Growing up in the streets of New Orleans, Ameer Baraka found himself in constant trouble with the law, which eventually led to his incarceration. Through inspiration and determination he has turned his life around. He is now an author, activist and actor. Baraka hopes that in sharing his struggle, he can encourage others.
What inspired you to become an actor?
I realized while incarcerated that entertainers are the gods of this world and I wanted to impact people in a positive way and acting would be a great platform. I got deeply involved in acting while serving time in prison. It was my escape from my four-year prison sentence. I just fell in love with it.
Tell us about your current film project.
I have a film due out Dec. 12 titled Lucky Girl, starring Letoya Luckett and Columbus Short, in which I’m a producer. It’s a wonderful love story shot in Los Angeles. I played Rock in the film. With all the chaos going on around him, he and his wife, played by a beautiful and talented up-and-coming actress Camille Bright, keep things together because of their passion for God and friends. Also, [I have] a Web series out now on Vimeo [called] “NOLALIFE.” N.O.L.A. Life has been called “the truest, grittiest, most realistic depiction of New Orleans life and culture ever rendered to film.” .
What inspired you to write a book?
While in prison I read about Nathan McCall’s story in his memoir Makes Me Wanna Holler. I was enthralled by his story and realized that my life struggle was tantamount to his. Many men in the prison were inspired by his book. I wanted to do the same for those who are currently incarcerated and those who are thinking that life is over because of their current situation. I love inspiring people, whether through books or movies or just through conversation. My book, The Life I Chose, The Streets Lied to Me, is doing just that. So many people — including inmates — are inspired by my memoir.
What other obstacles have you had to overcome?
Dyslexia mentally incarcerated me. Living in that mental prison without a release date was horrifying. Getting myself to believe that I can learn to read was a challenge I had to win. And, I did. I will never forget when I received my GED.
When did you realize your level of success?
Success to me is ongoing; I don’t think I’ll ever arrive. But, once I’m able to do like LeBron James and send kids to college, I guess I’ll say I’m successful at that point and time.
What advice do you have for teens who are seeking professional success?
Find something you’re passionate about and good at and never stop working toward seeing it manifest. Don’t try to be like others. Be a free thinker. If you believe you can make a fish live out of water, show it to the world.
How do you keep yourself motivated working in the entertainment industry?
My motivation comes from the fact that kids and adults haven’t heard about my story. I believe that millions of people are out there wanting to see my work and become inspired. I’m driven by the needs of others who are in bad situations. So, as long as there are people in need my fire will never be extinguished.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself happily married. My wife and I will be tour the world helping others and promoting the Kingdom of God along with our TV show, including my hometown of New Orleans wherever possible. Finally, I will continue to write more books.