When We Rise is a four part mini-series documenting the journey of LGBTQIA+ activists Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, Ken Jones, and Cecilia Chung who were leaders in the civil right’s movement which later turned into the Gay right’s movement.
As someone who is a part of then LGBTQ+ community and is too young to have been alive during the time of many of these historical events I believe it’s very important to educate myself on Queer History and culture. We don’t learn these things in school and they definitely aren’t in our textbooks. Even the biggest events like the Stonewall Riots were never spoken of in any classroom I’ve been in. Our textbooks are white-washed and filled with the the accounts of straight white men, so it’s up to us as individuals to learn about the history that the rest of society actively tries to erase.
When We Rise covers Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the AIDS epidemic, police relations with the queers community, and marriage equality. While none of this was news to me, it was quite heart wrenching to see it played out. I think ABC did a good job showing just how brutal the world was to the LGBTQ+ community during the 1970’s. One critique I have of the series is it is mainly based in New York and San Francisco, which is where the movement took place so it makes sense, but this doesn’t show how much more danger people were in when living in different areas in America.
I thought one thing they did really well was covering the AIDS epidemic. It was incredibly informative and if you had never been told about the governments response ( well lack there of ) then this would be very eye opening. They showed the resilience of the community and how they banned together during this difficult time. We lost nearly an entire generation of queer men and a lot of people don’t realize that.
I would have liked to see LGBTQ+ people play these roles and I’m not sure why the casting directors chose not to cast queer people for the majority of the roles. I looked up pictures of many of the real people in this series to see if they chose actors who looked like them, but that really wasn’t the case. They were great actors and did a good job, but I think queer people should play queer roles in films and on TV.
Overall despite a few things I would change, this was an amazing series and couldn’t have come at a better time. It was raw and didn’t hold back or sugar coat any situation. When We Rise showed the revolution and resilience of the community like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I think everyone, gay or straight, should watch this mini-series and learn about this piece of history that we often don’t shed a light on. We are still living the “LGBT civil rights movement” with things like the bathroom bill in North Carolina being passed, revoking the protection of trans kids in public schools, and the laws in Texas that are being considered right now.
Did you watch When We Rise? What did you think?
Lots of Love,