Longtime filmmaker, communications consultant and fomer GLAAD staffer, Katina Parker has launched Truth. Be. Told., a documentary series that seeks to reclaim the birthright of Queer Black Visionaries within Black families and communities by providing a platform for out, Black LGBTQ people to tell their personal stories of challenge, radical self inquiry,transformation, and triumph.
To date over 60 Queer Black Visionaries have committed to being interviewed for Season 1, including: Staceyann Chin (Jamaican-born, Tony Award-winning playwright); Toshi Reagon (Singer/Songwriter); Miss Major (Veteran Transgender Activist); Emil Wilbekin (Former Editor for Essence and Vibe magazines); Darnell Moore (Writer/Activist); Patrik-Ian Polk (Creator of Logo TV's "Noah's Arc" series); Mia McKenzie (Creator of the Black Girl Dangerous blog); Linda Villarosa (Former Editor for the New York Times); Karamo Brown (Oprah Winfrey Network Host, Model and Actor); and Justin Robinson (founding member of the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops).
GLAAD sat down with Parker to discuss her vision and the inspiring people who were a part of it.
What was the inspiration behind the project?
I am a former GLAADiator. From 2005 to 2008, I was the Media Strategist for Communities of African Descent. During the three years that I worked at GLAAD, my primary objective was creating visibility for Black LGBT issues in mainstream media. In conjunction with my colleagues, I was responsible for placing with the New York Times and The Associated Press, the stories of Saundra Toby-Heath and Alicia Heath-Toby, a couple from Unity Fellowship Church Newark who were plaintiffs in the 2006 New Jersey marriage lawsuit.
I helped the very brilliant, Tony-Award winning Staceyann Chin publish a preview of her memoir THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE with New York Times magazine and also pitched her for the courageous appearance that she made on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Over a period of years, I held editorial board meetings with Johnson Publications, home to Ebony and Jet magazine, which laid the groundwork for them to begin featuring the wedding announcements of same-sex couples.
I did this work to create safety for my community. I also did this work to create safety for myself. There was a time when I felt so isolated that I considered taking my life. I was clueless about how to be an out, queer Black woman. I saw no one in the world who looked like me, who thought like me, or who had healed enough to serve as a living example of the possibilities that were ahead of me.
You've interviewed several visible and impactful Black lgbt folks, was there a core trope that existed for all of them?
Triumph over tragedy is the most consistent through line between the stories of the people we've interviewed, the ability to take challenging, potentially debilitating circumstances and to transcend those experiences, turn them into super powers. Going through tough times and coming out on top has a way of freeing us to dream and achieve big things. I feel really honored to witness so many stories of miraculous survival and triumph.
Truth. Be. Told. is an outgrowth of the work I did at GLAAD and my own need to see myself and people like me reflected in mainstream media.
Was there anyone story that really resonated with you?
To date we’ve interviewed more than 10 people and created 6 video trailers featuring Staceyann Chin, Darnell Moore, Kai M. Green, Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, community organizer Sendolo Diamah, and writer/musician Shirlette Ammons.
Each of the people we've worked with thus far, have been extremely generous with their heart spaces, personal histories, and homes. I love them all. I love Darnell's inspiring story about how he overcome the residual impact of growing up with an abusive father, Kai's humorous insights about learning to love himself fully as he transitioned from female to male, and, of course Staceyann's touching anecdotes about balancing life as a new mom and a controversial, outspoken activist.
I want Truth. Be. Told. to widen the path for Black LGBTQ people to live their lives openly, fully, proudly, in every room we enter - home, office, church, etc.
When I was at GLAAD, there were so many people with so many life-affirming stories of family acceptance, moms who left church when the preacher spoke out against their gay children, parents who stuck it out with their children even when they didn't understand the complex feelings/experiences that go along with coming out, and, of course, people who lost family and friends when they decided to be true to themselves. What I heard from each of those people was a genuine desire to see more quality stories about Black LGBTQ people and their families, something more full and fleshed out than what sound bytes and quotes offer us through media coverage. I also heard that when that level of storytelling began to exist, Black communities would become more open to our existence and contributions, as LGBTQ people, and that the mainstream LGBTQ community would better understand issues of racism that we face regularly, both in and outside of the LGBT communithy.
Do you think Black LGBT folks are making inroads in the broader Black community in terms of acceptance and support? What else needs to be done?
We've made significant inroads towards increasing visibility of Black LGBTQ people in media. The work GLAAD did in the early 2000s contributed greatly to this rise in visibility. The trainings and the media placement positioned a cadre of Black LGBTQ spokespeople to take advantage of the myriad opportunities for storytelling and visibility created by the boon of social media.
We need shows like Truth. Be. Told., quality shows that present the personal stories of Black LGBTQ people in authentic, non-exploitative ways, to further this work. It’s shows like Truth. Be. Told. that allow everyday people intimate access to the hopes, fears and vulnerabilities of individual LGBTQ people, and it’s those connections, those points of commonality that lead to greater social acceptance of LGBTQ people.
What's next for Truth Be Told?
We are actively filming as we raise our first season’s budget. The initial leg of fundraising features an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $24,000 for the first 4 full half-hour episodes of the series. For those episodes, we'll be featuring Tony Award-winning playwright Staceyann Chin, Writer/Activist Darnell Moore, Writer/Filmmaker/Transgender Activist Kai M. Green and Veteran Activist Miss Major.
The IndieGoGo campaign ends on Saturday, August 9, 11:59pm PST. Perks include digital downloads, postcard sets, and producer credit. Donations start at $5.