The year was 1984, Jeffrey Montgomery and his partner were outside of a gay bar in Detroit, when shots let loose in the air. Montgomery’s partner was shot and died.
The shooting was identified as an anti-gay hate crime. But when Montgomery turned to local authorities to investigate, they were dismissive.
“He was told it was just another gay killing and they don’t have the resources toward it, so don’t expect anything from the investigation,” says John Montgomery, Jeffrey’s brother and producer of “America You Kill Me,” a documentary on the LGBTQ activist’s life.
Met with a cold shoulder from local police, Montgomery was provoked to take action and founded the Triangle Foundation – known today as Equality Michigan – in 1991, with a mission to assist victims within the LGBTQ community and work with police and prosecutors across the state to change policies when it comes to the treatment of LGBTQ-related crimes.
After discovering additional discriminatory issues such as housing, job exclusion, human rights and the lack of advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community, Triangle’s work transformed into a broader, all-inclusive mission to address these societal ills.
The documentary dives deeper into this history as it delivers an “honest portrayal” of Jeffrey Montgomery’s life and legacy, according to director Daniel Land.
“He was very much a grassroots organizer,” says Land. “He was somebody who, at a time when this was not common – even within the movement – he was very aggressive about inclusivity. I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn, both from his triumphs and some of his mistakes. For Detroit’s LGBTQ community [and] in terms of any activism, that history is important.”
In 2014, a five-minute short version of “America You Kill Me” screened at the Cinetopia Film Festival as part of their ‘Detroit Voices’ series.
Jeffrey Montgomery passed on July 18, 2016 in Detroit. He was 63. Sadly, his partner’s case was never solved.
Click the audio player to hear CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper interview filmmakers Daniel Land and John Montgomery.
The filmmakers will host a fundraiser at Common Pub Detroit on Cass Ave. on Saturday, August 10.