I’ll tell you when you’re five.
It’s horrible that tragedy is the cause, but seeing and hearing how Bruce Franks Jr. took up the call to government in order to instill the change his community needed to prevent future tragedies is nothing short of inspiring. This is what American government was always supposed to be: citizen leaders fulfilling their civic duty to represent their constituents. It wasn’t about full-time employment or selling off votes to lobbyists. There was supposed to be turnover as each community evolved and grew and therefore needed younger, more familiar voices to speak towards any new developments cropping up as the years went by and demographics shifted. The moment a state official is no longer able to help becomes the moment someone else is called upon to take his/her place.
Sami Khan and Smriti Mundhra‘s documentary St. Louis Superman shows one such moment as the murder of Mike Brown. The Black Lives Matter protests that ensued found Franks on the front lines. That’s when he realized just how badly the system built to protect Americans failed those who looked like him. So he ran for office and won (after challenging for a revote in court due to absentee ballot inconsistencies). He presented a bill that could help turn the unnecessary deaths of young children into a health epidemic. And through it all—vigils, funerals, conferences with felons, raising his kids, etc.—he still found the time to get back on the rap battle stage and confront an opponent who argued he’d become part of the system.
How else do you expect change to happen, though? How can that system transform if you aren’t there to remake it in your image? It doesn’t mean that Franks sold out. What he actually did was step up. He recognized his power and the power of the disenfranchised if rallied together to fight for their rights. After enduring so much hardship thanks to first-hand knowledge of St. Louis’ gun violence, he knew something had to give for his children to have a chance at surviving adolescence alive. The film doesn’t pretend it’s an easy road and neither does Franks himself once the pressure of what he’s doing compounds. But his voice is heard. It reverberates throughout his community and opens people’s eyes to the possibilities their futures hold.