A Different American Dream

Rodney Lucas, aka F. Stokes, talks about his new documentary Ain’t No Babies in the City and why he felt compelled to tell the story of his sister and her partner’s decision to start a family in the face of massive societal prejudice.

The best fathers I know are Black women. So when I got the call that my sister and her lady were having a baby, I was knee-jerkingly compelled to amplify their shared love, ambition, and passion with the world.

As a society, we have largely neglected young women of color. Chaka and Star represent the voice of an unspoken sub-culture of the LGBTQ community; they’re disenfranchised, African-American, and want to create their reflection of the American dream. Despite disadvantages, they’ve always dreamed of having a baby together. With little hope, they resort to a method that directly challenges society’s moral fabric regarding childbirth—while redefining the nuclear family. In Chaka’s words, “Ain’t nobody gon’ let me adopt no child, I ain’t got no money to do it the other way, so I got it the best I know how. I prayed for a boy.”

This piece will bring light to their story. It’s a story of passion, of heartbreak, and of celebration and triumph.

These Queens are the strangest fruit, hanging from the rotten and hollowed trees of inequality and injustice, yet ripe with life and glowing with hope—they shine. Words can’t express how fortunate and privileged I am to have their trust and confidence.

Only a Black man who was raised by Black women can articulate this story effectively and correctly—and I’m not saying it’s a color thing, because it’s not, it’s a culture thing: these brave women and I share the collective misfortune of heartache and heartbreak at the hands of the Black man. And it takes more than some kids with cool cameras to capture that. It takes tears. It takes being able to identify with ghetto pain. It takes guts. Fact is, the Black man is hurting. Hurting cause ain’t no jobs, hurting ‘cause a mistake he made at 16 derailed his future, hurting cause he can’t make enough to take care of his babies. And that hurt, oftentimes, translates into hurting his family and those around him; Poppa goes out, gets slapped in the face by the hand of oppression at every turn, walks down his street and sees disparity and hopelessness at every turn, and because he can’t win against this monster of a system, no matter how square of an act he puts on, he goes home and slaps his woman, fights his sons, and neglects his daughter. This nation has slowly decayed the pride of so many outstanding young Black men.

Ain’t No Babies in The City is not a documentary in the literal sense. The days of documentaries are over. It’s an antiquated format, typically packed with talking heads, throwback pics, and data. Ain’t No Babies in The City is what I refer to as “visual vinyl.”

I knew before I wrote this film that certain LGBTQ media outlets, especially in Madison, would be apprehensive about giving it the light it deserves. It fucks up the paradigm, it interrupts the convenient perception that all gay people are singing Kumbaya together and supporting all forms of queer life—by highlighting the racism and inequality that exist in the gay community. The fact is, despite their progressive agenda and civil rights megaphones, most gay organizations largely exclude people of color from top positions and the allocation of resources.

People make films every day, all over the world. We live in an age of fast-food content, and rapidly shortening attention spans, so when I decided to make this film, my team and I focused on one goal: how do we use our artistic vision to make the world a better place? Though I’m not sure if the right answer exists, I truly believe that Ain’t No Babies in The City is a solid start.