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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Out in the Night: Doc looks at 2006 case of the New Jersey 4

This article shared 3470 times since Tue Apr 9, 2013
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Marriage equality has been coined the 'civil rights issue of our time'. This is an exciting moment for LGB folks throughout the United States and should be celebrated. But is the overwhelming attention on this issue leaving behind our most vulnerable in the LGBTQ community?

A new documentary, Out in the Night argues that queer youth of color are among our most vulnerable, and at much larger risk of harassment and abuse on the street as well as profiling and assault by law enforcement. Recent studies show that thousands of LGBTQ-identified New Yorkers become victims of violent crimes annually. Gay men and lesbians are over four times more likely to become victims of a crime than heterosexuals are. But when these crimes are reported to law enforcement, 13% of the time the LGBTQ individual identifying as the victim is arrested. In the West Village of New York City, a widely-known gay-friendly neighborhood and home of the Stonewall Rebellion, law enforcement make up 33% of the primary offenders in anti-LGBTQ incidents. This is a civil rights issue.

[Statistics from 2007: .]

Additionally, Victor Streib, a professor of law at Ohio Northern University, explains that these biases go beyond the arrest and into the courtroom. He states, "Prosecutors first must defeminize the defendant, trying to show that her crime is more 'manly.' An effective means of defeminizing a female [capital] defendant is to show the jury that she is a lesbian. The more 'manly' her sexuality, her dress and her demeanor, the more easily the jury may forget that she is a woman. In essence, she is defeminized by her sexual orientation and then dehumanized by her [crime]. The jury is left with a gender-neutral monster deserving of little or no human compassion." Furthermore, as the Los Angeles psychologist Robert R. Butterworth, PhD, points out: "If a woman sheds herself of her femininity, all sympathy evaporates." Some studies estimate that only a quarter of women who claim self-defense are acquitted of [murder] charges, even with evidence of severe, ongoing violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Supported by media that stigmatizes lesbians of color, prison incarceration is justified as society's primary tool of social control in response to problems that actually have been caused by inequality and gender discrimination in the first place.

In the mainstream media, we see similar discrimination and biases that have the effect of silencing the violence facing LGBTQ people of color on the street. In 2006, Cheryl Clarke, Director of the Office of Diverse Community Affairs and Lesbian-Gay Concerns at Rutgers University, conducted a study on the media coverage of the murders of Sakia Gunn compared with that of Matthew Shepard. In 2003, Sakia Gunn, a 15 year old African American, gender non-conforming lesbian was murdered on her back from the West Village of NYC to her home in Newark, NJ. A man called out to her, she said she was a lesbian, and he stabbed her to death. Matthew Sheppard was a young, white, gay male living in Wyoming in 1998. He was at a bar when two men convinced him to leave with them. They tortured him and beat him to death. This was a horrific crime and deservingly garnered much media attention. However, Clarke's study found that while two years after Matthew's death more than one thousand articles had been written about him nationwide, two years after Sakia's death only twenty-eight, mostly local, news articles written about her murder. This disparity directly speaks to media bias against LGBTQ youth of color. .

Out in the Night spotlights how youth of color, queer and gender non-conforming people, and women face harassment on the street, in the courtroom and by the media. We look closely at how these intersecting populations are made to feel unsafe in public space and show that when they defend themselves, they become criminals.

Out in the Night, a The Fire This Time, LLC production, follows the journey of four young African American lesbian identified and gender non-conforming women who went to a gay-friendly neighborhood in New York City for a night out in 2006. When these friends, Patreese, Renata, Terrain and Venice, were violently and sexually confronted by an older man on the street because of their gender and sexuality, they defended themselves. Strangers jumped in to support them and a fight ensued. Only the women were rounded up, and in turn charged and convicted as perpetrators of gang assault.

