Judas And The Black Messiah Director’s Caribbean Roots

shaka-king-caribbean-roots
Shaka King, who roots extend to the Caribbean and Panama, attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Pizzelo-Pool/Getty Images)
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News Americas, LOS ANGELES, CA, Mon. April 26, 2021: Judas and the Black Messiah won two Oscars at last night’s Academy Awards from an all-black producing team whose director, producer and co-writer’s roots run straight to the Caribbean and Panama.

Shaka King’s mother’s family was from Barbados and Panama, while his father’s family was from Panama. Both were teachers. He was born in Crown Heights and grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in Brooklyn, New York City.

As he said in the past: “I grew up in a very strict Caribbean household, but my parents were children of the 60’s so it was an interesting mix of old world discipline, Black power and psychedelia.”

He also told the LA Times: “Growing up in a household where my parents named me Shaka King, you can get a sense of the politics I was steeped in [laughs]. My parents were Black nationalists, so to make a studio film that’s personal in this way, in terms of putting forth ideas into the world that are important to me — not to mention having the opportunity to work with the best of the best: my DP Sean Bobbitt, this incredible cast and to be able to partner with a close friend in Ryan Coogler, someone who could walk me through the process of studio filmmaking — it meant everything.”

Shaka King before the locks in 2014. (filmindependent.org/talent/shaka-king/ image)

King’s early education occurred in the neighborhoods of Spanish Harlem and Fort Greene. He attended a predominately white preparatory school in Bay Ridge during his middle and high school years. It was in high school that he discovered his passion for creative writing.

As a teenager, he worked as a stagehand on a local play written and produced by his parents, full-time public-school teachers whom King described as “very Afrocentric.”

King studied political science and took his first film production course at Vassar College. After graduating, he practiced screenwriting while working as a 7th Grade Guidance Counselor.

He produced other films like Cocoa Loco and Herkimer DuFrayne but Newlyweeds was his first feature and was awarded a postproduction grant from Rooftop Films/Edgeworx Studios.

Then came Judas and the Black Messiah.

The film dramatizes the life and death of Fred Hampton, the former chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party who was 21 years old when he was killed by Chicago police during a raid on his West Side apartment in 1969.

It follows Hampton, played by British-born African roots actor, Daniel Kaluuya, and William O’Neal, played by LaKeith Stanfield, the man who infiltrated the political organization at the behest of the U.S. government.

Kaluuya won the best supporting actor award for his role in the film while H.E.R. won best original song for “Fight for You.”