The New Black: a film on race, same-sex marriage, and intersectionality

Originally posted in September 2015 on Feministing.

Yoruba Richen‘s documentary about the African American community’s struggle for marriage equality is coming soon to a TV screen or laptop near you.

The New Black, a film by Yoruba Richen, explores Black organizing for (and against) the successful 2012 Maryland referendum on same-sex marriage.

The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, won awards at AFI Docs and Philly Q Fest and the Frameline LGBT Film Festival. The film had its theatrical premier at The Film Forum in New York City and its television premiere on PBS’s Independent Lens. And this month, the film is finally available on NetFlix.

I spoke to Yoruba about her film on my WBAI radio show [it starts at 32:56]

Katie: What inspired you to make the film?

Yoruba: I started conceiving of this film with the election of 2008… the first election that Barack Obama won and where Proposition Eight, which outlawed marriage equality [in California], won. And I happened to be in California at the time… And what was so crazy, what started happening was, not only was there this huge progressive victory but there was also this loss that was so devastating to the LGBT community. And pretty much immediately Black people started to be blamed for the passage of Proposition Eight. And I wanted to look at why this was happening, how it was that these two groups were being pitted against each other, essentially… But I wanted to look at how the African American community, specifically, was grappling with this in light of the election of President Obama, and the fight that we were seeing over the legacy of civil rights.

Katie: How did you feel, as an African-American lesbian, when you heard people pitting these two groups together as if they were mutually exclusive?

Yoruba: I got really frustrated and angry because Black LGBT voices were shut out of the debate. And as African-Americans we often are considered a monolith and the… complexity of what’s going on in our community is not featured or brought out by the media.  I felt like the media was really getting the story wrong — and not just the media but activists on both sides of the issue also were coming out with latent racism and latent homophobia. It just felt to me that this was a story whose time had come and because it was a story that was going to be unfolding over the next few years. It was a story that I could follow and see where it would end up, and again, I had no idea that we would end up where we have.

Katie: For someone like Pastor Derek McCoy [the President of the Maryland Family Alliance and Maryland Family Council] who opposes marriage equality, one of the reasons that marriage equality is so dangerous is because of the way the [assumed heterosexual] Black family was able to resist… slavery, which divided up families, separated people… And Bishop Yvette Flunder uses that same history to kind of say… ‘We [African Americans] have always had a sort of untraditional family structure. And because of that it almost lends itself to same-sex marriage.’

Yoruba:  A lot of the push back that you get in the Black community is that we already have such a fragile family system: teenage pregnancy, high rates of divorce, women not marrying, and this is another threat to the family. And what Bishop Flunder is saying is that, “because of the history and legacy of slavery and racism and segregation, we’ve always had to reconfigure out families in a different way. Depend on grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, neighbors. Not that we don’t have sort of traditional families. There’s another part in her interview that  I didn’t use in the film where she says that ‘I feel like the Black community could learn a lot from the LGBT community in terms of family and structuring family.’

You can listen to the entire interview with Yoruba below. It starts at 32:56

WATCH: Gay valedictorian gives the banned speech his principal outed him over — and it’s awesome

image via Facebook
image via Facebook

Like every other valedictorian, Evan Young was planning to deliver a speech at his high school graduation ceremony on May 16th. Young was going to announce that he was gay to talk about the importance of mutual respect and tolerance, but BJ Buchmann, the principal of Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School in Longmont, Colorado demanded he remove that part of the speech. When Young refused, Buchmann did what any great pedagogue would do under the circumstances: outed Young to his parents, banned him from addressing his class and refused to recognize him as valedictorian at its graduation ceremony.

But on Sunday Young was finally able to deliver his speech at an event organized by the LGBT advocacy organization Out Boulder. And he got to do it in a cape!

Continue reading and see the video…

We Shall overcome: the lesbian sperm bank remix


Most women who, for whatever reason, cannot become pregnant on their own, are thrilled artificial insemination enables them to have a child. But Jennifer Cramblett, of eastern Ohio is so upset about her daughter, she’s suing the sperm bank. Why? Because the sperm bank accidentally mailed her sperm from a black donor. And that means that Cramblett’s two-year-old daughter, Payton, is… wait for it… bi-racial.

