From church pews to the streets to kitchen tables, “The New Black” follows the African-American community as it grapples with the gay rights issue in light of the recent same-sex marriage movement. The film follows the struggle over marriage equality in the state of Maryland, where the battle for the hearts and minds of black voters — almost a third of the electorate — is fought from the pulpit. Through the stories of activists, families, and clergy on both sides of the debate, the film charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community.
In February 2012, after much discussion, the Maryland legislature passed a law allowing same-sex marriage. Immediately, opponents of the law geared up to put the issue before the voters through a ballot referendum, a strategy that had defeated same-sex marriage in other states. On one side, supporters of same-sex marriage included a number of black ministers who were challenging homophobia in the black church. Opposing them were other ministers who believed that gay marriage violated religious principles and who disagreed with placing the issue in the context of civil rights. Against this backdrop the film traces the historical importance of the church to the black community, and explores the personal stories of African-Americans who, although raised in the church, felt unwelcome when they identified themselves as gay.
“For over three years I followed how this issue was being debated and understood in the African-American community,” said director Yoruba Richen. “I came to realize 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. 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 at the ballot box.”
Coffee and Conversation is free and open to the public. Each film screening at Lincoln's Mary Riepma Ross Theatre is followed by a community discussion in UNL’s Van Brunt Visitors Center.