Gabrielle Union has a small but powerful part in the upcoming film “The Birth of a Nation,” and she’s become a key player in the media storm swirling around it, too.
Following the surfacing of a rape accusation against director Nate Parker, dating back to his time in college, as well as news that the woman who accused him had killed herself, many have become easy with the rollout of the movie, which won the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and is expected to be an awards contender.
Union recently wrote an op-ed about the issue, saying, “I cannot take these allegations lightly.” She also revealed that she herself is a rape survivor. In “Birth of a Nation,” she plays a slave who is raped.
At the Toronto International Film Festival, where “Birth of a Nation” is currently playing, she articulately defended the film in a press conference, as Vulture reports, and attempted to persuade those protesting the film because of the rape charges to see it for themselves.
“We’re not creating a movie, we’re creating a movement,” Union said. “If you were confused why Ryan Lochte was called a child, was referred to as a kid, and was celebrated and rewarded with a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ appearance, but you’re wondering why Tamir Rice was never referred to as a child but murdered within seconds for acting like a child, and you have a problem with that, this movie is for you as well. If you’re a decent human being who wants to take part in a conversation at the very least about things that bug the crap out of you, this movie is for you as well, and I hope you don’t sit it out.”
When asked about the reaction to her op-ed, Union said, “five percent feels I threw Nate under the bus, and five percent feels I’m a rape apologist.”
She explained why the negativity on both sides doesn’t deter her from speaking her mind:
“Every time I talk about sexual violence I want to puke,” she said. “There’s never been a time in the last 23 years where I did not want to vomit, but my personal discomfort is nothing compared to being a voice for people who feel absolutely voiceless and powerless… So if there’s any message I can give anyone who’s ever sat in my seat, it’s ‘You are not broken, you are not alone, you have a tremendous amount of support. Whether you speak out or you opt to keep your pain personal, you are real, you are valid, you are loved, and you are worthwhile.'”