The L.I.F.E Center in Inglewood attracted a record number of its congregation to attend a Friday night screening of a documentary on sex. Well not exactly sex but at the end of the 65-minute documentary the audience was up on their feet, standing, applauding the project’s ferocity and portrayal of black gay men dealing with depression. You Are Not Alone interweaves a single narrative on a man’s path to destruction with piercing interviews of over 20 gay men, mental health professionals, and religious leaders as well as a mother whose son committed suicide after being bullied because of his sexuality. The mother’s story is the most difficult to watch because her pain is visceral and present. The stories are blunt, brutal, and dark, but important and necessary to be heard by young gay men of color.
“A Black gay man dealing with depression should know that his mental illness is treatable and he need not suffer in silence; he is not alone,” said Antoine Craigwell. The interviews were conducted by Craigwell and Stanley Bennett Clay wrote and directed the project.
Craigwell has screened the movie in New York City, New Jersey, Oakland, and Washington, D.C. to raise awareness surrounding homosexuality, stigma, and depression. Mental health is often neglected in the black community. Sufferers are often looked down upon for seeking treatment and those who seek treatment often don’t continue.
The documentary traces the life of Cedric, a young professional whose early expressions of his sexuality were stomped on by his father. His father beat him mercilessly in an effort to eradicate any perceived traces of homosexuality and to force him to conform to his expectations. In a world that has become homophobically rabid, Cedric’s father’s violence lends itself to a segment of society that condemns and ostracizes anyone who demonstrates a departure from what is considered the norm. This father typifies many parents, whose reactions to their sons, are born out of fear of homosexuality or how society will view their child. Cedric struggles to understand and accept himself, and is forced to live two lives: a hardworking businessman and a drug abuser, both collide and he doesn’t feel he has any reason to live.
You Are Not Alone started out as a book project. Craigwell interviewed a number of black gay men who experienced depression. The project changed shaped and Craigwell recorded some of the men who he had previously sat with. The film features Rob Smith, DJ Baker, Ty Martin, Jamaal Stone, Taylor Siluwe’, Rev. Kevin Taylor, and others.
“During many of the interviews, while the camera was over my shoulder, and as I was asking questions, I was also wiping tears from my eyes as I listened to the stories,” said Craigwell.
I had the pleasure of moderating the panel after the screening. The panel included: Antonie B. Craigwell, Stanley Bennett Clay (who wrote and directed the re-enactments), Lester Greene (who plays in the documentary), and Rev. Russell Thornhill of the L.I.F.E Center.
Check out the discussion below: