status in America to the point where it begins to point back to their father. Chicken George’s absenteeism then caused roots of bitterness to become present in his son – who attributed the lion’s share of the blame of his family’s disrepair to Chicken George.

Though Chicken George did his best to ‘take the crookeds with the straight’ – as Lyons reminded Cory of their father Troy’s life motto – his son was unable to forgive him even as Cory struggled to do in Fences. When unforgiveness presides with the natural shortcomings that we all have us humans, it creates a recipe for disaster – one where ginger roots become bitterly rigid once rooted into such hard and barren ground.

This is the plight of far too many of our families in many instances. One of torment and hurt. BUT… just outside of the fences lies the borders of God’s Kingdom! And His only begotten Son Jesus came to our home 2017 years ago, stepped up to the plate and knocked the skin off of the curve ball of confusion we’ve been tossed as our lot in life! Like Troy Maxson, He wasn’t content with just knocking the ball into the crowd, though – He aimed and succeeded at putting enough meat on the ball to send it sailing out of the park!

I thank God that He orchestrated a way to send His Word – sharper than any two-edged sword – to become flesh and divide the righteousness of God’s Spirit within us from the ratchet sinfulness of our souls! I am thankful that He is restoring functionality to our families – rooting out bitterness and tearing down the fences that keep us grounded in abandonment. AMEN!


“Speaking LIFE to unlock the POWER of GOD within YOU” ™

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