For Bruce Franks, the community activist turned state legislator, his passion to help others came out of deep personal pain.
His older brother was killed right in front of him by a stray bullet in a shootout near while they were outside playing. His father and other brother were also casualties – of mass incarceration – his brother spent the ages of 14 through 31 behind bars.
But he wanted better for his own children, and after participating in the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo. following the racially motivated slaying of teen Michael Brown 2014, decided to run for state legislator – and won.
“I wasn’t that civically engaged before that,” Franks told BOSSIP. “I’m from the hood. “I was taught that my vote doesn’t count. So the community pushed me to run, and when I ran, (I wanted them to know) I was somebody who was gonna fight, somebody who was going to be unconventional and not be painted by the politics.”
That revelation is among many in Franks’ searing new documentary, “St. Louis Superman” which premieres tonight on MTV. The short film charts his work to use legislation to address gun violence in his community while moonlighting as a battle rapper and parenting his son and daughter. It also shows him dealing with his own personal demons after losing several family members and friends to the streets.
“I want viewers to take away a few things: that it’s okay not to be okay,” Franks said. “It’s time to take some of that generational miseducation about what mental health is. It’s okay to get help, it’s ok to talk to folks.”
Besides his work in government, the film shows him tenderly raising his daughter and son, whose fifth birthday, August 9, which was a bittersweet day for Franks because it’s the anniversary of Brown’s death.
“You don’t see that type of affection when it comes to that father/son relationship,” Franks said. It’s deemed not masculine – and that’s toxic and we need to push that to the side. I think this film shows that black fathers…us being there is not an anomaly.”
Although Franks is no longer involved in politics, he serves as a consultant to nonprofit gun violence prevention initiatives and is working on new music.
He said he hopes viewers will take away that “this is what politics looks like.”
“It looks like us,” Franks said. “I was a battle rapping activist/elected official, and you can be all those things or fuse them all together (and be politically involved).”
“St. Louis Superman” premieres May 18 at 9 p.m. EST on MTV.