Last week i had the honor and pleasure of doing both a film interview and photo shoot with Amina Baraka in NewArk New Jersey. If her name sounds familiar it may be because she is the widow of Amiri Baraka and the mother of the mayor of NewArk Ras Baraka. What you probably aren’t familiar with is that she is a poet in her own right and she has a new collection of poems coming out soon on 2Leaf Press who are turning out an amazing roster of writers who have been ignored by the publishing world for far too long. Original Nuyorican poet Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Shirley Bradley Leflore of the Black Arts movement and Abiodun Oyewole of the incredibly influential Last Poets, just to name a few of the older poets who made an impact and continue to shape how we see the world, all have books out on 2Leaf Press.
And that’s the reason i was out in NewArk doing a film shoot and photo shoot. Amina was talking about her new book of poetry Blues In All Hues due out soon. When i got to her home in she was sitting in a room listening to John Coltrane and Billie Holiday. i took a few shots of her as she meditated to ‘Trane and Holiday.
Jeff “AK” my DP set up the new Red Epic we are shooting with i took Amina outside on the stoop of her home in NewArk and shot these portraits of her. A few of these will be used as press photos for her book. i don’t pose my subjects when i shoot. i put them in a place and try to get them to relax and we shoot the shit as i shoot the pix. i try to keep it relaxed and informal. Joking around brings genuine smiles and laughter but i like to leave room for spaces of silence and contemplation and seriousness.
As i shot her i kept seeing so many people in her face and in the way she moved and in the way she carried herself. She look like my grandmother, my mother, who are from Puerto Rico, and she moved and carried herself in ways that reminded me of my other grandmother born in Panama to Irish and Scottish parents, raised in Nicaragua and settled in Jamaica. i told Amina this and she said ‘I got people in me’. That phrase really struck me, ‘I got people in me’ and Amina told me that it came a song by Abbey Lincoln. She told me of her Native American roots intertwined with her African roots and i think you can clearly see the people in her in these photos…