Ameer Baraka is many things: a model for Master P‘s No Limit Apparel brand, an actor in the acclaimed HBO drama series Treme and FOX‘s “The Unit”, a producer, a director, a fitness enthusiast…and a man with a criminal history. Now, the 36-year old is taking on the role of a lifetime―himself. It sounds like the easiest part to play in front of a camera, but the reality is completely different. The story he’s telling isn’t just his own, but those stories of hundreds of children in New Orleans who are on the fast-track to a life in prison, without redemption, without hope. Having experienced first-hand the worst society has to offer, Baraka has risen above his past and more importantly, wants his rising tide to lift the spirits, hopes and dreams of every young man and woman who thinks they have no alternatives.
His web series “N.O.L.A. Life,” co-produced by Danny Garcia (What She Wants For Christmas, Who Did I Marry?) and Baraka himself, dares to show it all. The documentary series, described as “the truest, grittiest, most realistic depiction of New Orleans life ever filmed,” explains not only how life is for the young men and women on the streets, but more importantly how that life can be different. As a young man, Baraka experienced the hardship of growing up without a father. A mother and grandmother can provide love, but as he notes, “A woman cannot raise a man.” Without the strength, without the discipline afforded by a positive male role model, living in the Calliope housing development, he fell into a life of drugs, crime, and violence by age fourteen. It wasn’t until he landed in prison and met older, reformed convicts who saw something special in him that he learned the secret to breaking this vicious cycle. Preaching at children does not work―mentoring them does.
Two years’ experience running a mentoring program at Booker T. Washington School in New Orleans backs him up. Considered some of the highest-risk youth in the state, Baraka’s engagement brings real results to a setting long thought beyond repair. Reaching out to the intelligent young minds he sees before him, Baraka challenges them to channel their energies and impulses in positive directions and faith-based initiatives, and the results speak for themselves: drug use, fights, suspensions and expulsions at Booker T. Washington are down across the board. To further these ends, he created the Ameer Baraka Give A Hand Fund, which provides financial assistance to children so they can attend school in better areas of New Orleans. Visit his website at http://kingbaraka.com to learn more about his life and work.
On Saturday, March 16th at 9pm, you will see and hear Ameer Baraka’s powerful story on Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN Network show, “Blackboard Wars”. You will get to know Ameer and the young men and women he mentors and engages every day. And you will come to believe, just as he does, that one man really can change the world.
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