A new exclusive clip from director Damani Baker’s “The House on Coco Road” features his activist mother Fannie Haughton’s explanation for how the sudden influx of narcotics during the Ronald Reagan-era War on Drugs hurt their Oakland hometown.
“All of a sudden, the drugs came in so heavy. It was scary, and it destroyed the entire city of Oakland. I mean, there’s a discussion now on where that came from,” Haughton tells Baker in the segment above, following a clip of Reagan taking the oath of office. “Entire Black communities were destroyed,” she continues over archival footage of East Oakland, the Black community where she worked as a racial justice activist alongside Angela and Fania Davis.
“With all of my efforts to put you in a good school and try to balance it, we could sit on that hill in East Oakland and hear gunfire all down the hill, all night,” she says. “It was very disappointing to see all of the work that we’d done be overrun by drugs. It was not a happy time in the Black community, anywhere in the states. It was not an environment to raise children.”
Baker says in an emailed statement that the clip sets up why his mother moved the family to Grenada, which was run by the Black-led, anti-colonial and leftist New Jewel Movement at the time:
Ronald Regan came into my consciousness as a young child because his actions affected the lives of people around us.
This is the first moment in the film where you hear my mother say that the conditions and the leadership had become so bad in the U.S., so antithetical to everything she believed and worked for, that she knew there must be a better way, a better place to live and raise her children.
Many people in the U.S., myself included, are asking themselves similar questions today. My mother’s story isn’t just about relocation, it’s about imagination and, as Fania Davis says, “a migration that is beyond the physical.”
The Davis sisters also appear in the documentary, which chronicles Baker’s emigration to Grenada and how the family survived the Reagan-ordered 1983 invasion of the country.