Yoruba Richen discusses her doc ‘The New Black,’ about homophobia

Filmmaker Yoruba Richen descends into the gay debate among African Americans in "The New Black." Credit: The Philadelphia Cinema Alliance
Filmmaker Yoruba Richen descends into the gay debate among African Americans in “The New Black.”
Credit: The Philadelphia Cinema Alliance

“The New Black” is director Yoruba Richen’s documentary that shows how the African American community is divided when it comes to the issue of homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular. Richen alternates between the opposing viewpoints, including straight ally Sharon Lettman-Hicks and anti-marriage equality pastor Derek McCoy, letting each express his/her position as their state of Maryland votes on marriage equality.

How did you find the interviewees for this doc?
I started looking into and focusing on is who is trying to bridge the divide between LGBT and the African American community–who was doing the work to undo the damage that was done during Prop 8. I found Sharon, and she was super interesting. She came from a civil rights world, and was a straight person fighting for LGBT equality and counteracting homophobia in the black church. I then looked at the activists working on this issue like Karess, as well as Rev. Delman Coates, the Black minister advocating for it, and pastor Derek McCoy, who was leading the charge against it.

Was there a particular interview or exchange that crystallized your need to make this film?
Sharon’s family barbeque showed the gamut of feelings about this issue. It was funny, poignant, and angry. Also, when I found Tonex, the [gay] Gospel singer, who crystallized what was happening in the black church. I felt they could demonstrate what was going on here.

What are the challenges of tackling such a divisive topic within the African American community? Did you receive any backlash?
I am pretty sheltered in terms of being an out lesbian [in New York City]. I did have people say this is very controversial, and we as a community don’t talk about it. But I also think there was a hunger for it, especially because of the recent, political events unfolding.

You alternate between pro and con positions, letting each side tell their story. What was your narrative strategy?
As an African American [filmmaker] we don’t often get the opportunity to tell our story in complex way. That is part of my desire to tell stories–even things I don’t agree with, or are not my opinion. To understanding the complexity gives it more nuance. It was important to have various viewpoints, while also being clear that I have a point of view.

Did people’s minds change about the topic while you were making the film, or is this going to always be an agree-todisagree issue?
It would be interesting to go back to these folks a year from now and see what the folks voting against it feel about it now. I think it’s too early to say. It’s generational. Will people change? Or will their views die out, like racism?



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…