Brooklyn-based filmmaker Michael Rice was among those those on hand to discuss the prevalence and circumstances of crystal methamphetamine use among LGBT persons of color on Nov. 16.
The discussion came about following a discussion of Rice's documentary parTy boi: Black Diamonds in Ice Castles as part of the Black Alphabet Film Festival ( BAFF ), which kicked off that evening with screenings at Malcom X College. The filmmaker was joined onstage by Chicago-area advocates.
Rice interviewed meth users, their family members and advocates in both New York City and Los Angeles to trace both how the drug came to be regularly used by LGBT people of color and how and why various individuals used it. The film explores in detail how stressors from systems of racism and classism, among others, often had a hand in decisions about meth use. Rice filmed several of his subjects smoking the drug as they explain their processes for taking it.
In the Nov. 16 discussion, Rice said he was inspired to make the documentary after a friend died from an overdose at a party. That person's family was so distraught that they had no funeral.
"Just like that, all my memories I had of my friend were gone," he added.
Further inspired by a quote by Nina Simone"It is an artist's duty to speak of the times"Rice decided to look at the issue closely on film. Rice said, "I knew something was changing in the Black and Latino communities."
He noted that the film was intended as a safe-space for dialogue around the issue as well. Participants praised him for not casting judgement or shame in parTyboi.
"I'm always worried that there's not enough humanity in the stories that are told about us," said Erik Glenn, executive director of Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus.
D'Ontace Keyes of AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Kareem Strong of Chicago Center of HIV Elimination joined Rice and Glenn for the discussion, which was moderated by Maya Green, MD, of Howard Brown Health.
Among those films BAFF also presented Nov. 16 were the short Congo Cabaret; Saturday Church, a full-length musical drama; and the web series pilot After Party.