Last Tuesday a groundbreaking discussion centered around race and homophobia in the entertainment industry took place in Los Angeles at The Writer's Guild West moderated by actress, straight ally and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Flipping The Script: Beyond Black Homophobia in Hollywood included eight panelists who, as writers, directors, producers and actors, each play different parts in the Hollywood machine that is responsible for the portrayal (or lack thereof) of black LGBT portrayals in television and film.
On deck were out directors Maurice Jamal(Dirty Laundry), Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett (The DL Chronicles), Emmy winning producer-director Paris Barclay, Tajamika Paxton (GLAAD Entertainment Media Director), actor Wilson Cruz, writer Jasmine Love, Demetrius Bady(WGA writer/director) and Tim McNeal (VP of Talent Development and Diversity/Disney)
Actress/writer/director Sheryl Lee Ralph moderated. Dressed in a sharp red pantsuit and exhibiting (at times) an even sharper tongue, she cut to the chase with her first question: "Why do you think we’re not having the conversation about homophobia?"
One panelist thought the conversation was not being had for broader reasons within the African American community. "African Americans in general don’t like to talk about our challenges in public," said Maurice Jamal, a writer-director-actor with credits including Chappelle’s Show. "We don’t like to air our ’dirty laundry’ for people to see. We’ve always been that way whether it’s been racism, whether it is domestic violence in the home, even when it comes to issues of poverty."
Jamal also said that another generality is the code of silence in the African American community regarding homosexuality.
"In the African American community, being gay has been seen as a challenge," he said. "(And) as a problem, so it’s not something that we’re talking about in the general sense. It’s certainly not something we’re talking about because we want to keep it quiet and kept away."
While it’s doubtful that anyone expected answers that can abruptly end homophobia, for those trying to find a place for their voice - not to mention employment - within black Hollywood, the point of the night was to get the conversation heard by as many people that would listen. Bady, for one, said post-panel that he felt that the event was a resounding success.
However, while Bady was surprised by those who didn’t want to participate in the conversation. There was little support for the panel in the gay press itself, specifically The Advocate.
"I was livid that The Advocate did not send a representative and did not inquire about what we were doing. I reached out to them several times. They have a record of ignoring black gay people. We buy their magazine just like everyone else. I started reaching out to the Advocate in January... and they had absolutely no interest in anything that we’re doing... that pissed me off."
And that's exactly why black gay blogs exist because of mainstream gay publications refusal to be inclusive. Sad.
Get into a preview of the forthcoming documentary Nothing Personal featuring many of the panelists from Flipping The Script below: