On Election Day 2018, Malcolm Kenyatta, a third-generation activist from North Philadelphia, hoped to become a Pennsylvania state representative in the 181st District, which has a 26 percent deep-poverty rate. He made history by becoming the first openly LGBT candidate of color elected to state office in Pennsylvania.
Tim Harris, a friend of Kenyatta’s from college, had followed the activist’s trajectory since graduation. When he heard that Kenyatta was planning to run for Pennsylvania state legislature, Harris knew he had to be there with a camera. His short documentary, Going Forward, depicts Kenyatta’s experience of Election Day, from his 5 a.m. wake-up call to his historic victory as the results are announced late that evening. Along the way, Kenyatta drives around his neighborhood to talk to voters and addresses tough questions about the realities of what he will face in office.
Harris told The Atlantic that he intended to capture “what Election Day is like for a lower-level candidate campaigning in a district that’s desperate for a solution.” Kenyatta has long been an outspoken critic of policies that negatively affect his community. The film makes evident his personal investment in the issues his potential constituents face. “Malcolm actually knows the people in his district,” Harris said. “We could have made a feature out of him saying ‘Hi’ and hugging people.”
While filming, Harris and his team took a fly-on-the-wall approach. “We interviewed Malcolm during the quieter, more introspective moments,” he said.
At one point during the day, Kenyatta catches wind of an adversary who is attempting to discourage people from voting for him due to Kenyatta’s sexuality. Harris said he was pleasantly surprised by the candidate’s reaction. “He didn’t hesitate in wanting to speak with that person, and when he did speak with them, he did it in such a respectful way,” Harris said. “His ability to laugh it off was incredibly admirable.”
“Malcolm basically rejected all forms of negativity while he was campaigning,” Harris added. “Everything was about what he wants to do to improve his community.”
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.