Written by Emily Mullins
United Church of Christ clergy and congregations are featured prominently in the documentary film "The New Black," which offers an in-depth look at how the African American community is contending with the issue of gay rights and the marriage equality movement. Bishop Yvette Flunder, senior pastor of City of Refuge UCC in San Francisco and presiding bishop of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, is featured in the film, which she says captures an important piece of history and highlights the brave story of the fight for equal justice under the law.
"The importance and significance of 'The New Black' is multi-layered," Flunder said. "It engages the audience by telling a compelling story that educates and widens horizons. It is a fully human, fleshed out account of strong beliefs, passions, and hard work on both sides of the marriage debate."
The film centers on the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland and features activists, families, and clergy on both sides of the issue. Directed by Yoruba Richen, the documentary takes viewers into the pews, the streets, and to kitchen tables to examine the struggles of LGBT rights in African American communities and homophobia in African American churches. The film also reveals what the director sees as the Christian right wing's strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda.
"Black churches had a series of public moral dilemmas," Flunder said. "The public debate was fortuitous in that it brought out so many issues that the black church is reluctant to discuss: sexuality, same-gender-loving people and civil rights, the state of marriage in black communities, religious beliefs that serve congregations and those that do not serve the well-being of a congregation or community.
"These vigorous debates still rage on in our black churches, but the passage of the marriage equality referendum brought precious, valuable moments of clarity, heroism, and a detente of sorts that will resonate into the future."
"The New Black" has received several accolades, including Official Selection at the 2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Official Selection at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival, Best Documentary at the 2013 Urbanworld Film Festival, and Outstanding Independent Documentary by the Black Reel Awards in 2014. The film will be the featured documentary on the PBS weekly series "Independent Lens" on June 15 at 10:30 p.m.
"The New Black" continues to be featured at film screenings in the U.S. and throughout the world, including the Massimadi Film Festival, 2nd Edition in Brussels, Belgium, on May 1, and the Seoul Human Rights Film Festival in Seoul, South Korea, May 15-18.
"I knew that the film had the potential to touch people's hearts, and the evidence is that it has done just that," Flunder said. "This is the power of its impact: it is a captivating and authentic art work which gives it the power to change hearts and minds."