Black LGBT+ filmmakers offer a vision for a more equitable future

by Kin Folkz | Queer Arts Center
Wednesday, 23 December 2020 10:37 GMT

People participate in a Black Trans Lives Matter rally in the Brooklyn borough in New York City, U.S., June 14, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The genius of young Black LGBT+ filmmakers holds the vision of a better world

Kin Folkz is founder of the Queer Arts Center and film and digital media program director

For all the uncertainty we have seen this year, it is assuredly an opportunity to build a new healthier normal. But many questions remain. Is it even possible in a society addicted to soundbyte deception, digital distractions and glaring greed to shift our myopic perspectives, to hone new ways of living equitably in the midst of the unimaginable? 

People thriving even after generations of society’s oppression have answered with a resounding “yes!” – we can build a better future now. A new wave of projects and films from marginalized Black youth is offering us a path for evolved thought and equitable action.

The genius of young Black LGBT+ filmmakers who are typically silenced, targeted and dismissed, holds visions for a better world against a backdrop of inequity. They offer a vision of equity from the society’s sidelines illuminated by their lived experience and learned wisdom.

One out of every two Black LGBT+ young people report discrimination based upon their race or ethnicity. One out of every four Black non-binary and trans youth report they have been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their gender identity.

When they are given access to media tools and filmmaking resources, Black LGBT+ young people share more than their personal experiences; they unfurl life-tested coping strategies employed by Black queer and trans people across generations. Films by and about these young people yield a visceral repository of life lessons that we all can learn from and be led by.

The overarching and repeated truths revealed in Black LGBT+ filmmakers’ narratives speak to the urgent need to protect and honor life. Their vision of an impactful future paints a world that seeks to uplift and heal. We should give direct support to marginalized filmmakers, rather than rely solely upon their genius ability to seek it out from us.

“Yellow House Blues'', a short film by Meoow Lottie Fultz, a Black queer nonbinary emerging filmmaker, recounts the story of their often-traumatic childhood. Fultz’s triumph as an adult, gaining support through projects such as the BlaQ ArTed short film program, is reimagined by viewing the film’s eponymous house through a new lens.

Emerging filmmaker Leo Sherman’s film “STAR” blooms with an ethereal soundtrack that invites us to recall the freedom of love on a cool summer night, riding anywhere with the windows down. This film defies the expectation that marginalized queer and trans youth are withering

Shay House, a filmmaking intern in the BlaQ ArTed program funded by the Whippoorwill Foundation, seized the chance to share their long personal journey over their brief lifetime and demand a societal shift.

In House’s short film, “The Fluidity of Success'', House declares that “19 of my 25 years were experienced in the foster care system. I lived in upwards of 53 placements and attended 23 different schools. Me, standing here, I am a testament to my success. I want everybody within a position of power in the child welfare system to know that success is fluid.”

Being Black, queer and growing up with continual disruption required an undue amount of resilience simply to stay aware, much less grounded. It would be easy to see House’s journey as singular and their success as an exception. But “The Fluidity of Success” debunks that notion by introducing us to other young people, some queer, some cisgender, all former foster chidren, living and defining their own version of success.

In the palm of the pandemic, our global good fortune depends largely upon our willingness to grasp new ways of envisioning a healthier society. To unpack and analyse human failings, we must listen to those whom we have failed.

By yielding privilege and its associated platform, power and resources to make room for the viewpoints, experiences and dreams of the marginalized and oft-silenced Black trans and queer community, we are working to create a more equitable future that we all deserve and need.

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