Stay Woke: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me is a film about Barbara Lee, a steadfast voice for human rights, peace and diplomacy in the U.S. Congress who cut her teeth as an organizer for the Black Panther Party and was the lone voice in opposition to the broad authorization of military force after the September 11th attacks. In 2001, she issued a strong warning from the House floor: “Let us not become the evil we deplore,” and today she continues that clarion call, demanding that Congress stand up to a president who has escalated tensions with numerous foreign governments, while seeding division within his own country.
For the past eighteen years, Lee has introduced an amendment each year to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force and require a debate on war authorizations. In 2017, she gained traction with support from Republican members of Congress, and the documentary will follow Lee’s efforts to re-introduce the amendment in 2018 and 2019.
While she fights relentlessly for her ideals in the contentious, partisan politics of Washington, D.C., back home in Oakland, California, Lee provides leadership to a new generation of nonviolent community leaders. She co-founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center and every year invites young people to join her, along with Rep. John Lewis and other members of Congress, on the annual Civil Rights pilgrimage from the site of MLK’s assassination to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. With American society veering toward increasingly brazen hate speech, ethnic division and racially charged rhetoric and violence, Lee’s grassroots education and organizing takes on new urgency. As we follow Lee’s path through the halls of Congress and the streets of Oakland and Selma, we will come to understand how the poverty, racism and domestic violence she witnessed in her early years formed her deep convictions, and how her introduction to politics through the campaigns of Shirley Chisholm continues to influence her as a leader.