Homo Harlem Film Retrospective

By Guest Contributor Monica, originally published at TransGriot

Racialicious Note: This post from TransGriot is from mid-June, so this festival has passed. But we thought this great list of African American LGBTQ films was worth posting anyway.

TransGriot Note: Received this interesting e-mail from the Maysles Institute in NYC about a TBLG film retrospective slated to kick off on Juneteenth (June 19) at the Maysles Cinema.


With arguments often eerily reminiscent of old rationales for black oppression, gays and lesbians remain openly, legally and even, ‘righteously’, discriminated against.

For LGBT people of all races, knowing ourselves, making our extraordinary history known to others, much as with blacks, becomes a key component to liberation. If LGBT heritage remains often obscured and belittled, achievements of African American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, are less well known still.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the film festival, Homo-Harlem: A Film Retrospective, Friday, June 19th-Saturday, June 27th, cosponsored by the Maysles Cinema at 343 Malcolm X Boulevard with Men of All Colors Together, seeks to help to remedy this lack of recognition.

Through a series of coordinated screenings, critical discussions and walking tours, Homo-Harlem for the first time officially brings Stonewall observations uptown to focus on and honor, figures as diverse as poets Audre Lorde and Langston Hughes, social justice activist Bayard Rustin, composer Billy Strayhorn, photographer Marvin Smith and living legend Storme DeLarverie, whose courageous stand at the Stonewall Bar, 40 years ago, literally helped set in motion the entire Gay Pride Movement.

We LGBT people have always been busy making Harlem better, as one resident reported in 1928, “Never no wells of loneliness in Harlem…” Space is limited for this exhilarating experience, so be sure to make a reservation in advance and get ready to be enlightened, to be amazed and to party hard!

Homo-Harlem Curator and Author Michael Henry Adams

Please direct all press and requests for reservations to cinema@mayslesinstitute.org

Homo Harlem: A Film Retrospective

$10 Suggested Donation For All Screenings

Friday, June 19th

Opening Night at the Museum of the City of New York
(1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd St, Enter at 104th St)

6:00pm Cocktail Reception

7:00pm Discussion: Kirk Shannon-Butts, Michael Henry Adams

7:30pm Screening
Blueprint (Short Preview)
Kirk Shannon-Butts, 2008
Harlem shot and set, Blueprint is the story of Keith and Nathan – two New York City college freshmen trying to make a connection.

Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life
Robert Levi,1999, 83 min.
Today, historians and scholars agree that Billy Strayhorn remains one of the most under-recognized American composers in history. Born in 1915, Strayhorn chose to live openly as a gay black man. It was perhaps this decision-and his lifelong devotion to Duke Ellington-which contributed to his near anonymity as a major American composer. While Ellington is arguably the most influential and celebrated jazz composer of the 20th century, Strayhorn is unrecognized. Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life poses answers to the question of who was Billy Strayhorn, and why is he still relatively unknown?

(Maysles Cinema, 343 Lenox Ave. between 127th & 128th Street, June 20th-27th)

Saturday, June 20th
The Edge of Each Other’s Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde
Jennifer Abod, 2002, 59 min.
This powerful documentary is a moving tribute to legendary black lesbian feminist poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992). One of the most celebrated icons of feminism’s second wave, Lorde inspired several generations of activists with her riveting poetry, serving as a catalyst for change and uniting the communities of which she was a part: black arts and black liberation, women’s liberation and lesbian and gay liberation.

Litany For Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde
Ada Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, 1995, 60 min.
From Lorde’s childhood roots in Harlem to her battle with breast cancer, this moving film explores a life and a body of work and makes connections between the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and the struggle for lesbian and gay rights.

Greetings from Africa
Cheryl Dunye, 1994, 8 min.
In this highly entertaining short, Cheryl Dunye uses her dry wit to ruminate on lesbian dating ’90s style. Cheryl (playing herself) is searching for someone to date. Unfortunately, most of her friends are still stuck in those long-term “relationships from the ’80s”. Just when she thinks all is lost, she meets L, a beautiful, mysterious and captivating woman. Cheryl gets caught up in the chase and L leads her in and out of hot water.

Sunday, June 21
Prepare for Saints: The Making of a Modern Opera
Steven Watson, 1999, 27 mins
A chronicle of the making of the Modernist 1934 Virgil Thomson/Gertrude Stein opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, (which included an all-black cast from Harlem church choirs and nightclubs.)
Q&A with Director Steve Watson

Portrait of Jason

Shirley Clarke, 1967, 105 min.
Interview with Jason Holliday aka Aaron Payne, house boy, would be cabaret performer, and self proclaimed hustler giving one man’s gin-soaked pill-popped, view of what it was like to be black and gay in 1960’s America.

