Every Monday throughout June, The Byrd Theatre celebrated Pride Month with #MonGays, a series spotlighting the LGBTQ community. This week, Black Pride RVA launches Black Pride Month with their selection of Pariah.
What do you do when your family doesn’t understand part of who you are? Even worse, what do you do if they disapprove? This is the challenge facing Alike, the young protagonist of Pariah, but these questions may have also been running through the minds of the founders of Black Pride RVA two years ago.
From the erasure of the black trans women that threw the first bricks at Stonewall to the alarmingly high rates of HIV infection among minority LGBTQ Americans, the existence of racism in the queer world is well documented. Black Pride RVA was founded as a protest, not against any group or organization in the Richmond scene (as some rumors have it), but rather as a positive protest, to celebrate the dual identities of queer people of color.
When Virginia Pride reached out to Black Pride RVA about sponsoring a week of MonGays — a special grand finale week in July: Black Pride Month — their leadership knew they “wanted to participate to increase our visibility and highlight the broader diversity of the LGBTQ community in Richmond.”
That same desire to shine a spotlight on the diversity of the queer community also led them to choose Pariah, a film that focuses on the struggle of a butch black girl to come to terms with her sexuality amidst her conservative family. “Our team was drawn by the story of a masculine-leaning female lead and her journey to acceptance,” Black Pride’s leadership stated. “We wanted a film that showcases LGBTQ women of color since their stories are not often told on the big screen, despite the fact women are more likely to identify as LGBTQ in the US.”
That lack of visibility makes it harder for others in the same situation as Alike to come out. A dearth of positive role models and stories is one of many theories mooted as to why queer people of color face higher levels of depression. The leaders of Black Pride RVA know the struggle all too well.
“Representation is important,” they stated. “Showing Pariah on the big screen helps to lift up the stories of queer women of color who make up the fabric of the Black LGBTQ community. We hope the audience will see the struggle to be yourself is difficult, and in the face of difficulty there is black joy, resilience, and acceptance.”
Black Pride RVA celebrated its inaugural festivities last year to help queer people of all colors in Richmond to overcome that struggle and move collectively towards the positive side of being LGBTQ. “Our work is all about lifting the unique voices and lived experiences of Black LGBTQ persons in the greater Richmond area,” they stated. “This is why we created Black Pride RVA weekend.”
Tonight’s screening of Pariah at the Byrd Theatre will offer the audience the chance to join Black Pride RVA in their celebration of our Commonwealth’s queer people of color. “Pariah highlights the power of voice, resilience, and acceptance. This is a movie Richmond needs to see.”
Pariah marks the fifth and final week of MonGays — a queer film series celebrating the LGBTQ+ community every Monday during Pride Month and the first week of Black Pride Month — tonight at 7pm at the Byrd Theatre. The 2nd annual Black Pride RVA weekend is July 18-21. Check out www.blackpriderva.com for details.