We are not a menace, and we will not be silent any longer.
– Roma Guy, “When We Rise”
This past week, ABC aired a docudrama called “When We Rise” about the LGBT rights movement. It starts with the Stonewall Riots and continues through the overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Whatever your political leanings, I would highly recommend the four-part series to anyone interested in the history of the gay rights movement, although it does contain some adult content. The drama is interspersed with actual footage from the time these struggles were taking place and was co-written with three activists (who are also portrayed as the main characters) at the center of it all.
The series is a moving depiction of the fight for equal rights for all Americans. While it focuses on gay, lesbian, and transgender issues, it also brings in the mistreatment of women, black people, and those who are impoverished. From the AIDS epidemic to police beating women at a peaceful protest to a black man being refused service at a bar, its true story is compelling and heartbreaking. There is nothing more essentially human than love and loss, and this series is full of both.
Throughout the movement we see disadvantaged groups slowly learning how to join hands and fight for their rights together rather than competing with each other. This is one of the most central messages of the series – that none of us can be truly free until all of us are. It is all “one struggle; one fight.” It is pointless to advocate for ourselves while leaving others behind.
Because the series covers a span of about forty years, it feels a bit disjointed at times. The change to older actors between the second and third episodes is especially odd. But that does not negate the importance of the message. If you do not have time to watch the entire series, just watch the first episode or two. And no matter who you are or what background you come from, I hope you will be able to relate to the essentially human struggle in this series.