Yoruba Richen’s Trailblazing Docs for Black & Queer Communities

During Pride Month, we are taking the opportunity to celebrate some of the many incredible queer artists that we know and love. Today, our SWAN of the Day is the filmmaker and civil rights activist Yoruba Richen!

Yoruba Richen is a director, screenwriter, and producer best known for her critically-acclaimed documentary The New Black (2013). After graduating from Brown University, Yoruba worked as an assistant producer for the investigative unit of ABC News, and as a producer for Democracy Now! It’s clear that, from the start, Yoruba has had her finger on the pulse of the most important topics in news and politics.

The New Black explores the intersection of race, religion, and queerness by examining the viewpoints of Maryland’s Black community on the 2012 campaign for marriage equality. Following local activists who are both for and against the movement as they campaign throughout the community, the film offered a fresh and progressively intersectional (especially in 2014) perspective. 

Yoruba interviews Obed Moja, 103 years old. The man was recently given land by Roger Roman, a white farmer.

Yoruba also delivered a Ted Talk in 2014, entitled “What the Gay Rights Movement Learned from the Civil Rights Movement,” in which she unpacked this intersection further as a member of both the queer and Black communities herself. 

Arguing that the Gay Rights Movement found its success through lessons learned from the Civil Rights Movement, Yoruba ultimately concludes that the two communities are inseparably linked and must support each other. As she puts it, “As [the gay rights and civil rights] movements continue on, and as freedom struggles around the world continue on, let’s remember that they are not only interconnected, but they must support and enhance each other for us to be truly victorious.” Though these types of ideas may seem more commonplace nowadays, there was very little talk of intersectionality in 2014, especially between Black and gay communities. It is also still an idea worth thinking about more deeply. 

Yoruba’s next most well-known film was Promised Land (2009), which explores the lingering issue of land ownership following the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994. The film follows two Black communities struggling to reclaim their land from white owners, some of whom have been living there for years. 

Yoruba has worked tirelessly over the years to educate the public about issues that are close to her heart as a queer, Black woman. Her work towards more inclusive social activism, especially when it comes to gay rights, must be acknowledged this Pride Month. Happy pride, Yoruba, and thank you!

© Julia Lasker (6/29/2023) FF2 Media


Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of The New Black here.

Listen to Yoruba’s Ted Talk here.


Featured photo: The New Black (2013). Courtesy of Independent Television Service, Inc.

Second photo: Promised Land (2009). Courtesy of American Documentary, Inc.

Bottom photo: Yoruba Richen. Courtesy of Independent Television Service, Inc.

Tags: Black female filmmaker, civil rights, filmmaker, gay rights, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Promised Land, queer filmmaker, Ted Talk, the new black, Yoruba Richen

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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