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The film Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn delves into the life of the first openly gay candidate of color in U.S. politics. Photo: Courtesy of Seven Knots Film & Media.
The film 'Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn' delves into the life of the first openly gay candidate of color for U.S. Senate in U.S. history. Photo courtesy of Seven Knots Film & Media.

A Philly leader in a universal story

'Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn' is a documentary that eviscerates the persistent racism and classism in American politics.

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“Black, poor and gay.” 

That’s the description Malcolm Kenyatta once gave himself, a politician raised in violence-ridden North Philadelphia, where per capita income is less than $10,000 a year.

Motivated by the inequality he felt as a child, the Temple University graduate became actively involved in the public affairs of his community and took his first steps in politics. He became the first openly LGBTQ person of color to win a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2018. In 2019, he represented Harrisburg’s 181st District and became a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2022.

From his position, he has supported an agenda that includes more rights and support for the most overlooked sectors of his district.

Aware of Malcolm’s struggle against an entire racist and classist political system, Philadelphia filmmaker Timothy Harris decided to bring the life of a person he knows very well to the big screen. The result, is the film, Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn.

“His story needs to be told, because there has never been a candidate like Malcolm in the United States. I believe he is the first ever openly gay person of color to be on the US Senate ballot in American history and so that’s certainly a story worth-telling and showing kind of the challenges that he was up against being from a marginalized community,” Harris told AL DÍA.

Beyond a 'political' film

In his production, Harris aims to show viewers the combination of feelings that accompanied Kenyatta throughout his campaign in the Democratic primaries — from the hope to offer “a new day” to voters, his expectations, fears, doubts, deep frustration getting funding in the face of poll results that sunk him, and his emotions after experiencing defeat.

“I hope that people watch it and kind of see that the money in politics feeds the media coverage, which then feeds name recognition which feeds pulling it is kind of all of this cycle that really starts with accessibility, and if you’re kind of running for the first time, it’s really hard for new people to breakthrough in and be elected to office in America,” Kenyatta added.

In Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn, the filmmaker also takes pains to depict the person behind the public persona and capture closer moments at the side of Matthew Kenyatta, whom the politician married a few months before the election.

“The public should expect a story that’s uplifting, inspiring, frustrating, and heartfelt all at the same time. Malcolm is an incredibly charismatic and inspiring person, but the process during this election was not easy for him, and so I think you are going to see the struggles he had to go through but also, it was a really fun time to catch a really important moment in his personal life. So, it’s not just a political film. It’s also kind of a love story, it’s kind of a coming-of-age story, and it’s an inside look at how hard it is to get elected in America if you’re not a straight white man.”

World premiere

A screening of Harris’ documentary took place, most recently, at the BFI Flare festival: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival. U.S. audiences first saw the documentary at the Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Festival and later at the American Documentary And Animation Film Festival at the Palm Springs Cultural Center.

For more information on future screenings, please visit kenyattafilm.com.

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