As David Ferguson reported on,  this is something Cramblett, who had requested a white man’s sperm, didn’t want. So, she’s suing the Midwest Sperm Bank, which mixed up the sperm batches when it read a vial labeled  380 as 330. According to her lawsuit and attorney, Cramblett should be compensated so she can move because she lives in an intolerant town, has an intolerant family and intolerant friends. Attorney Thomas Intili said, “she lives in an all-white community in eastern Ohio. She did not encounter any African-American people until she entered college. Not all her friends and family members are racially sensitive.” Perhaps most painful of all is that Cramblett is forced to travel a long distance to get her daughter a semi-decent haircut. The lawsuit reads,

Getting a young daughter’s hair cut is not particularly stressful for most mothers, but to Jennifer it is not a routine matter, because Payton has hair typical of an African American girl. To get a decent cut, Jennifer must travel to a black neighborhood, far from where she lives, where she is obviously different in appearance, and not overtly welcome.

It’s bad enough to have to shlep to a hair dresser who can disentangle the mystery that is African American girl hair. On top of that, it seems, Cramblett risks her life every time she ventures into a neighborhood where she is “othered” by African Americans who, presumably, commit hate crimes against her with their eyes.

Continue reading “We Shall overcome: the lesbian sperm bank remix”

LGBT people are not, actually, all billionaires who brunch 24/7

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Hardcore homophobes and playful pop culture often present the gays, especially gay men, as brunch-eating, artisanal cocktail swigging, shopping-spreeing, swinging singles with disposable income. Shockingly, this is a myth and not reality.

new report from the Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress shatters the myth and reveals that LGBT actually are worse-off financially than their hetero brothers and sisters. For instance, while  39% of non-LGBT adults in the U.S. report they are thriving financially, only  29% of LGBT adults do. While 17% of non-LGBT people who live alone make less than $12,000 a year, 20.7% of LGBT people living alone earn less than $12,000. Transgender people are almost four times as likely to earn less than $10,000 than the rest of the population even though transgender people have much higher rates of college and graduate school education. Single LGBT people with children are three times more likely to be living near the poverty line than the rest of the population with children. And married or partnered LGBT parents are twice as likely to earn incomes close to the poverty line than married or partnered non-LGBT parents. Children raised by same-sex couples are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty than are children raised by married heterosexual couples.

And then, of course, there’s ye ole racism, which dovetails beautifully with homophobia. So, for instance, African Americans in same-sex couples are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as African Americans in married male-female relationships.

The study lays out the three main causes of the financial disadvantages faced by LGBT people:

1. Lack of protection from discrimination means that LGBT people can be fired, denied housing, and refused medically-necessary healthcare simply because they are LGBT. The financial penalty: LGBT people can struggle to find work, make less on the job, and have higher housing and medical costs than their non-LGBT peers. 2.Refusal to recognize LGBT families means that LGBT families are denied many of the same benefits available to non-LGBT families when it comes to health insurance, taxes, vital safety-net programs, and retirement planning. The financial penalty: LGBT families pay more for health insurance, taxes, legal assistance, and essential protection for their families in times of crisis. 3. Failure to adequately protect LGBT students means that LGBT people and their families often face a hostile, unsafe, and unwelcoming environment in local schools, as well as discrimination in accessing financial aid and other support. The financial penalty: LGBT young people and the children of LGBT parents are more likely to perform poorly in school and to face challenges pursuing postsecondary educational opportunities. This, in turn, can reduce their earnings over time, as well as their chances of having successful jobs and careers.

See the infographic of this information below. So, this is the terrible news. But the good news is that we know how to fix the problem. Pass anti-descrimination legislation. I know this seems terrible unjust to those who equate family values with forcing parents and their children to live in poverty. Oh well. They’ll have to get over that.

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Originally posted on RawStory

Ex-gay movie star tells Lady Gaga to “shut up”

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I was already sooooo excited to see the pro ex-gay-conversion “documentary” Such were Some of You. But after seeing the latest clip of the film that appeared on today’s 700 Hundred Club, I’m ecstatic. The clip opens with an enthralling image: white letters spelling out “Born Gay?” amidst a pitch black background. Then we see a random white dude on the street who says, “I believe they were born that way.” As the exciting soundtrack draws you in with its insistent violin and drums, a certain Doctor Michael Brown explains that “there’s absolutely no evidence” that anyone is born gay. And then, for some reason, the editors thought it would be a good idea to drive home Brown’s point with a fairly contradictory one as a woman says, “I didn’t want to be gay.” But by far, the best part is when a former gay young man with very engineered eyebrows (I’m thinking waxed but threaded is definitely a possibility) delivers this zinger: I have to say, Lady Gaga, shut up. I was not born this way.” Oh no he didn’t! Continue reading “Ex-gay movie star tells Lady Gaga to “shut up””