“If we’ve learned anything this week it’s that we have a lot of work to do together against racism, sexism and xenophobia,” Rebecca Kislak, the president of Rhode Island’s chapter of the National Organization of Women (RINOW), said to a crowd of fifty as she introduced a movie screening last week of Out in the Night at Everett: Company, Stage and Screen.
The movie , directed by Blair Dorosh-Walther, tells the story of seven African American lesbians from Newark who defend themselves from a male assailant in Greenwich Village. The women are charged with gang assault, assault and attempted murder. Media headlines such as “Gang of Killer Lesbians” demonize them. With unblinking clarity and tenderness, the movie tells the stories of four of these women and their families and shows how the media, society and the criminal justice system treated them unjustly in ways incredibly destructive to their lives.
RINOW Board members Dre Davis and Amanda Clarke moderated the subsequent discussion. Mr. Davis pointed out that at the time of the movie, there were “no repercussions to the media for getting things wrong.” He spoke about the challenge in coming up with common narratives in current times with so many media and social media outlets, and with people able to choose which media to consume.
Commented Helen McDonald, of Sojourner House, “At the heart of the movie is a glimpse of a society that normalizes violence against women. We see it in the way the media portrays the women as animalistic and as a threat because they were Black, and queer, and women.”
Ms. Clarke noted that with the Trump campaign and imminent presidency, such normalization is “incredibly overt” and people may be “emboldened by a president who says this is okay.”
Said Ms. Clarke in closing: “We can’t just do what we’ve been doing—we have to do more. Stay engaged with us.”