‘The New Black’ raises conversations about discrimination in black, LGBT communities

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Filmmaker Yoruba Richen speaks with a panel of students as well as those in attendance at the showing of her documentary The New Black in the Hemisphere Room of Hale Library on Feb. 11, 2015. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

On Wednesday afternoon, Hale Library hosted a free screening of the award-winning documentary, “The New Black.” Sponsored by the Feminists Igniting Resistance and Empowerment with American Ethnic Studies, Diversity Programming Council, DOW Center for Multicultural and Community Studies and the English Department, the documentary showcases different perspectives about how the African-American community is dealing with gay rights, the same-sex marriage movement and the fight over civil rights.

“In our (FIRE) mission statement, it states that our goal is to center the voices of people made invisible or marginalized and silence,” said FIRE president Natasha Bailey, senior in family studies and human services and women studies. “We also thought it was important to show this film during Black History Month because it’s not exclusive to just the LGBT community or to the black community. It shows that the black LGBT community is being marginalized, and this is a conversation that needs to be had.”

The film also examined homophobia in the black church and reveals measures that some of the Christian communities take to exploit the gay right movement so they can maintain their anti-gay political agenda.

“I use to be a part of FIRE and I felt that it was very important to support an event where a complicated issue would be presented in an intellectual way and I could learn more about it,” Mariya Vaughan, assistant coordinator for K-State First, said. “I thought it was an excellent story versus just seeing a whole bunch of newspaper headlines, and I got to see people who are actively working to make a change.”

The film incorporated the opinions of many people who are in favor of, and opposed to, same-sex marriage. After the film, filmmaker Yoruba Richen facilitated a panel discussion about the relationship between civil rights and marriage equality.

“I think it’s super important to have her (Richen), here because we didn’t have to guess what direction to go in when discussing the film,” Bailey said. “We were able to have conversation and get confirmation and learn from her. The dynamic of her being here helped us see her vision for the film.”

The panel addressed whether being gay is a choice, the criticism that the LGBTQ community receives, the same-sex marriage movement, what happens next if marriage equality happens, and whether or not same-sex marriage is a civil right issue.

Alaina Littlejohn, senior in animal science and German, secretary of FIRE and vice president of LGBTQ and Allies, sat on the panel alongside Richen. Littlejohn, who identifies as pansexual, came from a racially mixed family. She said that her white family members didn’t feel so strongly about her sexual orientation as her black half.

“My black half were more resistance because of heavy church influence,” Littlejohn said. “They eventually came around to supporting me because I’m family.”

To Littlejohn, there seems to be opposition when someone conflicts with gender norms. She added that female sexual fluidity is more accepted to male.

“I thought it was interesting to see and hear opposing views,” Littlejohn said. “Sometimes people get so caught up in a cause that they only see their view. I like component that the film showed the view of both sides and not put down the opposition.”

Richen brought up Proposition 8 in California and how blacks felt about the comparison between black rights and gay rights.

“Appropriation was made without fully understanding,” Richen said. “The gay rights fight and the black rights fight are both freedom fights. There are similarities, but there are differences.”

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