Culture

Ms. Lauryn Hill Is Executive Producing A Documentary On The Baraka Family

Executive-produced by Ms. Lauryn Hill, Why Is We Americans? gives an inside look into Newark’s legendary Baraka family.

Ms. Lauryn Hill is bringing her storytelling skills to film. With screenwriter Oren Moverman, the Newark-native will be an executive producer for upcoming documentary Why Is We Americans? which centers social activists the Baraka Family.

Co-directed by Udi Aloni and Ayana Morris, the film will also give an in-depth look into the life of Black Arts Movement poet Amiri Baraka, who died in 2014 at 79-years-old. According to The Film StageWhy Is We Americans? will explore Amiri’s civil rights leadership, Newark’s social unrest during the 1960s and 70s and tragedies that impacted the Baraka Family. In 1984, Amiri’s sister Kimako Baraka was murdered and in 2003, Amiri’s daughter, Shani Baraka, was killed in a double-murder.

The Baraka Family also encountered triumphs, as Amiri’s son Ras Baraka was appointed mayor of Newark in 2014. Ras’ has been a longtime collaborator of Ms. Lauryn Hill, lending vocals to her epic 1998 debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Baraka family matriarch and Amiri’s widow Amina Baraka will also appear in the film, noted as “the 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,” film distributor Corinth Films said in the film’s synopsis. “And as we connect with the iconoclastic poet, and his tight-knit family, a portrait of a city emerges with an inspiring call to arms in the fight for class and racial justice.”

Why Is We Americans? will premiere theatrically at IFC Center on January 14. The film will also have a stop during stop at the 2022 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, which has been postponed to April 19th.

Jaelani Turner-Williams

Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with bylines at Billboard, MTV News, NYLON, Recording Academy and more. Read her mind on Twitter at @hernameisjae.

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