LGBTQ+ Community Turns Up Heat on Political, Social Fronts

Pride TV Summit
Aisha Mills talks with senior content producer R. Thomas Umstead during the Pride TV Summit. (Image credit: Future)

As the LGBTQ+ community continues the fight to get Congress to pass key legislation, it also looks to continue to build influence and support for its social rights movement, according to Black News Channel (BNC) host Aisha Mills

Mills, who will host a not-yet-named daily primetime political news show for the African-American-targeted news channel that launched in February 2020, said the community is closely watching developments surrounding the The Equality Act, which will make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in America. The legislation, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federally funded programs, credit and jury service, has passed the Democratic-controlled House but continues to languish in the Republican-held Senate.

“We have to guilt them all,” Mills said in a Pride TV Summit interview with Multichannel News senior content producer, programming R. Thomas Umstead. “It’s so much politics. … but what we can do on the outside is continue to put pressure and just guilt the handful of Republican politicians who don’t want it to move forward. The vast majority of people in America support LGBTQ equality fundamentally as it relates to basic dignity and rights.” 

Outside of Congress, Mills — who served as the first African-American woman president of the Victory Fund LGBTQ+ political action group — said she is encouraged by the inroads the LGBTQ+ rights movement continues to make throughout society. In particular, she said people of color have played and continue to play a major role in leading the fight for LGBTQ+ equity and representation. 

“It was actually Black, Latinx, trans-identified, nonbinary people who were the ones on the front lines, literally putting our bodies in harm’s way that sparked the movement,” she said. “Today, when we look at how far we’ve come, it is Black and Latinx people in storylines all throughout Hollywood, be it Moonlight or Pose or Laverne Cox in Orange Is the New Black that are the trendsetters, the culture makers and conversation creators.” 

She also dismissed criticism of the expanding acronyms such as LGBTQIA+ used to describe or define the community. 

“We don’t need to  try to distill down and create some singular uniformity in order to be a community and to reflect people,” she said. “Let’s name it all and claim it all because at the end of the day we identify ourselves for ourselves by ourselves and be respected in how we want to be acknowledged and addressed.” 

BNC Strikes Verizon Deal

Mills’s appearance at the Pride TV Summit came as Black News Channel reached a carriage agreement with Verizon Communications’s Fios TV. The deal puts BNC, which launched in February 2020, in some 3.7 million more homes, extending its reach to nearly 60 million linear cable subscribers.

Verizon joins Comcast, DirecTV, Charter Communications and Dish Network as a distributor, according to the channel. 

“Linear and digital platforms are seeing increasing value in BNC’s unprecedented coverage of the experiences unfolding in Black and Brown communities as well as perspectives, viewpoints and stories that are not presented anywhere else,” BNC president and CEO Princell Hair said. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.