From the Newark Rebellion of 1967 to current day, the city’s narrative has been one of revolution with each generation picking up where the previous had left off. WHY IS WE AMERICANS? weighs in on Newark’s struggle against oppression through the personal triumphs and tragedies of the Baraka family – from Amiri’s civil rights leadership and ultimate artistic marginalization, to the horrific murder of his sister, Kimako, through the homicide of daughter Shani (one of the first openly gay black activists) to the historic election of Ras Baraka as mayor of Newark, NJ. And through it all, it is the matriarch, Amina Baraka, who emerges as story’s lode star and moral compass. Spanning decades of social activism, poetry, music, art, and politics, this kaleidoscopic family saga is framed by on-camera interviews with Ms. Lauryn Hill, rare archival footage and revealing personal testimonials. As we connect with the iconoclastic poet Amiri Baraka, his wife, Amina, and their son, Ras, a portrait of a city emerges with an inspiring call to arms in the fight for class and racial justice.
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Udu Aloni (Junction 48), WHY IS WE AMERICANS? had its world premiere at the Lighthouse International Film Festival in New Jersey, where it received the Jennifer Snyder Bryceland Award.
“Historical accounts of revolutionary icons are often plagued by hero myths that exalt individuals at the expense of the community that formed them... Udi Aloni and Ayana Stafford-Morris attempt a different approach. In this compressed account of the multiple generations of artists and activists that make up the Baraka clan, the patriarch, who died in 2014, is a single (if central) node. It’s a story that spans past and present, arts and politics, and kin and country.” –The New York Times
DIRECTED BY UDI ALONI
UNITED STATES | 2020 | ENGLISH LANGUAGE