Special guests are featured throughout the epic documentary including the noted actor Ben Vereen, who played the beloved character ‘Chicken George’ in “Roots”; singer Jermaine Jackson of music’s Jackson Family; His Excellency Yahya Jammeh, President of Gambia; and members of the Kinteh family who still reside in Kunta Kinteh’s tribal village in Gambia to this day.
“This documentary is a needed and significant reminder of the African Holocaust,” said popular actor Ben Vereen who plays an acting part in the documentary as its narrator and who also offers interview commentary in the film.
Elvin Ross made the film as a labor of love, after years of offering varied support to the Kinteh family and uncovering a unique perspective they had of their famed ancestor, Kunta. Ross felt a deep sense of urgency to complete the dynamic picture of Kinteh that the vast majority of the world was not privy to see.
“The fact that generations of Americans have not heard this story at all or have only heard a small portion of it through the Roots series, meant there was a historical void that I felt compelled to fill in making this film,” said Ross, director, executive producer and composer of Kunta Kinteh Island. “I also wanted the Kinteh family’s generosity in sharing Kunta’s life with me to benefit the condition of their lives and further his legacy”.
The Kunta Kinteh Island educational film tour will visit multiple cities across the U.S. and consists of three primary types of philanthropic events in each city: a red carpet screening of the documentary, an educational event, or a faith-based gathering. The New Orleans event consists of three screenings – one at Layola University on Monday, February 25th at 7PM; one at the St, Augustine Senior High School at 10AM on the 26th; and the final screening will be a black tie, red carpet affair at the Audubon Tea Room at 7PM on Tuesday, February 26th. The events in each city will feature celebrity and VIP guests, and offer a first opportunity to view the film and to lend financial support to the Elvin Ross Foundation. The Foundation will provide general funding, books and solar laptops to the primary school in Kunta Kinteh’s village in Gambia. Select cities will also host black tie galas or thoughtful panel discussions on the documentary, to raise additional funds for the Gambian school. Visit www.elvinross.com for details of the New Orleans events and VIP attendees.
On 6 February 2011 James Island was renamed Kunta Kinteh Island to give the Island a Gambian name. As an important historical site in the West African slave trade, it is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with related sites including Albreda, Juffureh and Fort Bullen. James Island is suffering heavy erosion, and is now approximately 1/6 of the size during the time when the fort was active. Ruins of several of the British administrative buildings (including a single cell, apparently used to house the most troublesome captives), a small jetty and a number of skeletal baobab trees remain. The ruins have been stabilised and protected by a capping. Because the island is low-lying, during high tide and storms sometimes waves will beat against some of the surviving structures.
Here are some fast numbers for you from Miller and Smith, eds. Dictionary of American Slavery (1988)