The New Black (NR)

Documentary 74 February 12, 2014
By Ernest Hardy
There's a gorgeous moment in Yoruba Richen's documentary The New Black in which two young black lesbian activists canvass an inner-city black neighborhood to drum up support for the gay marriage initiative that was on the ballot in Maryland's 2012 statewide election. The women approach a group of young men hanging out in front of an apartment building to talk to them about voting and, more specifically, supporting gay marriage. "I ain't voting on that gay shit," says the most vocal of the guys. What follows is an amazing back-and-forth. One of the women breaks down how black people have to have each others' backs, and the chillest guy in the group asks the nearby naysayer in particular and homophobes in general, "Who are you to tell someone who they can be with?" It's a moment of unforced loveliness that upends the outsider perception of the African-American community as a hotbed of intolerance. Often the first and loudest to speak out on gay issues are those with the least enlightened attitudes, but they're not representative of the whole. The New Black is Richen's pushback against the widespread notion that black people are the reason that the gay marriage movement was, for a time, stymied in states like California. Its heroes and heroines are black; Richen weaves together stories of people coming out, of queer families formed without legal recognition or protections, of straight allies battling homophobia, and of the ways marriage was historically denied to black people. What emerges is an illuminating look at the ways race has been cynically portrayed by the mainstream media, rightwing politicians and religious leaders, and even some white queer activists.
Yoruba Richen Yoruba Richen Yvonne Welbo, Angela Tucker

Watch the Trailer