'The New Black' Documentary Examines Homophobia Within Black Church

( [email protected] ) Jun 18, 2014 12:00 AM EDT
A new documentary titled "The New Black" investigates homophobia within the African-American church and how the Christian right has capitalized on this phenomenon to "pursue an anti-gay political agenda."
The New Black is a documentary that focuses on the black community's response to the fight for marriage equality associated press

While the battle for LGBT rights rages on, a new documentary titled "The New Black" attempts to reveal how the Christian right capitalizes on "homophobia in the black community's institutional pillar - the black church" in order to "pursue an anti-gay political agenda."

Written and directed by veteran filmmaker Yoruba Richen and broadcasted by PBS, the film focuses on members of the black community that take a strong biblical stance against gay marriage, attempting to draw out hypocrisy in contrast with the African American civil rights movement.

Within the trailer, the filmmakers show little difference between secular, homophobic African Americans and those who oppose homosexuality due to Biblical convictions.

Featured in the film are multiple players, including Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Black Justice Coalition; Derek McCoy, president of the Maryland Family Alliance and the Maryland Family Council, the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor at Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland, and Anthony Charles Williams II (stage name B.Slade, formerly Tonex), an award-winning gospel recording artist who surprised many when he publicly came out as gay in 2009.

Richen stated that she created the film due to a firm belief that the fight for gay rights is "a fight for the African-American family."

"In the course of production, I realized that the issue of gay rights in the black community is in many ways a fight over the African-American family, which has been a contested space since the time of slavery," she states on the documentary's website.

"So marriage is not just about marriage for black people - it's also about how blacks have become accepted as legitimate participants in American society. The gay marriage question has forced a conversation in the black community, which is taking place in our churches, our houses, our neighborhoods and the ballot box."

However, Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage disagrees, stating that "Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out...We proudly bring together people of different races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage."

The Black community remains divided over homosexuality, particularly when religion comes into play. However, the Pew Research Center reported an increase of those in approval this year compared to 2013 among black Protestants in favor of same-sex marriage (32 percent to 43 percent). Yet, a 2013 survey also from Pew found that 79 percent of black Protestants believed homosexuality is a sin. The same survey also found that nearly 60 percent of black Protestants felt that there was some conflict between their religious beliefs and homosexuality, while 35 percent felt there was no conflict. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken last year discovered that at least half of black Americans were in favor of same-sex marriage.

"The New Black" will be screened at film festivals and at various venues in several states, and made its telivision this past Sunday on PBS.