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Web series features gay men of color in Chicago
by M Shelly Conner
2016-05-11

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Patrick Battle intends to place Chicago gay men of color at the forefront with REVERb, his Web series that follows three gay men of color as they navigate dating and life in the Second City. The series aims to highlight issues that disproportionately affect Black gay men, such as HIV and PREP treatment, sex-related issues and drug use as they intersect with love, heartbreak and brotherhood.

REVERb follows in the footsteps of Patrick-Ian Polk's cult series Noah's Arc, which aired on LOGO from 2005-2006 and touches on similar themes. Yet, much has occurred in the ten years since Noah's Arc aired including: the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; the nearly completed term of the first Black president; and of course, the availability of PrEP, the HIV preventive treatment.

REVERb also has other distinctions: 1 ) Set in Chicago ( still one of the most racially segregated U.S. cities ), REVERb can pull from recent incidents of racial tension; and 2 ) the Web series can present more diverse Black narratives set outside of the traditional Hollywood gayverse.

"I feel like it's been a void since [Noah's Arc] ended, and I'm here to fill it," Battle stated about his series. "I will most definitely touch base on racism and discrimination issues in Chicago's LGBTQ community. I want the world to see into many of the social issues that tries to hinder our growth." REVERb—Battle's debut project—is an abbreviation of reverberate, meaning to echo. "I want our voice to be heard, to echo rather. I feel like sometimes society groups the gay community as one when in essence we are all different type of individuals."

Often shut out of mainstream outlets for not having a "universal appeal," marginalized voices are finding a home in Web-based platforms. OpenTV—a Web platform started by Northwestern Assistant Professor Aymar Jean Christian—works with queer, transwomen and ciswomen as well as people of color to create and distribute artistic content. "TV distributors—cable operators and networks—have not supported minority artists or their communities," Christian said. "We want to fill the void. By focusing on and empowering artists but developing work for diverse communities, OpenTV functions as an incubator alerting networks, curators, agents and other independent artists of talent they may be overlooking."

Most Web series are crowd-funded—and REVERb is no exception. It's currently at the beginning of an Indiegogo campaign goal of $12,000. The benefit of crowdfunding is that it allows creators and writers to maintain the authenticity of their work, which can be an issue. Although showrunners like Shonda Rhimes and newcomer Web series creator Issa Rae ( Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl ) are slowly proving that people of color and LGBTQ characters have considerable followings, there is still the misconception that minorities lack universal appeal. After a decade-long struggle, Don Cheadle could not secure major funding for the much anticipated Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead, until he added a white fictitious character played by Ewan McGregor. Cheadle stated, according to IndieWire.com, "Having a white actor in this film turned out to actually be a financial imperative."

"It's already hard enough being gay but to deal with discrimination and skin color is a double whammy. I want the world to see into many of the social issues that tries to hinder our growth." Battle stated. Securing funding from the very community that he seeks to represent, like those before him, allows his intended audience to be part of the process. Previous crowd-funding films and series like Justin Simien's Dear White People and Rae's Awkward Black Girl ( currently in production with HBO ) prove that there not only is an audience for queer/Black voices, but it is one with a large spending capacity as well.

Battle said he hopes that REVERb becomes a household name. "I want it to inspire someone," he said. "I want someone to say because of you I didn't give up. So just to be able to display my past experiences with the world and possibly reach many younger gays that don't necessary have anyone to look up‹ to would be great. Who knows, the decisions I made could possibly help someone else make a better decision."

REVERb's campaign is at https://igg.me/at/reverbforever/x/13869006.

M Shelly Conner is a Chicago-based writer, humorist and scholar. Her writing has appeared in AfterEllen.com, The Feminist Wire, xoJane, Black Girl Dangerous, Skin to Skin Magazine, and The Frisky. She is currently exploring publishing options for her debut novel "everyman "( excerpt in 2016 Obsidian Journal ).

Conner is executive director of Quare Square Collective, Inc., a 501( c )( 3 ) nonprofit for queer artists of color. Follow her blog about travel, culture and food through a queer womanist of color lens at dappervista.tumblr.com . Instagram Dapper Vista; Twitter @DapperVista


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