Monday, June 22

Storme: Lady of the Jewel Box
Dir. Michelle Parkerson, 1987. 21 min.
“It ain’t easy…being green” is the favorite expression of Storme DeLarverie, a woman whose life flouted prescriptions of gender and race. During the 1950’s and 60’s she toured the black theatre circuit as a mistress of ceremonies and the sole male impersonator of the legendary Jewel Box Revue, America’s first integrated female impersonation show and forerunner of La Cage aux Folles. Storme herself emerges as a remarkable woman, who came up during hard times but always “kept a touch of class.” Storme was also a witness to the Stonewall Rebellion 40 years ago and is a founding member of the Stonewall Veterans Association.

How Do I Look
Wolfgang Busch, 2007, 48 min.
How Do I Look captures the Harlem “Ball” traditions that originated in the 70s, which was historically an off shot from the Harlem “Drag” Balls from the 20s. Because of the loss of hundreds of members and leaders of the “Ball” community due to the HIV epidemic, this film recorded an important aspect of history while it was still available.

Panel TBA

Tuesday, June 23

Brother to Brother
Rodney Evans, 2004, 87 min.
Winner of numerous awards including the 2004 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize and the Gordon Parks Screenwriting Award, Brother to Brother follows the emotional and psychological journey of a young black gay artist as he discovers the hidden legacies of the gay and lesbian subcultures within the Harlem Renaissance.
(with a short clip of an interview with Bruce Nugent on Gay life in the 20s.)

Q&A with Tom Wirth, Literary Executor for Bruce Nugent

Wednesday, June 24
Brother Outsider, The Life of Bayard Rustin
Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer, 2002, 83 min.
This meditation on the parallels between racism and homophobia illuminates the life and work of Bayard Rustin, a visionary activist and strategist who has been called the “unknown hero” of the civil rights movement. Daring to live as an openly gay man during the fiercely homophobic 1940s, 50s and 60s, Brother Outsider reveals the price that Rustin paid for his openness, chronicling both the triumphs and setback of his remarkable 60-year career.

Dir. Bennett Singer
Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner until his passing in 1987 at 75
Ernest Green, The Little Rock Nine
Adam Green, Historian, Author of “Selling the Race: Culture, Community, and Black Chicago, 1940-1955”
Moderator: Michael Henry Adams

Thursday, June 25
Walking Tour*

Paris is Burning
Jennie Livingston, 1990, 78 min.
Many consider Paris Is Burning to be an invaluable document of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, as well as a thoughtful exploration of race, class, and gender in America.

Dinner & Afterparty at Billie’s Black*

*Complete package (walking tour, screening and after party) cost is $50.00
Contact- homoharlemtour@aol.com
60 person limit on tickets so get them while you can!
Tickets for the screening only can be purchased at the Maysles Cinema the night of.

Friday, June 26
Walking Tour*

Looking for Langston
Isaac Julien, 1988, 45 min.
A black and white, fantasy-like recreation of high-society gay men during the Harlem Renaissance, with archival footage and photographs intercut with a story. The text is rarely explicit, but the freedom of gay Black men in the 1920s in Harlem is suggested and celebrated visually.

James Baldwin: Witness
Angie Corcetti, 2003, 60 min.
A minister’s son from Harlem, James Baldwin moved to Greenwich Village and began writing essays for left-wing journals. With the success of his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and dozens of non-fiction works, Baldwin became an international voice on American Black life in the 1950s and 60s. A look at this Black American Gay icon’s life.

Dinner at Miss Maude’s Spoonbread Too*

*Complete package (walking tour, screening and dinner) cost is $50.00
Contact- homoharlemtour@aol.com

Saturday, June 27
11:30am Brunch at Chez Lucien*

Walking Tour*

M&M SMITH: For Posterity’s Sake
Heather Lyons, 1996, 57 min
Morgan and Marvin Smith, twin brothers and prolific African American artists, boldly moved from Kentucky to New York in 1933 to pursue artistic careers. By 1937 they had opened a photo studio next door to Harlem’s renowned Apollo Theatre. Thus began 50-year-long careers as still and motion picture photographers, painters and sound recordists. This story is richly visualized through the Smiths’ photos, films and paintings and poignantly told by Morgan and Marvin Smith and friends such as Eartha Kitt.

Clip of Short Conversation with Marvin Smith
40 min.

*Complete package (walking tour, screening and brunch) cost is $45.00
Contact: homoharlemtour@aol.com

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