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At the heart of the movie, Mrs. Baraka recalls her life, tragedies, and recoveries with her son and other family members as they capture life in Newark and the evolution of change that has occurred for its African American residents. Their spirit for homeownership, business ownership, and a community that loves — a central theme — had allowed Ras Baraka to connect on a level unknown to the elder Bakara when he arrived in Newark many decades before.

The Baraka family carried on amid tragedy, political strife, community outrage, racial tensions, changing ideologies, and so much more. Amira and Amina Baraka forged friendships with incredible people in their constant desire for change, including Nina Simone and Maya Angelou. An interesting component to the focus on social justice and needed change presented throughout Why is We Americans? is a call to recognize and respect women, as their daughter, Shani, was murdered. A women’s resource center was founded in her name, as was a basketball camp.

“…offers education and insight into amazing people, motivating you to learn more…”

The film exposes the many flaws in society against African Americans, including police brutality, murder, and socioeconomic disparity. One fascinating point mentioned several times is that African Americans did not come to America by choice. They were forced and chained, which explains the title. As the current mayor makes change for the citizens of Newark, as Ms. Hill explains, his work is never finished. However, he carries his father’s ability to connect with people and with a soulful purpose.

Why is We Americans? is broken into several titled sections and covers a great deal of ground and information, especially if someone is unfamiliar with Newark and Amiri Baraka. Although it is interview-heavy, a great deal of archival footage fills out the movie. Udi Aloni offers education and insight into amazing people, motivating you to learn more about them.

Why is We Americans? (2022)

Directed and Written: Udi Aloni

Starring: Amiri Baraka, Amina Baraka, Ras Baraka, Amiri Baraka Jr., Amandla Baraka, Lauryn Hill, Cory Booker, Roxanne Shanté, Maya Angelou, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

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"…a deconstructed history lesson..."

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