'The New Black' is not orange, it is the African American LGBT community, and PBS’ Independent Lens explores Prince George’s County, Maryland as it prepared to vote on same sex marriage. The doc airs this week.
The doc interviews white religious and political conservatives who sought out black Church leaders to protest gay marriage. The goal was to kill the marriage act with black pastors at the bullhorn.
PG County, Maryland is my hometown, predominantly African American, and the wealthiest majority black county in the nation. In 2014, PG County's black pastors espouse homophobia at the pulpit without regard to race or kin, or the fact that gay people are in the congregation suffering in silence at homophobic slurs from a church leader.
In "The New Black" Super pastor Donnie McClurkin cried when his gay, successful, God-fearing brother in Christ, artist Tonex (pronounced Toonay), refused to hide his sexual orientation. In an interview, Tonex came out as a gay man. But the moment was sad because the interviewer only wanted to discuss sex.
Rihanna blasted an interviewer who inquired about her sex life three minutes into an interview. I see inquiries about sexual preference and who someone is dating as sides of the same coin.
The gay community in “The New Black” asserts they are not seeking acceptance, but tolerance. The documentary follows activists, two who suffered familial strife, but continued despite the lack of family support to live happily and free of judgment, persecution, and physical violence.
The Black LGBT communities are still defining themselves in terms of race and sexuality. They are making age old identity decisions like whether or not to define themselves as black first or gay and then black.
The film suggests through the words of Maryland's Governor O'Malley that opposition to gay marriage devastates solid family structures. There is no arguing in any state in the nation that the foster care system is overrun with black kids. Urban planning politicians, those whose states manage beyond billions per year, are asking people to consider gay marriage and adoption as an avenue to heal a particular societal wound.
African American homophobia demonstrates the dire need for education in the community. To effect new legislation, grassroots volunteers have to soldier the streets and teach like the two African American women did in the documentary as the state prepared to vote on gay marriage.
Educating others to rethink gay marriage as a legal, civil rights movement versus a sexual revolution has an eastern philosophical feel. It is an almost Buddhist like approach that encourages people to reach for their true divine selves and their divine happiness. Man at his highest self has a true desire to see each human being be the best he or she can be.
But not all people behave with grace without being taught. For some, the gay rights issue is a lesson in grace and redemption.
The film visits the spiritual evolution of a woman whose granddaughter came out to her in an email. The grandmother said she now has a prescient relationship with God, and although the outing announcement hurt, the grandmother hurt more to know that others might not fully accept her granddaughter because of sexuality.
Gay marriage is the “unfinished business of black people being free.” When blacks were married during slavery, the broomstick weddings were not protection. When the ax fell, an estate sale happened, the slave couple's connubial, religious union was broken, dismantled, and permanently split.
It is the nature of people to branch off from their families and build their own. Gay people are saying that intense opposition to their lifestyle thwarts their freedom to go off and build families and clans of their own (The New Black).
Often, established gay couples have children, either biological children, foster children, or adopted. When you see the gorgeous homes in PG County, inspired by bricks Booker T. Washington made when he built Tuskegee, it is incredibly difficult to oppose a black child's chance for wealth and the opportunities that accompany growing up middle class.
'The New Black' is 60 minutes long, but it feels like two hours because it is packed with opposing viewpoints. 'The New Black' doesn't make a big fuss over the irony of black religious leaders joining with white ones to oppose gay people.
After the Tuskegee experiment, black folks have been slow to get on board with white people's ideas, and P.G. County is a front running exhibition of one of the most successful black resistance movements in history. Consequently, the wave of homophobia that has accompanied the movement is more disappointing than surprising.