Documentary Features Asbury Park Resident, a Foot Soldier in the Civil Rights Movement

 

Rev. Gil  Caldwell (left) of Asbury Park is pictured with Martin Luther King Jr. at a civil rights event.

Rev. Gil Caldwell (left) of Asbury Park is pictured with Martin Luther King Jr. at a civil rights event.

By DON STINE

Asbury Park’s Rev. Gil Caldwell was not only a foot soldier and friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.in the American civil rights movement, but he is also an advocate for defending the rights of gay Americans as well.

A special documentary, prepared in collaboration with bisexual and transgender rights activist Marilyn Bennet, focusing on Caldwell’s fight and advocacy for these two important social issues will premiere in Ocean Grove Sat., April 2.

“From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet?” is Caldwell’s first venture into documentaries about these issues.

“I am also an advocate for gay rights and I thought, sometime ago, about the interesting pulls that come to an intersection on sexualism, racism and religion. My hope is that film viewers see we are living in such a polarized time, regardless of our differences on any issues, and we must respect each other as we work through these differences. The joys and struggles of any of us ought to be the joys and struggles of all of us,” he said.

“We are a family as a community,” he said.

The documentary will be shown at a premier viewing during the first-ever QFest New Jersey LGBT Film and Digital Media Festival at the Jersey Shore Arts Center, in Ocean Grove on April 2 at 4 p.m. There is a $10 fee to see the documentary, to be shown in the Arts Center’s large auditorium, and a $25 fee for a full-day access pass to all events.

The festival, from Friday, April 1 through Sunday, April 3, is the only annual LGBT film and digital media festival in New Jersey. For more information go to www.qspot.org.

Caldwell, who has lived in Asbury Park for eight years, said he has been working on the documentary for three years

The “From Selma to Stonewall” documentary jumps off from the Civil Rights Movement in Selma and the Gay Rights Movement that started at Stonewall, and lands right in the crossroads of today’s most explosive issues, including racial injustice and police brutality.

“The revolution is at the intersection, our hope in our shared pain, and power in together fighting for equal justice for all,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell, who is an 82-year-old retired Methodist minister, said he wanted to make a documentary that made people explore more than sex orientation, race or religion.

The film is an exploration of the similarities, differences, and conflicts between the civil rights and the gay rights movements. To Caldwell’s disappointment, not everyone who stood alongside him during the heyday of the civil rights struggle supported his advocacy of gay rights.

He said he believes that no one deserves to be excluded in the drive for social justice.

Caldwell, a friend of Dr. King’s, is a self-described foot soldier in the civil rights movement: he marched on Washington; called for voting rights in the heat of the Mississippi summer; and walked from Selma to Montgomery in an historic civil rights march.

He later broadened his demand for equality, advocating for gay rights. In 2000, he was arrested twice for protesting the United Methodist Church’s policy that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Go to www.truthinprogress.com see the first 3.5 minutes of “From Selma to Stonewall” and contribute to its funding.

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