Elena Gross is exhibitions associate at the Museum of the African Diaspora and an independent writer and culture critic living in Oakland.
Vivian Kleiman is a Peabody Award–winning documentary filmmaker and producer. She cofounded Signifyin’ Works with Marlon Riggs and worked on many of his videos.
Alan Miller, Essex Hemphill, Blackberri, Brian Freeman,
Tongues Untied is about the silence that envelops the lives of black gay men. This exhilarating work is a loquacious attempt to break free of the homophobia and racism that mute the possibilities for human fulfillment. Marlon Riggs creates a poetic pastiche that has the emotional uplift of gospel music and the sobering impact of reportage. The words of gay poets, personal testimony, rap tableaux, dramatic sequences, and archival footage are woven together with a seductive palette of video effects. Riggs dared to speak the words that would conjure a life into being: “Black men loving black men is the revolutionary act.”
Marlon Riggs, United States, 1991
Diola Bernard Branner
Riggs unabashedly calls for the “self-evident right” to live life unimpeded. Sensual images of African American men are lyrically politicized as an assertive provocation to the anti-gay backlash.