Our People, No Labels

u people

Photo courtesy of the U People Facebook Page

U People, released in 2009, is a documentary directed by Olive Demetrius and Hanifah Walidah. This riveting film features the testimony of everyday people expressing their unfiltered feelings about what it means to be Gay, straight or an ally within the African American community. These discussions were filmed unexpectedly on the set of Hanifah Walidah’s Make a Move music video. Shot in a Brooklyn brownstone over two days, the documentary involves over thirty people from all walks of life, including many members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. U People was well-received in the community and has been featured several times on MTV’s Logo channel. In 2010, it was nominated for the Outstanding Documentary media award at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City.

The film is described as a “LGBT Rockumentary” and begins with a disclaimer: “When you view this film do not make assumptions about anyone’s sexuality.” This reflects the film’s mission to promote and encourage the development of a space for empowered self-identification. U People is a one-of-kind display of magical individuality and everyday uniqueness. The “U People” experience is about self-expression and sexuality on one’s own terms; social norms and conventions are abandoned in favor of self-love and personal conviction.

U People disassembles the convenient boxes in which society places people and subverts the trite label “you people.” Perhaps, U People is ultimately successful because of the happenstance way the directors were able to capture heartfelt stories and candid, often comical, discussions amongst the participants. Director Olive Demetrius – also featured in the film – stated U People is “the first [film] of its kind to depict women of color across sexualities and gender expression.”

Organizations like FIERCE and the Audre Lorde Project support people of color who identify as LGBTQ by providing resources for community organizing, mobilization and education with an aim of working for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice.

by Katrese M. Hampton, Nonprofit Management degree candidate at the New School for Public Engagement

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