This documentary follows their journey to Rikers Island, to the courtroom, and through slanderous mainstream media coverage that labeled them a "Wolfpack" and "Lesbian Gang". While examining the fight from all sides through the security camera footage that captured it, that hot August night can be seen from many perspectives. The filmmakers want their audience to understand that this is a complex story: the women defended themselves forcefully. But their film's purpose is in scrutinizing the events after the fight: biased media coverage likening the women to "man-hating" animals, and unprecedentedly harsh sentencing by the court. They hope that as audiences draw their own conclusions, they discover how four young lesbian women were unfairly criminalized and egregiously sentenced for defending themselves.

This film is supported by the Sundance Documentary Institute, Abigail Disney, the Astraea Lesbian Justice Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts and several other film foundations and individual donors.

Out in the Night launched a Kickstarter campaign this week to support post-production. The film aims for a completion date of December 2013. On April 2nd, the Out in the Night producing team launched a new, never before seen, Out in the Night trailer. Director/Producer, blair doroshwalther began this film project in 2008 when she read a headline in the New York Times that said "Man is stabbed after admiring a stranger". Later, seasoned Producers Yoruba Richen and Giovanna Chesler joined the team. The Director of Photography, Daniel Patterson, has been part of the crew nearly since the beginning. He and blair created an intimate and warm look to Out in the Night that merges his significant experience shooting fiction features with documentary storytelling.

More about the case: On a hot August night in 2006, a group of young African American lesbian women and gender non-conforming friends from Newark, New Jersey defended themselves against a male attacker in the gay friendly West Village of New York City. He verbally confronted one of the women, Patreese Johnson, a petite 4'11'', 95lbs. When she told him that she was a lesbian, he spit at her and threw a lit cigarette. He told her and her friends "I'll f*&k you straight. I'll f*&k you all straight." A fight began between the women and this man and they fought back. Several male strangers on the street jumped to defend the women. Four minutes later, everyone walked away from the fight, but the man involved was punctured with a 1.5 cm knife wound. The women were arrested and became labeled in the media as a "Gang of Killer Lesbians". The New York Times reported, "Man is stabbed after admiring a stranger". Three of the women involved pled guilty, but four — Patreese Johnson, Renata Hill, Terrain Dandridge, and Venice Brown - pled not-guilty to the charges of attempted murder, gang assault and assault in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd. An activist movement began in support of the women. They became known as the New Jersey 7, and then the New Jersey 4. They were tried and convicted of these charges and sentenced to 3 to 11 years in maximum-security prisons. Patreese Johnson remains incarcerated today and expects to be released in late 2013. The male involved in this case has tried the women in civil suits, for $5 million each, for what he calls a "straight hate crime."

Kickstarter: .

Facebook .

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Twitter handle: @outinthenight .

About the Director:

blair doroshwalther, who identifies as gender non-conforming and uses male and female pronouns, is a social documentary filmmaker with a passion for inspiring action for social justice through media. blair has directed two award-winning documentary shorts including METSI http:/ / on water privatization in a South African township and its disproportionate effects on women (awarded New York University's Adam Balsano Award for Social Significance, Best in Show: Short Documentary - Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, nominee 2004 Director's Guild of America's East Coast Female Student Award) and CRY DON'T CRY on bereavement experienced through the eyes of a diverse group of teenagers (distributed by Aquarius Videos, winner National Health Information Awards' Silver Award). blair was honored to be selected for the Sundance Producer's Summit this August with Out in the Night. blair was also chosen as a presenting filmmaker at the Ford Foundation/Chicken and Egg Women's Xchange event, the Pride of the Ocean Cine-Slam 2011, and was selected as an IFP Forum Project Participant in 2010. blair earned a BFA, Cum Laude, in Film and Television from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

blair became interested in this story and the women in 2006 when she read that fateful headline in The New York Times "Man is Stabbed after Admiring a Stranger". blair was compelled to explore why these women could not be seen as victims because of their race and how a man who makes sexual threats could be called an admirer in the mainstream press.

This article shared 3470 times since Tue Apr 9, 2013
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