Award-winning documentary filmmaker Yoruba Richen spoke Tuesday as part of the University’s month-long symposium honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
Inside the Michigan League, Richen discussed her documentary, “The New Black,” which examines homophobia in the Black community and follows both people who support and oppose LGBTQ rights within the community. Throughout the lecture, which was sponsored by the LSA Campus Climate Committee, Richen emphasized the importance of campus activism for issues pertaining to race and sexuality.
She said she hopes her new film increases awareness of these issues and promotes community inclusivity.
“We all exist in the microcosm of the larger culture,” Richen said. “What may seem like a small pocket of resistance in an isolated community or a small town or a single university campus can help ignite so much more.”
She described the nationwide spread of last year’s Being Black at the University of Michigan movement, nationally recognized for its #BBUM Twitter campaign, as an example of the ways in which campus activism can influence the national conversation on race. She also said the rise of by protests against police brutality across the country exemplify this power.
Richen said she hopes her film is used to reach out to the Black and LGBTQ communities.
“One can at least try to foster change, try to be more understanding,” she said. “That’s what we all want: to be seen, heard, accepted and respected.”
She also reflected on King’s activism around issues pertaining to socioeconomic class and militarization of the government in addition to his fight for racial equality.
“He was looking in a new, more radical direction, and the scope of his vision was wider than it had ever been,” Richen said. “That is the example that I think we as citizens should try to follow, one that recognizes that we are many, many diverse things and that all of them deserve respect, acceptance and full protection at this University and under the law.”
LSA senior Youran Gui said Richen’s emphasis on LGBTQ activism resonated with her experiences as an international student.
“In Asia, they always hide the fact that they’re LGBTQ, they never told their friends or their parents,” Gui said. “It’s really touching. It’s also really refreshing to see that kind of documentary that can actually raise people’s awareness.”
Joe Salvatore, an event organizer and associate director of the University’s Science Learning Center, said he hopes the lecture inspired students to work towards a more inclusive campus environment.
“We’re all trying to build a better community at Michigan,” Salvatore said. “We all want a community that’s welcoming and inclusive because that makes for a better Michigan and a better experience for everyone.”