Covid-19 has changed the way we live, work and socialize. The typical weekend date night out consisting of dinner and a movie night has been replaced with a subscription to a streaming service and a trip to the living room sofa. BLACK, GAY, stuck at home (BGSAH), according to its website, is an “effort to both gather folks together but to also center Black queer film.” BGSAH was created by Michael Ward and Joshua Henry Jenkins. Since April 2020 the project has screened close to three dozen films.
Briefly tell us a little bit yourself.
Michael Ward: I’m an actor based in Atlanta, GA. I host CNP’s Revolutionary Health, the show that focuses on Black gay men’s health and wellness. I’m half of BLACK, GAY, stuck at home (BGSAH).
Joshua Henry Jenkins: I’m an arts administrator and community builder living in Washington, DC by way of North Carolina.
How did the two of you meet? Are you a couple? If not, how would you describe your relationship?
MW: Josh and I have never met. We’ve been Internet friends for years. He’s an awesome designer so I would buy his LGBT inspired merchandise to show my support. So I’ve supported him from afar for years but the universe brought us together for this amazing project. Since then it’s been a lot of phone calls, emails, Facetimes to pull this off every two weeks during the pandemic. I couldn’t have asked for a better creative partner to work with on this. This year we’ll finally meet in person!
JJ: There’s this great R&B/electronic duo called The Foreign Exchange. They started making music together online from two different countries before ever having actually met. I kind of think of us as the Black, queer film version of The Foreign Exchange.
Whose idea was it to start Black Gay, Stuck at Home?
MW: Patrik-Ian Polk posted a clip from PUNKS, his debut film on his page. A friend of mine LaRue commented that he never saw the movie since it’s out of print. Luckily, I was able to get a copy a few years back so I suggested that we do a virtual movie night because of Covid. Josh saw the post, hit me up and we started putting together what we thought would be a one night only screening of PUNKS as BLACK, GAY, stuck at home. Patrik-Ian Polk was gracious enough to join us during the screening to drop gems in the chat and converse with Josh and I about his career and this life changing movie.
Describe the thinking process used when determining which films to show. Have you guys had any disagreements? If so, how were they resolved?
JJ: We book some things way ahead of time, especially when it comes to partnerships we’ve been lucky to have. However, we really don’t plan too far ahead when it comes to film selection. The reason being that this past year has seen so many different waves of events, emotions, frustrations. We’ve wanted to be able to curate nights that are closely aligned with the needs of the communities we serve. I remember us really waiting until the last minute to figure out what to show post-2020 election because we didn’t know what space we’d be in. We try to hold space and acknowledge what’s happening around us, especially amidst a pandemic, and make our choices from there. There are moments when more emotional films are appropriate and some instances when we just need to have a moment of joy. MIchael and I trust each other in those moments and go with our guts.
How are films screened? Via Facebook watch, etc.?
JJ: We started on Zoom and are still hanging out on Zoom. We gather folks around 9pm EST, play some music, welcome folks in, have some announcements and jump into the film. Some join from their phones, some from laptops, and some even find ways to broadcast from their TVs to join us. We choose Zoom because we like to see the faces of those in attendance, who feel comfortable being on camera. That makes it feel more intimate and allows for us to make real connections. It also creates a great experience for attendees when we’ve had notable actors/creatives join us (like Patrik Ian-Polk, Vanessa L. Williams, Darryl Stephens, etc.) because they can see each other. It’s not so performative.
What is your favorite film genre?
MW: Give me a great documentary- especially about music or musicians and I’m set. Growing up, I was obsessed with Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, VH1 Behind the Music, and MTV’s Making the Video. I made my sisters sick so many times changing the channel. Not to mention recording over my parent’s VHS tapes.
JJ: Admittedly, I love romantic comedies. I’m a bit of a sucker for a love story especially with some comedic elements. I think that’s why I always go back to PUNKS and Noah’s Arc, there are some really beautiful love stories at play set inside comedy.
What was the last good movie you saw?
MW: High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America on Netflix. The doc feels like a great companion piece this month with more people learning about the history of Juneteenth. This doc really digs into Black food as American food while showing how enslaved people retained their African roots.
JJ: I just recently watched Mirror, Mirror – a 1996 documentary on the life of Consuela Cosmetic, a Black trans woman and entertainer. It depicts the last eight months of her life and features a lot of elders and ancestors that we’ve come to know and love from ballroom. It’s stuck with me. I hope to track down a high enough quality version to be able to screen one day.
When is the next screening? How can I participate? Do I need to RSVP?
MW: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram @_BGSAH. RSVP at BGSAH.com
JJ: We screen every two weeks. We’re taking a small off week and then we’ll be back on July 16th.
Have you considered taking recommendations from your audience? Can a filmmaker submit their own film for screening?
JJ: We love recommendations. We take what we hear attendees want and try our best to accommodate given screening rights, etc. We also love to hear from filmmakers who are creating work that centers Black, queer experiences/stories.
What else do you want to share?
MW: We’re thankful to the BGSAH fam for showing up bi-weekly, sending suggestions, donations, and their own experiences with these movies with us. I love hearing the stories of people sharing their date nights, birthdays, even the not so happy moments with our community. I didn’t know I needed this space and community to stay afloat during this pandemic.
JJ: Get vaccinated! We love doing BGSAH for folks. We’ve unfortunately seen some of our own attendees/guests get sick and even pass away. This project was birthed out of community need to combat isolation and now as the world opens back up, we want our BGSAH family to be safe so we can plot what the next iteration of BGSAH looks like in this new world. We can’t wait to hug our attendees in person in one day and to celebrate getting through.