Why Is We Americans?

Directed by Udi Aloni, Ayana Stafford-Morris
Corinth Films
102 Minutes
Documentary, Biography, Black Cinema
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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.

DVD Features

Discs: 1

  • Highest Rating
    "Historical accounts of revolutionary icons are often plagued by hero myths that exalt individuals at the expense of the community that formed them. With 'Why Is We Americans?,' a documentary about the impact the poet and radical Amiri Baraka and his descendants have had on the city of Newark, the directors 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."
    Devika Girish, The New York Times
  • Highest Rating
    "Importantly, the artist is only an entry point for the film’s focus on the Baraka family as a whole and their individual impact within Newark communities. This acknowledgment of the work both shared and passed on through their family line is welcome and centers the Baraka women. Within this, matriarch Amina Baraka forms the emotional center, holding each of the film’s narrative threads alongside her own experience in a way that echoes her supportive and essential role in both her community and family over the years."
    Sarah-Tai Black, Los Angeles Times
  • Highest Rating
    "The life and legacy of the late poet and activist Amiri Baraka is now the subject of a new documentary. And fellow New Jersey native Lauryn Hill is the executive producer who has helped bring it to life. The new documentary, titled Why Is We Americans, offers a look at the life of Baraka who is regarded as one of the most forthright authorities on Black American art, history, and culture."
    Christopher Smith, HipHopWired
  • Highest Rating
    "Udi Aloni offers education and insight into amazing people, motivating you to learn more about them. "
    Sabina Dana Plasse, Film Threat
  • Highest Rating
    "The real highlight of the film is Amina Baraka, Amiri’s wife of almost 48 years. An important artist in her own right, poet, actress, singer, and dancer, she was also an avowed activist often to the left of her husband…All in all, I recommend this film because it brings a lens onto the historical aspects of the Baraka family."
    Neely Swanson, Easy Reader News
  • Highest Rating
    "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. "
    Shannon Dawson, Madamenoir/Yahoo!

Awards & Recognition

Award of Excellence
Accolade Global Film Competition
Official Selection
American Black Film Festival
Official Selection
Lighthouse International Film Festival
Official Selection
Pan African Film Festival