Remembering Sakia

Chances are you haven't heard much about Sakia Gunn, a 15-year-old lesbian stabbed to death in 2003 in Newark, N.J. -- and it's filmmaker Charles Bennett Brack's mission to change that.



This film touches on so many large-scale problems:
problems within the gay community, problems outside the
gay community, racism, classicism, and media
matters. It seems like a lot to understand
comprehensively. How do you gain this kind of knowledge?
I come from an activist background, so
there’s always those discussions about the
"haves" and "have-nots." And also I'm ordained clergy.
So in terms of the choices I made professionally and my
political involvement, it always involves the
disenfranchised. And that covers so many people,
including LGBT women. It runs the gamut, so I'm not
intimidated in talking about anything.

Is the media's coverage of LGBT people of color
improving? Would you call it a crisis?
I wouldn't call it a crisis because it’s
been going on for so long. Someone once said to me
that you can only maintain crisis mentality for like,
eight weeks. This is something that’s been going on
for a long, long time.

But I mean, the
media is about selling a product. Yes, the news is there,
but it’s molded. It’s about, What’s
going to be hot and lusty for people to come after?
That’s electronic media. Our media literacy has
created this animal where we want something
that’s always going to be new, hot, and lusty.
You know, it’s the MTV age.

While this is your first independent feature,
you've worked with film before. How does this filmmaking
experience compare to your earlier work?
It took me a long time to do it. I'm not a fund-raiser.
At the Commission of Human Rights, we had a budget.
And at GMHC, we had a budget. Then I had my own
studio. After my predecessors left, it was just me,
and I did the best I could. I had a budget, though it was
dwindling, but I had a studio and my own equipment,
editorial decks, and that kind of stuff. This project
was like, "Make a little money, spend a little money.
Make a little money, spend a little money, and it just went
on and on." A lot of people donated. It was a
collective effort of people being very generous, and I
got a few grants, but I'm not a grant writer.

How did the film affect you personally?Sakia was like my angel. I was newly in recovery from
drugs and alcohol addiction, and this project gave me
a sense of purpose. This kind of fueled my motivation
to get back to doing what I love to do, which is
storytelling. I always talk about being HIV-positive and
being in recovery just because our communities, the
black and gay communities, have such a high rate of
substance abuse as well as HIV. It’s like, we do
have those things in common that we can use as a point of
departure somewhat. The struggles are different, but
there’s something we can come together on. And
that’s that we’re hated. That’s the
thing that upsets me about racism in the gay white
community and homophobia in the straight black
community. It’s like, both groups should know better.
It’s that simple. They should know better. I
don’t want to be called a nigger or a faggot.
They both hurt.

Tags: film