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April 11, 2014
Vol. 55 No. 21

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Film prompts 'diversity' talk

Susquehanna prides itself on an accepting atmosphere, but students Tuesday night were questioning just how welcoming the campus currently is.
The Center for Diversity and Social Justice and International Student Services showed the recently made film "The New Black."
"The New Black" was released in February of this year. It is a documentary with one key theme: how the African-American community is dealing with gay rights.
The film was directed by Yuriba Richen, a documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced films in the United States, Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. She is an award-winning filmmaker and has served as investigative producer.
The film follows several activists, both for and against marriage equality, as well as members of the African-American Christian community.
It provides an in-depth look into the struggle of accepting different sexualities in a minority still fighting for their own equal rights. The question of what is right and what should be allowed is constantly tossed back and forth, with no clear answer in sight.
In the discussion following the film, Richen explained her journey towards the film-making process. She said conception began in 2008, with an interest in providing a narrative that analyzed where and how African-American homophobia had taken root.
She had been in California during the election for Barack Obama, which had been a success for the black community, but a loss for the LGBT community with the passage of Proposition 8, which amended California's constitution to only recognized marriage between one man and one woman in the state. The passage of "Prop 8" was blamed heavily on African-American voters. She wanted to understand what had pitted the African-American and LGBT communities against each other.
When Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, signed a measure that would recognize same-sex marriage in 2012, Richen realized that her research would tie directly into the events. She said all of the issues she had been looking into had come together in Maryland, and that lead to the use of the state and its vote as the base for her film.
Richen said: "What's amazing about documentary films is that you start in one place and then it takes you on a journey totally different. In Maryland, I was able to follow the fight and the election, even though that's not how I had conceived the film."
Richen continued, "The reason I chose it was because suddenly, here were all these issues that I had been shooting, filming; all of it was brought together in the face of a real-time election."
Directly following the film was an audience discussion led by Richen, and focused on one question: How accepting is Susquehanna of different races and sexualities?
In the discussion, senior Amy Masgay said: "I think at Susquehanna, there are a lot of people who are totally accepting of the LGBT community and diversity. I think that's awesome, but the voices of the people who are accepting aren't that loud. There's this apathetic air among us."
Junior Emily Hibshman stated that there should be more "cross-pollination" on campus. This would mean having more variety within social groups, as well as in the clubs on campus.
Hibshman said: "I think one of the problems we have at Susquehanna is that we have our little cliques and groups. A lot of times those groups don't interact with each other."
Richen's advice for dealing with homophobia and racism is to attack the issue head-on. In order for there to be change, you have to try to do what you're comfortable with, whether that is addressing family and asking them why they do not support something or simply calling out someone who uses a derogatory term.
"We have to speak up," Richen said. "We have to be brave if we actually want to see change."
"The New Black" will be shown on June 16 on PBS.


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