Gabrielle Union Opens Up About Gun Violence and 'Birth of a Nation' Boycotts: 'I Can't Sell the Film'
By Elisa Osegueda
Gabrielle Union has a lot on her mind.
The 42-year-old actress graces the cover of Essence's November issue, and opens up to the magazine about her new film, The Birth of a Nation, being a stepparent and her concerns over the rising racial tension in the U.S. between the police and minority citizens.
Union, who's married to NBA player Dwyane Wade, is the stepmother of three children, Zaire, 14, Zion, 9, and Xavier, 2, and admits that she’s constantly worried about their safety.
"Until they walk through the door, I'm terrified," Union says. "Sometimes I just want to stay off my timeline, because it makes those waits until they walk through the door a thousand times worse. One of my biggest fears is them being a hashtag on some bulls—t."
This isn't the first time Union has expressed concerned about raising her stepchildren.
"As a black woman raising brilliant, handsome, talented young black men, I am cognizant of my responsibility to them and their future," she wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. “My husband and I stress the importance of their having to walk an even straighter line than their white counterparts. A lesson that is heartbreaking and infuriating, but mandatory in the world we live in. We have spent countless hours focused on manners, education, the perils of drugs. We teach them about stranger-danger and making good choices."
Union also spoke to the magazine about her support of fellow rape survivors, who are boycotting The Birth of a Nation, in light of her co-star and director, Nate Parker, and his 1999 rape accusations.
"...As a rape survivor and as an advocate, I cannot shy away from this responsibility because the conversation got difficult," she explains. "I don't want to put myself above anyone's pain or triggers. Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you. I support you if you don’t want to see the film. I absolutely understand and respect that. I can’t sell the film."
In 1999, Parker and his Penn State roommate, Jean Celestin -- who also co-wrote The Birth of a Nation with Parker -- were charged with raping an 18-year-old fellow student in their apartment. The woman claimed that she was unconscious, while Parker and Celestin argued that the sexual encounter was consensual.
Parker was acquitted by a jury in 2001, while Celestin was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison. The verdict was appealed and a new trial was granted in 2005, however the woman declined to testify again and the case never made it back to court. Earlier this year, the woman's brother revealed in an interview with Variety, that his sister took her own life in 2012 at the age of 30.
"This movie has always been about more than one person," Union adds. "And for the outspoken feminist advocates and allies who risked a lot to be a part of this project—Aja Naomi King, Aunjanue Ellis, Penelope Ann Miller—we are okay if you have to sit this one out, and we’re okay if you don’t, and we understand…"