Recently, ABC presented a new TV mini-series ‘When We Rise’. No doubts, there wasn’t a better person to write this show, but Dustin Lance Black, who won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award in 2009 for “Milk”. He knew that there is so much more to tell bout the events of the gay rights movement in the 1970s.

The plot follows the lives of three real LGBT+ activists. One of them is Cleve Jones, portrayed by Austin P. McKenzie in youth and Guy Pearce as an adult. His story started when he was a gay teenager trying to survive on the streets of San Francisco. Now Jones is one of the biggest figures in the gay rights’ movement and AIDS activities. His personality is quite familiar for Dustin Lance Black because Jones was a close friend for Harvey Milk. Another character is Roma Guy, portrayed by Emily Skeggs in her youth, and Parker as an adult. She is a feminist activist, who is also exploring her sexuality while agitating for the rights of her friends who are lesbians. Guy and Jones meet each other and with their friends create an alliance against unlawful arrests of LGBT+ people. Unfortunately, this moment of unity was brought to an end by the police. There is also a third main character – Ken Jones, portrayed by Jonathan Majors and Michael Kenneth Williams. He is black Vietnam navy veteran who happens to be black Vietnam navy veteran who is both the most tragic figure in the story and the most alienated. He doesn’t quite belong to any community: his race cuts him off mainstream gay movement, his sexual orientation exclude him from black and veteran community.

We have to admit that the first hours of When We Rise are the most powerful. Somehow, the story of young activists, first victims of AIDS and kids embarrassed of their two moms give you a real shot at the history of the gay movement. Also, some not really familiar moments, like fighting against Prop 6 (a 1978 measure that would have prevented LGBTQ people and allies from working in schools in California) bring you to the reality of the 70s and you just can’t keep being indifferent. The first hours are also the darkest – the first wins of the gay community are darkened by the government policy and the rise of AIDS epidemic.

Creators attempted to show what was happening with the gay community from 1972 to 2013. Eight hours of TV broadcast isn’t that much to cover. However, it seems like the real creator’s purpose was not to document the events of past years, but to show how relevant they are to the present days. 

Taking into account the latest events in America, Black made the best decision to release this show on the family-orientated network like ABC, despite the fact that he got a proposition to write this story for some premium and cable network, using more time and money. The latest movies and shows covering important themes for the LGBT+ community were kind of shut down or limited in its release. Like Moonlight, which has been nominated for eight Oscars won an award for Best Film but still was released in only 1,104 theaters comparing to 3,236 theaters where you could see another Oscar nominee La La Land. Let’s hope that familiar actors portraying rough and still great moments of American history could change something on people’s hearts.

Maybe sometimes ‘When We Rise’ seems a little bit too academic, like a class to the history of gay rights’ movement, but is it a bad thing? Almost half of century has passed, but the story still seems relevant and remind us about the power of unity and community when it comes to fighting for what you believe. Some real story about real people really gets along well with the age of alternative facts, that we live in.

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