The Student Programing Board set the stage for students to hear from Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter of the academy award winning film “Milk,” on Monday, Oct. 14 in Burt Kahn Court.
At just 39 years old, Black is an American screenwriter, director, film and television producer and LGBT rights activist. His passion for equality among homosexuals is what he says led to his success with the film “Milk.”
The film tells the story of California’s first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk. It depicts the struggles he faced as he fought for gay rights from his fortieth birthday to his death.The film was released in January of 2009, and within the year won an Oscar for best writing and original screenplay and AFI movie of the year.
“We were all pleasantly surprised that anyone even showed up to see it and then when it got the attention that it did I think it was beyond all of our wildest imaginations,” Black said.
Black, a homosexual himself, spoke to students of the troubles he faced growing up in a Mormon church listening to his priest say “Homosexuality is sin; next to crime and murder comes a sin of sexual interior.” At just 6 years old Black felt he was at the bottom with the murderers and he would bring great shame to his family. He had a crush on his brother’s friend, and there was nothing he could do about it.
When Black was older, he moved with his family to California where he later attended UCLA and found a place where he fit in very well in the drama and theatre department. Through these friends he found a place where he was happier than ever: west Hollywood.
“I was not brave enough to come out to my family and the people that I was close to, but I was brave enough to come out to the people down in West Hollywood,” Black said.
Black recalled the Christmas when his mom realized her middle son was gay. Black tried not to speak much that Christmas, but his mother finally figured out he was gay when she went up to his room that night to talk.
With worry and disappointment in her eyes, Black’s mother was hard on herself for not being able to change it. There did come a time, however, she accepted him for who he is, Black explained.
Black’s mother had come to California for his college graduation, where she spent the day around his gay and lesbian friends and heard them tell their stories and saw what great people they were. Finally, Black says his mother hugged him tight that night and loved him for who he was.
“I was filled with so much hope and liberation because for the first time my mom loved me for exactly who I was,” Black said, as tears rushed to the faces of Quinnipiac students.
Black captured the hearts of many students with the passion behind his words and story.
“Everything he said was really moving and I almost cried a few times,” junior Megan Lang said as she looked back on Black’s presentation.
Others were motivated to push for what they believed in after hearing him speak. He closed speech asking students to think about their own lives. “What will you do,” Black asked “and what will you give to create one America with liberty and freedom for all?”
“It makes me feel like you can do something that you believe in,” freshman Sarah Wakefield said. “I like how he told us to share our personal stories.”
The event itself was a big success, according to SPB’s head of Culture and Diversity Matt Francia.
“This morning it felt like Christmas morning; I woke up and said today is the day,” Francia said. “The turnout was incredible and as long as people got something out of it and could walk away and said that they learned something or were touched by this, that is the important part.”
Black was happy he could share his message.
“It is not just valuable, it’s powerful,” he said. “And by telling my story I try to lead by example. You can create great positive change that express how you would like to see the world be different.”