VH1 airs today (February 7th). Love & Hip Hop: Lineage to Legacya special two-part event celebrating Black history and African ancestry.
Actors from hit series for the first time Love & Hip Hop and Black ink crew will join host Dometi Pongo (MTV News) in a thought-provoking special that explores the brutal effects of slavery while celebrating Africa’s rich history, music, craftsmanship, style, dance and food.
Love & Hip Hop‘s Remy Ma, Papoose, Yandy Smith-Harris, Rich Dollaz, Tokyo Vanity, Paris Phillips, Karlie Redd and Momma Dee team up with DNA identity expert Dr. Gina Paige, co-founder of AfricanAncestry.com, to win the only DNA test revealing her African ethnicity and country of origin in Lineage to Legacy. Ceaser Emanuel, Katrina ‘Kat Tat’ Jackson and Krystal Kill_lustrator, members of the Black ink crewwill create tattoos inspired by the past of Love & Hip Hop performers to further commemorate and honor this life changing experience.
Ahead of the show’s launch, presenter Dometi Pongo spoke about hosting the experience and seeing the stars of Love & Hip Hop Learn about her African ancestry and more.
SOURCE: How did you feel when you first heard about the Lineage to Legacy edition of ? Love & Hip Hop?
Dometi Pongo: My first reaction was a feeling of pride because I started doing these cultural excursions back to Ghana for the first time in 2016. When I was working at WVON, I sponsored these trips where 20-25 people returned to Ghana. And you know, we kept them running for four years through 2020. But I remember how difficult it was back in 2016 to get people our age on board. There were these stereotypes about Africa because we weren’t seen as a tourist attraction. People asked if the hotel accommodations would be ok? How will the food be? Is it civilized? They were ignorant and slightly disrespectful things people thought about Africa, but I know it didn’t come from a bad place. It was just the wrong communication across the continent. When I got that treatment I was like, man, it made me proud because we’re coming out of 2019 with this, this whole movement coming back home, and with a show like Love & Hip Hop, it’s totally understandable. They got these relatable performers to get their DNA and reconnect. It just made me very proud.
This show is unique because it ties so many franchises together. the LHH throw on MTV Newsa few stars from Black ink crew. What was it like for you to dive into all these worlds? Also as a reporter and host, how have the different personalities influenced your approach to the series?
Oh man, that’s a great question. I think it was genius creativity from Mona Scott Young, because under this Viacom umbrella we are fortunate to have all these different brands in one place. Still, we don’t always talk to each other, and the audience is sometimes different. Being able to coexist like that was just awesome in and of itself. And in terms of interacting with different cast members, it was refreshing. Because you know, I have different points of contact with each of them. I’m a hip hop head. I have followed Papoose since he had every district on his finger. So I sit between takes and talk to him about the tattoos on his fingers and how he cares about his tattoos. Then there was the professional part of me, where I was able to use my natural skills as a black reporter along with my natural interest and aesthetic in front of the camera. I also used the information I learned in African culture and black history research. I don’t know if there’s ever been a point in my career where all those worlds have blended together as perfectly as it certainly has in this one.
For you personally, how were you taught your lineage and what tools did you use to dig even further and figure things out for yourself?
I grew up with many African customs in my homeland and my name alone means Dometi means the backbone of the family and Pongo means workhorse. I had this sense of identity, which helped me a lot to develop confidence and develop my personality very early on. But I also had this thing that I’m not fluent in my native language, so I’ve always felt like I’m not African enough at my core. Then I go to school and I get teased because of my name or the color of my skin. Then you feel like you’re not black enough. I had to have these conversations with my father about it. Why does there seem to be a disconnect between my culture and theirs, and how to unpack it? It was just a lot of reading and a lot of talking to people learning that people were stolen through the African slave trade but identities and who we are were stolen. And that leads to colorism and the possible alienation caused by their names or accents. So that’s helped me guide people through different things. I also read a lot, I read The Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams and Lies My Teacher Told Me. The first book I read about black consciousness at the age of 19 that really pulled me together was the autobiography by Malcolm X. So these books and talks have really helped me when it comes to knowledge.
Which moment in hosting this show was particularly special for you?
So there’s a funny moment and then there’s kind of a deeper moment. I go into the deeper moment first. Papoose was already a conscious brother. So he was already interested in these things. When we found out where he came from, we researched which tribe is special and found out who else is famous and notable and is from that tribe. And you start to see those qualities. They were all creative, musicians and actors. We think things through osmosis are actually part of your DNA. Pap and I have some pretty cool conversations about it on and off camera.
The funniest was Rich Dollaz. He comes from a tribe known for poly relationships. But it was fun for him because of the Love & Hip Hop touch. Being with multiple women. Men in America view polygamy as simply having multiple partners, but in cultures around the world it actually had socioeconomic reasons. Having a mixed household meant sharing more resources within the household. You couldn’t even have multiple wives if you didn’t have the resources to take care of them.
In this series, once the cast members are connected to the African lineage, they are given a tattoo that connects them to this story. Is there an elemental symbol, a family tradition, that you carry with you every day that ties you to your lineage in addition to your name and general history?
You know what’s out there. If you ever notice MTV News: Must know, the digital show I host, there is an African mask in the background. The gye nyame statue I have on the table means that God is omnipotent. I keep this little statue and it is in the shape of the stool that represents the kings. I try to take those things with me every time I do the shoots, but I try to keep it aside because I don’t want to be too black while doing my thing because at the end of the day, mainstream. But those are the things I keep there in my presentation and it just makes me feel safe.
What do you hope viewers will gain from this series and what do you hope many people in our culture will be inspired to do?
I hope our culture is inspired by the idea of uniting the black diaspora. I remember Andre 3000 wearing this outfit that said, “Across all cultures, darker people suffer the most. Why?” And if you look at our global power, not just in numbers, you know how many people of African descent outnumber just the numbers. We come from a country of resources. Africa is the Mecca of resources. Whether it whether it’s gold or the chip that powers our iPhones, it all comes from African soil, and we’ve raped, plundered and plundered our cultures for so many generations that we don’t even see the benefit of it.
If black Americans recognized the power to unite our African brethren, we could use our influence of Western civilization and give back to culture. And there would be this ecosystem where we share resources back and forth. So we would not be treated worldwide as we are being treated now. And I hope that people at home take away from this that Africa is yours too. Like black culture, in America we have our own culture and traditions that help us shape our identity. We’re all just one big family. We shouldn’t break up the way we see each other now. And if we had that unit, we probably wouldn’t have the levels of crime we see in our neighborhoods, or lack the political resources to fight the structures that continue to oppress us around the world.