Help Fund a Documentary on the New Jersey Four

A still from the movie Out in the Night, which features two young black  women standing on a street corner. The name of the film is written in white

On August 16, 2006, a group of young, gay black women were hanging out in New York City's West Village when a man approached and started harassing them. The man, Dwayne Buckle, followed the women, saying things like "I'll fuck you straight." They tried to ignore him and walk away, but he pursued, grabbing at his crotch and continuing to hurl insults. Finally they confronted him and a fight broke out. One of the women had hair pulled out, another was choked by Buckle on the ground. Two passerbys came over to stop Buckle, who ended up being stabbed and spent five days in the hospital.

Buckle was never charged. The women were. Three made plea bargins agreements, and four others—Venice Brown, Patreese Johnson, Renata Hill, and Terrain Dandridge—were sentenced to prison terms, and became known as "The New Jersey 4." You wouldn't have known that watching the news though. Instead, they were called a "lesbian wolf pack," a "gang of maurauding lesbians," and "killer lesbains." As activist Xan West told Bitch magazine in 2008, the media coverage and sentencing "Had nothing to do with anything that they did that night—it has everything to do with just who they are." 

Filmmaker blair doroshwalther was reading such an account in the New York Times: The headline read, "Man Is Stabbed After Admiring a Stranger." Inspired to tell a different story, Out in the Night (originally The Fire This Time) was born. The film is almost complete, and there's a Kickstarter to take the final steps for its release—the goal is in sight but there's only a week left.

Here's what doroshwalther said about making the film: 

This is not an easy story to tell. The women defended themselves, forcefully. But by showing the events of that August night, you will make up your minds about what happened. For four years, our team has filmed important pieces of this story carefully and intimately that will allow you to understand how race, class, gender and sexuality came to bare upon this case. While we unpack the fight itself, we are most interested in revealing what happened after – including the trial that reveals the court's skepticism around self-defense, and the mainstream media's biased coverage. Out in the Night is a film designed to unpack complex issues, including the racialization of gang assault charges and who is seen as a victim and who is not based on race, gender and perceived gender-identity. It is a story about four young women and their families, but it is also a tool for action and change.


You can read more about the film on the Kickstarter (is that Angela Davis I spot?) or its Facebook page. The movie is five years in the making and is due to release this winter. Wrapped up in this story are issues of race, sexuality, privilege, the prison inudstrial complex, bias, media bias, queer youth, public spaces, so-called "safe" spaces, and more. But there is only a week left to help the cause—so check it out today!

Read more:

Out in the Night Kickstarter

FIERCE NYC page on New Jersey 4

Free the New Jersey 4

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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