The Mary B. Martin School of the Arts will present “The New Black,” an award-winning documentary by Yoruba Richen, at 7 p.m. on Feb. 23 in the D.P. Culp University Center Auditorium to share a dynamic story of faith, racial justice and LGBT rights in the African American community.
The documentary is part of the Southern Circuit tour, which brings a variety of independent films to communities in the South. The tour has screened more than 200 films and visited more than 50 Southern communities.
“The film highlights a number of conversations people have on opposite sides of the issues,” said Yvonne Welbon, producer of more than 20 prominent films and “The New Black.”
The documentary will take viewers inside church pews and onto streets in order to narrate personal experiences and different perspectives on marriage equality.
“Many viewers have told us that the conversations in the film serve as models as to how they too can begin much needed conversations in difficult topics,” Welbon said.
Yoruba Richen was first inspired by the presidential election in November 2008.
On the same night of the election, a ballot in California— known as Proposition 8 — for marriage equality was going to be taken away.
“So, she [Richen] was looking at these two moments, where African Americans were really thrilled and if you were gay, you weren’t, so it’s kind of exploring the kind of connection between what if you were black and gay,” Welbon said.
Throughout the documentary, there are a number of stories told that have the same goal in mind: to look at the intersection between the LGBT communities, the Civil Rights movements and the black church, Welbon said.
Characters include: Sharon Lettman-Hick, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Black Justice Coalition; Karess Taylor-Hughes, a 24-year-old student activist working on political campaigns and the Human Rights Campaign; Samantha Master, a 25-year-old student serving as the Youth and Campus Outreach Intern for the Human Rights Campaign; pastor Derek McCoy, president of the Maryland Family Alliance and Maryland Family council; the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland; and Anthony Charles Williams II, a songwriter and producer in San Diego, California.
“One of the strongest story lines for me is the story of Karess,” Welbon said. “She gets involved in an issue that’s really important to her, so just looking at her as a role model, as somebody who will go out and do the work to achieve a goal for themselves; I think that’s a really important story a college student can relate to.”
Welbon also said students can learn a lot about how the church has an impact on a person’s opportunity to be themselves in their community.
“I think we’ve probably reached over a million viewers between competitions and film festivals,” Welbon said. “We’ve screened in over 70 film festivals around the world.”
As “The New Black” continues to broaden its audiences, the Southern Circuit tour helps prompt conversations throughout many regions in the South.
“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to reach some new audiences that we haven’t been able to reach before,” Welbon said.