The film follows five young African Americans from different parts of Illinois over two years. Their stories are as fascinating as they are different, and yet their struggles and dreams have remarkably similar themes.
The film digs deep into the diverse lives and lifestyles of its young subjects - exploring what it’s like to be an African American excelling in a suburban, white community in one case; to be an honor roll student who was adopted by a gay couple, or a genderqueer activist who must confront race and sexual identity in almost every aspect of life.
While one works as a community organizer, another struggles to be both a student and a parent.
Morten’s film shines new light on commonly held misconceptions about African American youth and unveils the hardships they face as a result of racism.
The individual stories of these five young people are interwoven with scenes of the group getting together to discuss issues of mutual concern. Morten explains, “They talk about discrimination, about violence, about media images, their futures, sex and relationships and gender roles within the African American community.”
Mary Morten is a filmmaker and long-time Chicago social justice activist. Others who contributed to the film are associate producers Aparna Sharma, Keisha Farmer-Smith and Marisol Ybarra.
Cathy Cohen, producing consultant, serves as Deputy Provost of Graduate Education at the University of Chicago and was the principal investigator for the “Black Youth Project,” the report that inspired Woke Up Black.