Director of ‘The New Black’ Yoruba Richen explores black America on gay rights, Michael Sam’s coming out

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Yoruba Richen is the creator and director of a new documentary titled The New Black, a film that explores African-American attitudes towards gay rights and examines homophobia in the black community.

The hour-long movie tells the narrative of American-Americans both for and against marriage equality in a country that has debated this civil rights issue on both personal and political platforms.

The documentary is released on the heels of major developments in the LGBT community.

On Sunday, Michael Sam, a star college football player announced he was gay. Sam, who is African-American, became one of few athletes to share this news and has become the victim of both praise and ridicule in the black community.

Richen stopped by theGrio to discuss her latest work and talked about the significance of Sam’s coming out as a key moment in the gay rights movement.

“I think these athletes, as black gay athletes, see this as part of the movement for equality and feel compelled to come out and be who they are and speak up,” Richen told theGrio’s Lilly Workneh. “I think that’s very powerful and what it does is reignite this conversation again.”

Thus far, 17 states have legalized gay marriage and in the wake of laws like Proposition 8, marriage equality has constantly been at the forefront America’s human-rights issues.

A large divide on the debate for gay rights is seen in the African-American community and Richen explores these differing views in her documentary.

“In course of production, I realized that the issue of gay rights in the black community is in many ways a fight over the African-American family, which has been a contested space since the time of slavery,” Richen said.

“The gay marriage question has forced a conversation in the black community, which is taking place in our churches, our houses, our neighborhoods and the ballot box.”

The film will have a one-week engagement from Feb. 12 -18 at Film Forum in New York City.

Watch the video above and tell us your thoughts below. For more information on The New Black, click here.

Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works