Last night, a crowd gathered at the Ace Hotel in New York for the premiere of the new Logo documentary Out in the Night.
Back in 2006, a group of black lesbians from Newark were visiting Greenwich Village when they were confronted and pursued by 28-year-old Dwayne Buckle, who threatened to “f*ck them straight.”
After a fight ensued and one of the women defended herself with a knife, stabbing Buckle, all seven were arrested and charged with gang assault and attempted murder.
Related: Logo Premieres “Out In The Night” Documentary About “New Jersey Four,” Jailed After Defending Themselves
Three of the women pled guilty and received lesser sentences, but Patreese Johnson, Renata Hill, Venice Brown, and Terrain Dandridge—Dubbed the New Jersey Four—pled not guilty. Instead of being vindicated in court, though, they wound up getting lengthy prison sentences for what should have been minor infractions.
Out in the Dark tells their stories, which reflect the powerful systemic issues facing minorities in America: an ineffective criminal justice system; persistent sexism, racism, and homophobia; and a culture that continually reaffirms male dominance.
Time and time again, the New Jersey Four’s claims of innocence and self-defense were rebuffed by media outlets—who referred to them as “Killer Lesbians,” and to their attacker as an “admirer.”
At a post-screening talkback, director Blair Dorosh-Walther discussed her involvement with the New Jersey Four.
“I got involved with the case within the days following the assault,” she noted. When she saw a New York Times headline reading “Man Stabbed After Admiring a Stranger” appeared—written by two female journalists, no less—she knew action had to be taken.
Johnson, who stabbed their attacker and served the most time of any of the four women, said she hopes the documentary can help other women still wrongfully incarcerated.
“Nobody’s there to tell their story,” said Johnson. “I realized [while in prison] that half of those women who weren’t going home deserved a second chance. I hope our story gets out there and helps create a safer space for youth, youth of color, LGBT kids and women.”
Asked how their experience has changed them, Brown said that she was “humbled”—”I don’t want to go back to jail. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”
All four have been touring the country with the movie, telling their stories in the hopes that the poor hand they were dealt can teach others a lesson. They are, individually and as a whole, symbols of resilience and strength in the face of a culture unwilling to treat them as equals.
Brava to the New Jersey Four, and to Out in the Night for so eloquently telling their difficult story.
You can watch Out in the Night in its entirety on LogoTV.com