Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark, New Jersey, released a passionate, timely new video for “What We Want,” the title track to his 2019 EP.
Directed by Ayana Stafford-Morris and produced by Udi Aloni, the clip features Baraka onstage at Newark Symphony Hall, accompanied by a bongo drummer. He sends his powerful message through the microphone: “We want to praise our own God/And we want to see his reflection in our children’s eyes,” he declares. “We want to draw him blue/Like jazz/With long dreads/And thick lips.”
Dancers with white face paint and berets fill the stage, representing internal struggle and oppression. “Free housing,” “quality education,” “equal pay” and more written are written across their cheeks. “We need freedom,” Baraka says. “Not just the bill of rights/But rights to build our own lives.”
“What We Want” was inspired by the slogans used by organizations during the civil rights movements of the Sixties. “It is from the perspective of how I was feeling,” Baraka said. “What would I want if I was in a position to make demands and what would those demands be? Is it freedom, justice, equality?”
“The message is more relevant now with the unrest in the black community and the protest around equality and justice,” he tells Rolling Stone. “We need more than justice in the moment — we need an overhaul of our systems. This is our opportunity as a people and world citizens to address the root of the larger issues that affect all our communities and the injustices that we deal with.”
What We Want was produced by Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis. The title track is also the theme song to the upcoming documentary Why Is We Americans? co-directed by Stafford and Aloni. The film chronicles the Baraka family’s social activism and poetry. It will premiere at the Lighthouse International Film Festival on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, on June 16th in drive-in format.