'When We Rise' kicks off tonight, revisiting decades of LGBTQ history

ABC's historical event miniseries When We Rise kicks off tonight and runs all this week. The series, from out writer/director Dustin Lance Black, chronicles the history of the LGBTQ community from the 1970s up to modern times, and how the movement was shaped by (and in turn shaped the lives of) several advocates fighting for change in San Francisco and across the country. 

Television is a powerful tool to change hearts and minds, and educate people about the LGBTQ community. It's also important to shine a light on the history of our community - something that is too often excluded from lessons taught in schools and erased from biographies.

When We Rise follows four central characters, each played by two actors, representing their different life stages as the show moves through time. Ken Jones (played by Michael Kenneth Williams and Jonathan Majors) is a Vietnam veteran who worked in community organizing, military desegregation, and more. Roma Guy (Mary Louise Parker, Emily Skeggs) was the co-founder of The Women`s Building in San Francisco, and helped form the California Women's Agenda. Roma's wife Diane (Rachel Griffiths, Fiona Dourif) is a nurse and social activist who pioneered the "San Francisco" model of care for HIV and AIDS patients, and went on to work for 33 years at San Francisco General's "Ward 86." Cleve Jones (Guy Pearce, Austin P. McKenzie), is the creator of The Names Project and author of the memoir on which the miniseries is partially based. Other prominent figures include trans activist and current Transgender Law Center Senior Strategist Cecilia Chung (Ivory Aquino), Del Martin (Rosie O'Donnell) who co-founded the first lesbian social and political organization in the U.S., trans activist and minister Bobbi Jean Baker (Jazzmun), and the San Francisco Health Department's first out gay employee Pat Norman (Whoopi Goldberg) just to name a few. These real figures are being brought to life by screenwriter Black, who also directs some episodes. Other directors include executive producer Gus Van Sant and Dee Rees.

GLAAD partnered with ABC for special advance screenings in San Francisco and New York City, and the series will officially premiere its first two episodes tonight at 9pm. The miniseries will then air back-to-back new episodes each night, starting Wednesday. There will also be a special one-hour documentary, When We Rise: The People Behind the Story, featuring the actual advocates who inspired the mini-series: Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, Ken Jones, Diane Jones and Cecilia Chung. This documentary airs Thursday at 8pm, ahead of the night's two-hour block of new episodes. Don't miss When We Rise: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 9pm-11pm on ABC.