In a telling tale of how one Black family’s empress makes the bold decision to uproot her family from Oakland, CA and move to the island nation of Grenada during the height of the Grenada Revolution in 1982, filmmaker Damani Baker continues to break ground with his awe-inspiring film, “The House on CoCo Road”.
The thrilling documentary quite intricately details Bakers’ Afrocentric heritage through the lens of his mother Fannie Haughton. Throughout the film, Haughton casually confesses the hard truths of her families’ roots as sharecroppers of the South to progenies and game changers of the Great Migration.
Haughton, who spent her lifetime serving as an early childhood educator, activist and comrade, alongside famed Black Party activist Angela Davis and her sister Fania Davis, also speaks of Oakland’s stark conversion from a liberal hub for social revolution in the Black community, to a city infiltrated by crime and drugs.
The infestation of drugs and crime into Black communities across the country, however, was not isolated, rather inflicted by the U.S. Government as a tool to stop the uprising of Black citizens who stood for change. In a candid conversation with Baker, the “Still Bill” filmmaker recalls the brutal reality of Ronald Reagan’s presidency during the 1980s.
“Ronald Reagan was president, crack cocaine was very real on the streets and it was destroying Black communities,” he said. “I think for my mother and her generation, a lot of the Redwoods felt like there had to be a better option than what we were living,” he continued.
And that’s when Haughton decided to make the move to Grenada, engulfing her two children into the full swing of Grenada’s Utopian lifestyle. It would be less than a year later, however, when Reagan called for the U.S. Government to invade Grenada, making fraudulent claims that it’s airport initiative was a landing strip for Cuban-Soviet forces. The subjective threat to American Society was no threat at all, however.
Essentially, mainstream propaganda would portray America as the proverbial “Savior” of Grenadian society and freedom from the “leftist” rule of a once honored and respected Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop. In a twisted turn of events, Bishop, who had worked tirelessly to create the “Utopian” society for Grenadians, ended up betrayed and publicly executed in cold blood.
“I’ve been told that this film has a lot happening in it. There’s Children of War, there’s the Cold War, there’s Black Power Movement, there’s Cointelpro FBI, there’s Grenada and the Revolution, we cover and touch on so many things but was really important to me was to keep it through the lens of a family,” he said.
For Baker, he didn’t realize at the time that he was surrounded by women leaders including his mother, who made such an impact on the justice Black people fought to achieve. “You don’t really recognize that you’re growing up around people who have changed the world, literally, and Angela is one of those people. I feel like I have been learning from her since day one,” he said.
Baker continued stating that it was important to tell his story of the fearless “Redwood” women who sewed seeds of strength in the face of political, racial and social turmoil. “I think that what that means is their strength, power, perseverance, brilliance, and a community of people that actually need each other, support each other,” he said.
“The House on CoCo Road” is also now a apart of Ava DuVernay’s film distribution company, ARRAY. As the company’s 16th acquisition, the film fits right into the marquee of stories promoting, women and women of color.
“Being partners with ARRAY, being part of this family, is really everything a filmmaker could ever imagine because you’re working with people who believe in the same values, you made something that was inspired by the people, made for the people, funded by the people, and now I feel like it’s being distributed by the people,” Baker said.
Overall, Baker says that while the socioeconomic and political climate of his childhood bear striking similarities to the state of our country today, he believes in the small returns toward “collective consciousness”.
“I hope people walk away feeling like there is value in their stories. This film is so deeply personal; it’s about my family, it’s about my community, it’s about social justice,” Baker said. “My mom took a great risk in packing us up, but she was packing us up to do something beautiful, she was able to do that and I’m grateful,” Baker declared.
“The House on CoCo Road” recently premiered on Netflix June 30th. To see the exclusive interview with Damani Baker, visit lasentinel.net.