The New Black

June 15, 2014


Yoruba Richen

The historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland provided a view into how the African American community grapples with gay rights.


About the Documentary

The New Black tells the story of how the African American community is debating the marriage equality movement and the fight over LGBT rights. The film documents activists, families, and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage and examines homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar — the black church — while exploring ways this phenomenon may have been exploited by political conservatives.

Yoruba Richen’s film takes us from New York to California to Maryland to document the multiple players in this debate, including gay gospel singer Tonex (who now goes by the stage name B.Slade), who shocks the host of Word Network’s “Lexi Show” as he describes his attraction to men.

The film also features Sharon Lettman-Hicks, the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), as well as both a number of black ministers who are challenging homophobia in the black church, and some of the leading anti-gay black ministers as they fight efforts to advance gay rights, working to pass a ballot initiative in Maryland that would reverse the recently won right for gay couples to marry. Maryland has a 30% African-American population and both sides vie to win the black vote in the battle over the Question 6 ballot initiative.

The black community is having a wrenching conversation about homophobia as the gay rights debate is unfolding on the political stage and in the courts. But as the film shows, including with two young campaigners who find their feet in both worlds, there are many stories of those engaging from within. While the debate around gay rights has deepened some divides within the black community, it has also opened a space for new conversations about overcoming oppression for everyone.


The Filmmakers

Yoruba Richen

Yoruba Richen is a documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced films in the U.S. and abroad including Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. The New Black is her most recent film and has won Audience Awards at AFI Docs, Philly Q Fest, and Frameline LGBT Film Festival. The film also won Best Documentary at the Urbanworld Film Festival and was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award and a GLAAD Media Award. Richen’s previous film Promised Land received a Diverse Voices co-production fund award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and was broadcast on PBS’s POV in 2010. In 2007, Richen won a Fulbright Award in filmmaking and traveled to Brazil, where she began production on Sisters of the Good Death, a documentary about the oldest African women's association in the Americas and the annual festival they hold celebrating the end of slavery. Richen has also been an associate producer for the investigative unit of ABC News as well as a producer for the independent news program Democracy Now. Richen won the Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access and was also a Sundance producer's fellow. In 2014, she was a featured TED Speaker and a Guggenheim Fellow. Richen is director of the documentary program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Full Credits


  • AFI Docs

    Audience Award

  • Frameline 37

    Audience Award

Learn more about the documentary

Join the Discussion

Has your own state dealt with a similar divide within communities over gay marriage? If you're part of an African American household, how has the topic of gay rights been handled within your family? Do you see a parallel between African American civil rights movement and LGBT rights struggles?


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