Punks director, writer and producer Patrik-Ian Polk paved the way for gay black men and women with his successful grassroots efforts in the film and television mediums. Punks premiered in 2000 at the Sundance Film Festival and garnered multiple awards during its run on the Independent Film circuit. It was then released to theatres around the world in 2001. The film starred Rockmond Dunbar, Renoly Santiago, Jazzmun, and Devon Odessa, and was produced with the help of “Babyface” [Kenneth Edmonds]. After the film’s successful run, Polk decided to focus on television and create a groundbreaking series that would alter the structure of gay relationships in the media.
Working with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Black AIDS Institute, Noah’s Arc focused on the black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities and the struggles faced within the walls of society and relationships. The poignant same-sex subject matter in every episode would play out with a total of two seasons from 2005 through 2006 on MTV’s Logo network. Noah’s Arc instantly became one of the most popular shows on Logo’s television line-up in 2005. The show ultimately faced cancellation, but Polk released a follow-up film to please the fans and continue the storylines he had started and intended to share. Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom would premiere in 2008.
Regarding his partnership with the Black AIDS Institute, Polk has said, “AIDS is like a dirty little secret in the Black community. I think people really appreciate the show [Noah’s Arc]. The network understands the need to address this issue. The statistics are staggering in both the gay and straight Black communities. The problem can’t be denied.” He continued, “Any issues important to Black gay men are important to me. AIDS is the most important social and health issue today. I’ll do anything I can as an artist to have a positive impact on a social level. My strength is my art.”
The 37-year-old openly-gay Mississippi-born activist made the necessary rounds before fame came knocking at his door. Attending Brandeis University in Massachusetts before graduating from film school at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, Polk first signed on to become a production assistant on the set of SeaQuest, DSV [Amblin Entertainment]. In the years following, Polk would move on to become a development executive at MTV Films and then, later, vice president of production and development at Edmonds Entertainment/e2 Filmworks. While there, he would work on the films Soul Food (starring Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox and Nia Long), Hav Plenty (starring Chenoa Maxwell, Robinne Lee and Hill Harper) and Light It Up (starring Usher Raymond, Rosario Dawson, Forest Whitaker, and Vanessa L. Williams).
* Photo originally published on BET.com