Some mayors dance around the core challenges of the moment, while other mayors dance and sing and rally to meet them. Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark, New Jersey, released a video for “What We Want,” his recent EP’s title track. He appears onstage with dancers and musicians as he performs his poem outlining change. “Quality education” and “free housing” are written across dancers’ cheeks, and the mayor demands freedom: “Not just the bill of rights / But rights to build our own lives.”
“We need more than justice…We need an overhaul of our systems,” Baraka says. It’s the theme song of the upcoming documentary Why Is We Americans?, about his famed family’s history of social activism and art. His father, Amiri Baraka, initiated the powerful Black Arts Movement in the mid-1960s, after the assassination of Malcom X, and Ras’ mother, Amina Baraka, is a community-building poet, dancer, and singer. Catch the mayor’s video.