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February 16, 2023

New documentary examines Malcolm Kenyatta's historic campaign for U.S. Senate

The North Philly politician became the first openly gay person in Pennsylvania to run for the office, but he lost to John Fetterman in the Democratic primary. The film will premiere at the BFI Flare Film Festival in London next month

Politics Films
Malcolm Kenyatta Documentary The Office of Governor Tom Wolf/Flickr

Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta's historic but unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate is the subject of an upcoming documentary produced by Al Roker and Seven Knot Films.

The 2022 race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania was a crowded one, with several candidates from each party seeking to replace former Sen. Pat Toomey in Washington. Democrat John Fetterman ultimately came out on top, but a new documentary delves into the historic campaign of Malcolm Kenyatta. 

Kenyatta, a state representative from Philadelphia, became the first openly gay person to run for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. Had he won, he would have become the first openly gay Black senator in U.S. history. 

The film, "Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn," examines Kenyatta's emergence as a rising star in Pennsylvania politics, delving into his childhood in North Philly, his work as a community activist and his decision to run for state House in 2018. His win over Republican Milton Street made him the first openly LGBTQ person of color to be elected to a state office in Pennsylvania.

The film also chronicles into Kenyatta's decision to run for U.S. Senate and his wedding to Matthew Miller-Kenyatta, which occurred amid the Democratic primary. After losing to Fetterman, earning just 10.3% of the vote, Kenyatta campaigned for Fetterman during the general election. 

"TODAY" weatherman Al Roker and Seven Knots Films served as the executive producers of the documentary. The film will premiere at BFI Flare, London's LGBTQIA film festival, on March 17-18. In the U.S., it will debut at The American Documentary and Animation Film Festival in Palm Springs, California, on March 31. 

"I can't think of a better subject for a film during these tenuous times," Roker said. "Malcolm Kenyatta offers hope to so many, especially those that have had their voices silenced due to societal inequity. His energy is infectious and his message is powerful. He is a rising star for a new generation of voters and this documentary gives keen insight into what it takes to get elected in America today." 

As a state representative, Kenyatta, 32, has become known for his self-written speeches, viral moments and support of various social and political movements. On Wednesday, he joined an undergraduate walkout at Temple University held in support of the striking members of the Temple University Graduate Students' Association. 

Following the deadly shooting near Roxborough High School in September, Kenyatta visited his alma mater to pay his respects and support grieving students as they returned to school. He also helped secure $500,000 for security upgrades to the school.

Kenyatta was sworn into his third consecutive term representing the 181st legislative district in early January, though some have speculated that he might seek a higher office in the future. Last month, he hinted that he may consider running for auditor general, a position that often serves as a springboard to higher offices.

"Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn," was spearheaded by Philadelphia-based director Tim Harris, who worked with Kenyatta on the 2018 documentary "Going Forward," which chronicled Kenyatta's election to the state House. Harris, who attended Temple University with Kenyatta, said he was excited for the film's impending premiere. 

"Malcolm was so gracious to allow our team full access to capture history in the making as he fought against incredible headwinds," Harris said. "At 32-years-old, this is just the beginning for Malcolm. Likewise, I hope that this just the beginning for our film, and that Malcolm's relentless passion and willpower can activate future leaders from marginalized communities for generations to come." 

Future screenings will be announced on the film's Twitter account in the coming months. Check out the documentary's trailer below.