I got to thinking about how black folks (and other cultures) of a particular era, region, and mindset can get caught up in the whole idea of someone “putting a root on them.” I figured I’d repost this blast from the past that addresses that very thing. Are “roots” real? Do you believe?
A father, convinced he was the victim of a voodoo curse, drowned his two young children in the bathtub and then jumped to his death in front of a subway train, police said Thursday.
Franz Bordes, 39, died at Wednesday evening at a Brooklyn subway station. Investigators found several suicide notes indicating he was at odds with relatives of the children’s mother, a Haitian immigrant like Bordes.
“They’re using everything they can to destroy me, most of all voodoo,” one of the notes read, according to police.
Being a child of people from the South and, hell, an African-American period, I’m all too familiar with all the talk about “roots” and someone “putting a root on you.” Many an enterprising housewife/single mom in the ‘hood made a living as “the root lady,” taking money from folks who couldn’t afford the extra expense in the first place in order to reverse the curse of whatever terror was threatening to take them down. A few visits to the neighborhood hex-maker/spell unbreaker gave many fearful people peace of mind. Most came home with some sort of talisman, candles, or lucky oil guaranteed to rid them of the bugaboos and death traps that were surely lurking nearby.
Heck, most of us of a certain age can spout, damn near word-for-word, Richard Pryor’s side-splitting classic Mudbone bit, “Little Feets,” featuring the quintessential root lady, Miss Rudolph, a three-legged monkey, and a disappearing tarantula.
That Miss Rudolph bit was both hilarious and terrifying to black folks because we all knew a Miss Rudolph or knew somebody who knew one. Tales ran rampant in black communities of the South of the root lady who could dry up your womb or make a man’s dick fall off (…or worse). Speaking of which, y’all ever read my book, Child of God?
(Alright, that was a shameless plug, but this is my blog, after all.)
Anyway…I’m not saying that voodoo, hoodoo (which is different from voodoo), and roots aren’t real (please, don’t put a root on me for that!). Reality is an ever-shifting creature, manifested by one’s force of focus and beliefs. But at some point you’ve just got to step away from this kind of fear, otherwise you’ll never be at peace. Every presumed evil eye will send you running for the hills.
Since I brought it up, I figured I’d give you a *special treat*. For those who’ve never heard it, revel in the brilliance for the very first time. For those like me who know it as well as they know their own name, celebrate the magnificence of one of the brightest lights to ever shine on our horizon. For your listening pleasure, ladies and gents, I present…
(Click the words above to listen.)
*Oh yeah, it’s definitely NSFW—Not Suitable For Work. C’mon now, it’s Richard Pryor. The fuck you thought?