In 2013, Nigeria enacted the anti-LGBTQ law — the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) — and in the years since, it has been used to harass, imprison, extort, and commit violence against anyone seen as not conforming to Nigerian societal and cultural norms. The Legend of the Underground – premiering Tuesday, June 29th on HBO Max – is a look at the struggle against rampant discrimination in Nigeria today, as seen through the lens of several bold and charismatic, non-conformist youth who fight to live out loud.
The documentary follows two tight-knit groups of chosen families: In New York, a man named Micheal Ighodaro lives with his friends who are part of the Nigerian diaspora and works to advocate for the people and communities he left behind in Nigeria after having been attacked for his identity. Meanwhile in Nigeria, a circle of friends struggle with the option to either search for a safe haven abroad, or to stay and fight a system that seeks to silence them.
The Legend of the Underground paints a portrait of a new generation that uses social media, underground radio, and any other resources at their disposal to fight for their rights of personal expression. Through bold creativity, they work to spark a cultural revolution that would challenge the ideals of gender, conformity, and civil rights in Nigeria.
The film, which premiered June 10th at the Tribeca Film Festival, is directed by Nneka Onuorah and Giselle Bailey, executive produced by Mike Jackson, John Legend, Ty Stiklorius, and Austyn Biggers of Get Lifted Film Co.
Giselle is a filmmaker that creates work across the platforms of Film, TV, and Contemporary Art. As an immigrant coming from a Jamaican family of artists and activists that pioneered the Rastafarian movement her work has a global perspective and explores the creation of sub-cultures as a catalyst for social revolution. Her recent works includes Director and Executive Producer for the Documentary Film “Burn the House Down” [released in France as “Queer & Fier(ce)] for Viceland France which premiered at Frameline Film Festival; Senior Producer for Viceland’s docu-series “My House,” which won the Cannes Diversity Award, was nominated for a GLAAD Award and won a Silver Cleo for best title sequence; and Producer on the two time Emmy Nominated “Gaycation.”
Nneka Onuorah is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, television producer, and activist of Nigerian-American descent. She is known for her film The Same Difference, a documentary about internalized homophobia within the black lesbian community. The film was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in the category of Best Documentary. Nneka has a continued commitment to giving a voice to the voiceless through her work. Her credits include director for Netflix The G-Word in association with the Obamas’ company Higher Ground, producer for My House, a GLAAD Media Award-nominated documentary series about the black queer vogue scene for Viceland, field producer on the Netflix original docuseries First and Last, about inmates’ intake and release from the prison system and producer on the “Black Girls Rock” awards.
Once you’ve watched the documentary, there are two ways that you can help support.
Rainbow Railroad Emergency Response Program
The filmmakers are concerned that there may be individuals in the film who are at heightened risk. To this end, Rainbow Railroad is working with community-based organizations in Nigeria to support immediate response to emergency situations as a result of the airing of the documentary. To support the emergency response program, head here: https://www.rainbowrailroad.org/legend
Global Black Gay Men Connect (GBGMC) & Outright Action International Nigeria LGBTQI Community Movement Building Initiative
GBGMC and Outright Action International are working with community-based organizations in Nigeria to support long-term movement-building, the funds raised will be distributed to LGBQI organizations in Nigeria for ongoing movement building including safety and security.
Organizations in Nigeria part of this Initiative include:
- Crème De La Crème
- Equality Triangle for Health and Peoples Development Initiative
- International Centre for Advocacy on Right to Health (ICARH)
- Royal House of ALLURE Initiative
- Women’s Health Initiative
To support OutRight Action International and GBGMC’s efforts to sustain long-term movement building through organizations on the ground working in Nigeria, head here: https://outrightinternational.org/legend