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Chicago filmmaker releases documentary about activist, writer Joseph Beam
by Kayleigh Padar
2022-08-09

This article shared 833 times since Tue Aug 9, 2022
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A Chicago filmmaker's desire to learn more about the quote "Black men loving Black men is a revolutionary act" led him to a community of writers and activists who helped tell the story of the man who wrote it: Joseph Beam.

Beam is best known for releasing the first anthology of stories from the perspectives of queer Black men in 1986—and it helped people to better understand their own experiences and connect with each other.

"The anthology revolutionized the way that stories were told and the things that we could talk about," said Joshua Miller, the 27-year-old filmmaker who released a short documentary about Beam in June. "It revolutionized how Black gay men identified and resonated with each other."

Miller's short film explored Beam's life through interviews with his friends and excerpts of his writing. He's currently working on expanding it into a longer piece that will delve deeper into who Beam is and where he was from.

"Joe's friends continually challenged me to think of this project as the beginning of something," Miller said. "I think it's the beginning of the rest of my life creating these films, but also I hope it inspires a new movement for bringing these lost stories back."

Miller decided to try his hand at uncovering Beam's story when he realized there wasn't much information about him online.

"I feel like it's my duty as a member of the LBGTQ+ community to tell these stories," Miller said. "For so long, I told myself that I'm not the right person to tell this story, something a college professor told me that's resonated ever since was, 'if you don't tell it, who will?'"

Miller learned more about Beam by interviewing his close friends and colleagues, who were "so open, giving and passionate about sharing his story and continuing his legacy," he said. Miller said the documentary "wouldn't have happened without" Guy Weston and John Cunningham, friends of Beam who connected Miller with others who knew him.

"Anytime I doubted or felt like I was at a dead end, they were all there to support me and push me forward," Miller said. "That's what Joe stood for. He stood for a community, and I want people who watch the documentary to understand community is what keeps his legacy alive."

As Miller got to know the people who made up Beam's community, he said they each "became like brothers" to him.

Learning about Beam gave Miller a better vocabulary for understanding his experiences as a Black queer man and "the tools to take control of the story and tell it," he said.

"Joe was all about telling stories, creating community, but he was also all about being an active part of the revolution and doing the work you want to see done," Miller said. "This project, and Joe himself, has taught me that I can do that too. I have the ability to create films about experiences people might be curious about. I have the ability to reach out to these people I don't know to ask for help and can create community as well."

Miller hopes his documentary inspires others to tell the stories of other forgotten historical figures so that people can draw strength from the fact "there have been revolutionaries in the past and there will continue to be revolutionaries," he said.

"I want people to begin to wonder about those whose stories have been lost with time, because I think if we're able to tell these stories, we're able to create visibility," Miller said. "When we're able to create visibility, that's the first step to changing people's hearts and minds."

To see Miller's documentary, visit: jxreative.wixsite.com/formybrother/home.


This article shared 833 times since Tue Aug 9, 2022
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