truth be told documentary series: interview

August 30, 2013

Truth. Be. Told., a documentary series created by Katina Parker, shares the stories of people she describes as Queer Black Visionaries–queer, Black individuals that have triumphed in both their personal and business lives despite the entanglement of prejudices, disenfranchisement and discrimination they face.

By: Justin Allen, AFROPUNK Contributor

Truth. Be. Told. f. Shirlette Ammons from Katina Parker on Vimeo.


Parker, herself, has triumphed, responsible for placing with the New York Times and The Associated Press the stories of Saundra Toby-Heath and Alicia Heath-Toby, pitching Staceyann Chin for her appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and successfully advocating for Patti LaBelle to receive a GLAAD Media Award for her commitment to LGBT people.
Currently raising $10k via Indiegogo to cut the pilot episode of Truth. Be. Told., over 50 Queer Black Visionaries have agreed to be interviewed. On the list of names: Staceyann Chin, Noah’s Ark creator Patrik-Ian Polk, and filmmaker and trans* rights activist Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler. Given Parker’s extensive experience, the series is sure to dig deep. “When it comes to visibility for queer Black people,” she says, “we have only scratched the surface.”

From where did the idea for the series arise?

The series came to shape when I was working as a communications strategist at GLAAD. While there, my primary objective was creating visibility for queer Black people in mainstream media. 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, when it was easier to be a drug addict than it was to be me. 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.

Apart from other queer Black people, who would you like your series to reach and what affect do you hope to have on them?

I think the show is of particular benefit to the parents, siblings, friends, and other family members of Black queer people who have come out. Over the years, I’ve known a lot of intimate familiars who are allies and who feel isolated when their loved ones come out. They also feel under-informed and unequipped, i.e., healthy models for what it can look like to be queer, Black and out. The uncertainty of navigating through those spaces can be just as lonely and scary for the people who love us as it often is for us as we find our way into who we are and what we were sent to do.

You describe the “cultivation of personal identity and transformation as a mark of innovation.” What about queer Black identity is innovative?

The basic premise of Truth. Be. Told.: in order to become all of whom we were sent to be, as queer Black people, we have been pushed to question everything about our multiple layers of identity—race, gender, sexuality, class, vocation—and then reconcile who we know ourselves to be within the identities our families and the society-at-large have constructed for us. Some of us face familial rejection; some of us experience job loss, religious persecution, personal attacks and violence. By virtue of being queer, we do this work in spite of the risks, in order to live more fully.

Discussions of queer Black people are becoming increasingly present in the media. What about the current moment in American culture do you think has occasioned this?

Our desire to amplify our voices, our collective values, our contributions, and our culture through the use of social media (aka “DIY technology”) has made conversations about queer Black people more prevalent. There’s also this: we run shit. Part of queer identity is a commitment to practical intellectualism and social justice issues. We are often the issue experts at the forefront of any given social movement and sometimes multiple movements. Think James Baldwin. Think Bayard Rustin. Think Audre Lorde. Think Essex Hemphill, Gladys Bentley, Zora Neal Hurston, Pauli Murray, Little Richard, Sylvester, Marlon Riggs. What we contribute to our communities is becoming impossible to ignore.

For more on Truth. Be. Told. and to contribute to their fundraising, visit their Indiegogo page here.