“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. Following the struggle over marriage equality in the state of Maryland, the film explores how the battle for the hearts and minds of black voters – who compose almost a third of the state’s 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.
Focusing on the aftermath of the Maryland legislature’s passage of a law allowing same-sex marriage in 2012, “The New Black” examines how 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 believed they 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 documentary 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 Africa-American family, which as 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.”