The Mayor of Newark NJ Explains What Needs to Change in This Spoken Word Video

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on June 5, 2020

The mayor of Newark, NJ, Ras Baraka, drew on his talents as a poet and spoken word artist to explain the demands of people thronging the streets of American cities to protest the police killing of George Floyd in a prescient video recorded late last year called “What We Want.”

The mayor, whose father Amiri Baraka was once the state poet laureate, just released the video that was filmed last November. In it he recites a long list of demands for social justice. The video, was featured this week in Rolling Stone.

“The message is more relevant now with the unrest in the black community and the protest around equality and justice,” Baraka told 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.”

The video has a haunting quality with dancers in white face paint performing as Baracka recites his poem, which is the title track of  a five track spoken word EP album entitled “What We Want”. The list of demands is long and free ranging but all aimed at universal economic dignity and the sanctity of each individual.

Dancers in the video with messages written like tattoos on their faces such as “no deportation,” “truth,” “equal pay,” “free health care,” and “reparations,” among others.

Newark, the largest city in New Jersey, was badly scarred by rioting in the aftermath of the assasination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. The city has in recent years has resurged as a vibrant urban center but has suffered badly from the COVID-19 pandemic, problems with lead in the drinking water, and perennial problems with public school funding.

The video was filmed at historic New Jersey Symphony Hall in Newark. It was directed by international award-winning director Udi Aloni with Newark-based filmmaker Ayana Stafford-Morris. Baraka is a published poet and can be heard on the Fugees album The Score and Lauren Hell’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Peter Page is an Editor-at-Large at Grit Daily. He is available to record live, old-school style interviews via Zoom, and run them at Grit Daily and Apple News, or BlockTelegraph for a fee.Formerly at, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked as a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.

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