NEW BEDFORD — The kickoff of Black History Month in the SouthCoast in February has a new partner: a loose coalition of groups, including the LGBTQ community, that will present a movie viewing and panel discussion about the acclaimed documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.”
The film is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and it is based on an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin called “Remember This House.” It was nominated as best documentary at the 89th Academy Awards two years ago.
This year, the small theater of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park will be the venue on Jan. 28 for a showing of the film, which according to the promotional material “explores the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin’s reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther Jr. as well as his personal observations of American history."
Baldwin, who died in 1987, was a gay black man, so discussions about his work merge the topics of LGBTQ issues and race in America, said event organizer Liz DiCarlo. This film will kick off Black History Month, and over the three months that follow there will be a winter film series on the LGBTQ movement, led locallly by Rebecca McCullough, the head of the SouthCoast LGBTQ Network.
It was her group that presented a November showing of the film “The Death and Life of Marcia Johnson,” a famed transgender activist. DiCarlo attended that showing and the discussion that followed, and it gave her an idea: Why not extend this concept to cast a broader net to the community to foster understanding of LGBTQ issues?
She said that after three hours of phone calls to various institutions, she had a full roster of co-sponsors eager to put together their first showing, which is “I Am Not Your Negro.” The sponsors include the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center where DiCarlo is a consultant, the New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks!, the New Bedford Historical Society, the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Women’s Center, the UMass Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality, the YWCA, Seven Hills Behavioral Health and the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts.
The promotional poster says that the purpose of the three-hour film and discussion is “to foster understanding of LGBTQ culture and create networking opportunities and support for LGBTQ residents.”
DiCarlo said because of the fact that it coincides with Black History Month, the New Bedford Historical Society is taking the lead sponsorship and will organize the event’s elements such as informational tables in the hallway of the visitors center outside the theater. It will also be the facilitator for the discussion.
McCullough said that her group of working toward a “culture of understanding” not only between the LGBTQ Community Network and the rest of the public, but among the LGBTQ community.
In Liz DiCarlo’s view, “I think lesbian and gay people during their struggle really came out, I think that the same thing is happening with transgender. The transgender stuff is truly the most important of the LGBTQ to understand.”
McCullough said, “I think the same thing is happening with the transgender community, but it’s very different. It’s hard for people to understand that you don’t just get up one day and decide you want to be a man or a woman. It’s who you are, who you are inside. Sometimes it takes years and years before you get the courage to act.”
DiCarlo said, “What we wanted to do more than anything is to figure out a way to engage people in the project.” Future film possibilities, which haven’t been set, could include titles such as “The Making of a Plague,” which documents the evolution of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that struck in 1980. DiCarlo said that the group is working on getting the license to show that film.
Each of the four monthly films and discussions will be on the fourth Sunday of each month.
Admission is free and the event runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“Each organization is going to have information about their organization in the hallway,” said DiCarlo. “What we want to do more than anything is to figure out a way to engage people in the project.”
For more information about the LGBTQ Network, visit their web site: www.sclgbtqnetwork.org.
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