Get With the Program: Tongues Untied

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June 28, 2017
1:00pm Eastern Time
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Current's series looking back at historically significant public television continues with a discussion of Marlon Riggs' "Tongues Untied." Airing on PBS's "POV" in 1991, this poetic, explicit film about what it means to be black and gay drew criticism from Republican politicians and scared off some public TV stations.

This is an installment in Current's "Get With the Program" series, part of our commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.

Video Descriptions

Tongues #1

Tongues Untied clip 1

Tongues Untied #2

Tongues Untied clip 2

Tongues Untied #3

75 minutes



  • Panelist Avatar
    Phill Wilson


    Phill Wilson is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Black AIDS Institute. Prior to founding the Institute, Wilson served as the AIDS Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles from 1990 to 1993, the Director of Policy and Planning at AIDS Project Los Angeles from 1993 to 1996. He was co-chair of the Los Angeles County HIV Health Commission from 1990 to 1995, and was an appointee to the HRSA AIDS Advisory Committee from 1995 to 1998. A close friend of Marlon Riggs, he was involved in the making of "Tongues Untied."

  • Panelist Avatar
    Ron Simmons


    Ron Simmons, Ph.D., is the former President/CEO of Us Helping Us, People Into Living, Inc. (UHU), a nonprofit organization that specializes in HIV prevention and support services for Black gay/same-gender-loving men. Currently, he is developing a sexual health literacy intervention for young Black gay men, ages 16 to 24, who are virgins or sexually inexperienced. His published works include: “Some Thoughts on the Challenges Facing Black Gay Intellectuals” in Brother To Brother: New Writings By Black Gay Men; “Sexuality, Television and Death: A Black Gay Dialogue On Malcolm X” in Malcolm X: In Our Own Image; “Baraka’s Dilemma: To Be Or Not To Be” in Black Men on Race, Gender and Sexuality; “The Voice” in For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough; and “Joe, Essex, Marlon, and Me” in Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call. He was a field producer, photographer and cast member for Tongues Untied.

  • Panelist Avatar
    Ellen Schneider


    Ellen Schneider is a leader in social justice media strategies. She currently leads Active Voice Lab, which helps funders, media makers, advocates, and other leaders use story skillfully to advance social change. She has spearheaded practical tools — such as ThePrenups and — that have supported creative collaborations In the U.S. and abroad. In 2001, with support from MacArthur and Ford Foundations, she founded Active Voice, one of the first teams to leverage story-based media to put human faces on complex social and policy issues. Ellen was formerly the executive producer of P.O.V., where she expanded parent company American Documentary into production, (Right Here, Right Now, a pilot for one of PBS’ first reality series) and strategic media engagement (High Impact Television® and the Television Race Initiative).

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The views and opinions expressed in this online screening are those of the presenters and participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of ITVS, public broadcasting, or any entities hosting the screening.