Now a film is being planned that wants to use the church as the backdrop to a tale of gay love and the Manhattan neighbourhood itself. My Harlem has launched an Indiegogo campaign in the hope of raising $50,000 to get it in the can.
Here’s the synopsis: ‘When Nathan and Langston meet one day under a Harlem church billboard, both are equally outraged by the message against “White Homo Demons.” But a conversation about the underlying issue of gentrification in Harlem quickly leads to a misunderstanding, salvaged only by their individual ideas about Harlem, and their mutual attraction.
‘As we follow Nathan and Langston on their first few dates, we see the difficult and often playful conversations that ensue. But, their journey becomes more difficult as two of their first dates are interrupted with the news of police shootings of unarmed Black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. As they watch the live feed of a woman’s desperate plea as her boyfriend lays dying, their different reactions to the politically-charged racial world ultimately divides them.
‘As the movement moves from conversation to protest in the streets, the discourse is guided by activists from the 1960s who implore that lessons learned in the Civil Rights Movement are applied to today, championing a spirit of song, love and non-violence. At the subsequent Black Lives Matter rally, Langston and Nathan finally see eye to eye on what’s needed to make their relationship a possibility, and how they can start to confront hate with love, beginning with the church billboard right in their neighborhood.’
Writer/Director, Jeff L. Lieberman comments: ‘As a Harlem-based filmmaker, I wanted to write a tribute to my neighborhood to showcase all the beautiful and historic aspects of this vibrant corner of New York City. I also wanted to pay tribute to the people who fill its brownstones, restaurants, parks and jazz clubs, and I wanted to address the thorny issue of gentrification and the complications that arise as the neighborhood continues to shift…
‘However, the majority of Harlem (Black or White, New or Old) seems to agree that the church sign on 123rd and Lenox has taken the issue of gentrification and turned it into Hate Speech. This particular church seems to take special enjoyment in targeting the LGBTIQ community, suggesting that “homos” be stoned, thrown off buildings, or exacerbating tired stereotypes of gay men as sexual deviants out to “steal” the neighborhood. But their hate doesn’t just apply to gays and lesbians…
‘I thought it would be fascinating to confront this sign and the underlying truth about gentrification with a story about two people forced into a conversation as they each stop and absorb the shocking message. What developed was the story of Nathan and Langston, two men, one Black, one White, both gay, with very different reactions to the sign. It’s a film where being gay is not the primary focus, but issues of race, gentrification and sexuality are all combined into one.’
While recently it looked like the The ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church was going to be evicted and the building possibly turned into a centre for homeless gay youth, Manning has managed to have that delayed. However, it will hopefully be a temporary reprieve, as the church still owes huge amounts of taxes.
If you’d like to help My Harlem get made, watch the promo video below and head over to Indiegogo.