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The legendary Lauryn Hill has teamed up with screenwriter Oren Moverman to executive produce a new documentary that will take a close look at Newark’s prominent Baraka family. The new doc titled Why Is We Americans? will explore Newark’s struggle with oppression through the lens of the Baraka family’s decades-long involvement within social activism, poetry, music, and politics.

The late Amiri Baraka was a famous playwright and poet widely celebrated for spearheading the Black Arts Movement in 1965. Through activism and art, BAM created new cultural institutions and conveyed a message of black pride that was revolutionary. By his side stood the revered Amina Baraka, a dancer, writer, and community organizer, who was heavily involved in the Black Arts Movement and the matriarch that powered the artistically rich family.

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Why Is We Americans? will also uncover the tragic death of Amiri’s sister Kimako, who was viciously stabbed to death in her Manhattan apartment, as well as the homicide of his daughter Shani, one of the first openly gay Black activists, in addition to the historic election of Ras Baraka as the mayor of Newark. The documentary will highlight the family’s legendary impact through “rare archival footage,” “revealing personal testimonials,” and on-camera interviews with Ms. Lauryn Hill herself, the doc’s distributor Corinth Films notes.

“As we connect with the iconoclastic poet Amiri Baraka, his wife, Amina, and their son, the current mayor of Newark, Ras, a portrait of a city emerges with an inspiring call to arms in the fight for class and racial justice,” Amir Bogen, the executive director of The Lighthouse International Film Festival, said of the documentary. “From the Newark rebellion of 1967 to the 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? is co-directed by award-winning director Udi Aloni of Junction 48 and Ayana Morris. The film will premiere at the IFC Center in New York City on Jan. 14, with an additional stop at LA’s Pan African Film Festival in February, The Film Stage notes.

Check out the trailer for the doc below.


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