Baltimore City Paper Film Review: The New Black

February 5, 2014

Religion often appears to be losing a foothold in the United States, as regular mass-goers might attest, but for a robust percentage of the African-American community, the church wields a forceful influence in one’s life, determining, among other things, conduct, values, and political beliefs. In the Maryland-centric documentary The New Black, director Yoruba Richen narrows her lens to focus on the black church’s often ultra-conservative ideology, what powers it, and how it affects the community’s dealings with the gay and lesbian populace.

On Election Day in 2008, when anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 was passed, exit polls revealed that California’s African-American community had voted largely—up to 70 percent—in favor of it. This, in the very same election that saw Barack Obama triumph over John McCain. LGBT supporters nationwide were taken aback. Richen gives us a TV news clip of Robin Tyler, one half of the lesbian poster couple for same-sex marriage in California, expressing her regret over the election’s outcome. “I am disappointed in the African-American community but hopeful that they will revisit it and see us also as a civil rights movement.” As Tyler and her partner pose for photos, a newscaster’s voiceover intones, “They’re convinced they’re riding the same bus, and they too won’t sit in the back.”

While the suspenseful resolution of the film’s main conflict is somewhat moot—few could forget the passage of Question 6 and the celebrations that ensued—The New Black reminds us that while we may be a step closer to civil equality, work remains for everyone when it comes to actually achieving it.

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The New Black


The New Black is a documentary that tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with the gay rights issue in light of the recent gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. Continue Reading

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