Success at Ugandan LGBTQ fundraiser; more help needed

Bad Black performs during the March 28 show. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Bad Black performs during the March 28 show. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Frank Kamya (Kanobana Mwanje Franco) performs during the March 28 show. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Frank Kamya (Kanobana Mwanje Franco) performs during the March 28 show. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

The March 28 featured singing and dancing. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

The March 28 show featured both singing and dancing. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Ugandan anthropologist and social science researcher Stella Nyanzi here reviews the March 28 event that raised money to help beleaguered Ugandan LGBTQ asylum seekers in Kenya, but also notes that more money is needed.

By Stella Nyanzi

Community support and unity is priceless, particularly in struggles against diverse forms of oppression. I want to celebrate different leaders of the LGBTIQ community in Uganda for standing with Kanobana Mwanje Franco, contributing and attending the fundraiser event for Ugandan LGBTI asylum seekers living in disparate parts of Uganda. There were representatives from the leadership of:

and members of support organisations as well as community members who do not belong to organisations. Kuchus in diaspora also contributed from their personal funds! Mwebalire ddala nnyo, banaffe! (“Thank you very much indeed, our friends!” in the Luganda language.) Joseph gave us half a million shillings in cash.

Slightly over 1,600,000 Uganda shillings [about US $530] were collected, thanks to everyone who contributed. This is half the amount of money that is required for now. Franco is still receiving money via mobile money on (+256) 0753833910 or 0784500759 or Western Union.

The money will go towards buying maize flour, beans, fuel – either charcoal or firewood, transportation to and from UNHCR offices for process meetings, rent in shared accommodation, and emergency medicines. Monthly financial support from an organisation in Kenya will stop at the end of March 2015.

The performers entertained us heartily with a range of brilliant acts. About ten artists relied on their talents to freely contribute towards the fundraising. Many dare not risk showing their faces because of potential stigma and insults, but they were class acts. [Editor’s note: Their photos are not included here.]

I was touched by a Congolese refugee who sang freestyle a composition. I was also impressed by the MC for whom it was the first time to perform at any public function.

This time, we came together to support our own. Aluta continua! [The struggle continues!]


As noted above, further contributions are needed.  Money can be transmitted by Airtel Money at +256753833910 or by MTN Mobile Money at +256784500759.

For more information, contact Kanobana Mwanje Franco on Facebook or leave your question in a comment below.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan) | Tagged | 1 Comment

Suspended priest’s Palm Sunday greeting for refugees

The Rev. Anthony Musaala offers palm fronds. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The Rev. Anthony Musaala offers palm fronds. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The Rev. Anthony Musaala remains active as a spiritual guide for refugees from Uganda, including LGBT people fleeing threats of violence in their homeland.

He continues to support his dispersed flock, even though the church suspended him from priestly duties in 2013 after  he wrote a letter to his archbishop criticizing sexual abuses and sexual activity by supposedly celibate clergy members.

Yesterday, on Palm Sunday, he published a photo of himself on Facebook, holding out a handful of palm fronds. He wrote:

TO THE REFUGEES ON PALM SUNDAY

It’s Palm Sunday. I am holding that palm for you to say that like Jesus you are royal too.

Hosana ! to you as you ride that donkey of the process to your resettlement.

Some will laugh coz kings sit on horses not donkeys. Others will cheer and support, like me.

Whatever the case, STAY ON THE DONKEY till you reach Jerusalem.

Touch the screen and shout AMEN!

Fifty people responded in comments on Facebook:

Amen!

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Faith and religion, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Jamaica: What I want from Obama on my birthday

President Barack Obama (Photo by Elizabeth Cromwell via WIkimedia Commons)

President Barack Obama (Photo by Elizabeth Cromwell via WIkimedia Commons)

I am thrilled that President Obama is visiting Jamaica on April 9, which by a very happy coincidence is also my birthday! During his one day trip to the island, the President will meet with leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) before they all travel to Panama for the 7th Summit of the Americas. This will be a gathering of all the heads of state and government of the 35 nations in the Americas.

As someone who has actively campaigned for the liberation of LGBTI people in the region, I would like to make a birthday request of the President, and it is simply that he use the occasion of his visit to PUBLICLY:

1) Apologize for the export of anti-gay religiosity by American evangelicals that has whipped up hate, intolerance, & homophobia across the western hemisphere;

2) Acknowledge the terrible harms that anti-gay laws and policies have, and continue to have, on America;

3) Demonstrate how the abolition of these laws and attitudes can be positive for America, as well as the region;

4) Offer increased assistance to eliminate anti-gay laws & attitudes in the Caribbean and the Americas.

As I have said before, finger wagging DOES NOT HELP. Instead, the US should take responsibility for its role in fomenting anti-gay hate globally, and offer to clean up its toxic export.

Posted in Americas, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Nigerian gay activist: I’m a champion, not a victim (video)

Bisi Alimi (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

Bisi Alimi (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

“When my attackers came for me in 2007, they wanted to make me a victim. But I stand tall today…  My name is Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian-born British citizen gay rights activist.  And I am not a victim…. These narratives don’t shape me.  I want to own my own story.”

Those strong affirmations came in this week’s video from the “Quorum” series of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues.

These are extensive excerpts from Alimi’s speech to the Quorum gathering, as shown on the video:

A few years after I came out, my house was broken into, I was beaten, I was tortured and narrowly escaped being shot in the head. I was tied up. I was stripped naked. At some point, all I could see was my body in a casket. It seemed that I had an out-of-body experience in my subconscious.

My attackers did this to me because of one reason – I was the man who had the effrontery to come out on national television as gay. That day they wanted to take away my pride from me, they wanted to take ME away from me. That night I stopped being a victim and I started being Bisi Alimi.Today I have to deal constantly with the victim narrative of not being man enough. I have to deal with the victim narrative of not being African.

‘These narratives don’t shape me’

But what is very important to me is that these narratives don’t shape me. I want to own my own story.

Nobody taught me to be gay. I was gay the very moment I made my first cry as a baby.

Ten years after my coming-out, in January 2014, the Nigerian government signed into law a bill that would prescribe 14 years’ imprisonment for LGBT people. Immediately after the passage of the law, we started to see situations such as these in Nigeria – houses broken into, men and women stripped naked, forced to have sex in public. In this kind of situation, it is very easy to go to bed at night crying. It is very easy to be broken.

In this kind of situation, it is very easy to give up. But one thing that we fail to understand is the fact that there are men and women that are standing up and wanting to be counted.

‘I want to celebrate our allies’

Elnathan John

Elnathan John

Ayo Sogunro

Ayo Sogunro

And today I want to celebrate our allies. In 2004, when I was preparing to go on TV, this woman [Funmi Iyanda] risked her life, risked her profession, risked her job, and she became the first woman to interview a gay person in Nigeria. Her show got canceled because she gave me a platform.

Today I want to remember Elnathan John and Ayo Sogunro, two prominent Nigerian bloggers who have used their blogs to tell an alternative narrative of the reality of sexual orientation and gender identity in Nigeria. Mind you, I’m talking about heterosexual people.

I want to remember Olumide F. Makanjuola, who is leading the most formidable LGBT challenges in Nigeria, who is becoming a new voice for LGBT people in the country.

Today you know the most celebrated Nigerian — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She has used a book to tell stories of LGBT characters in Nigeria.

What about Jude Dibia? – the first Nigerian author to write a book with the main focus on sexual orientation and gender identity, titled “Walking With Shadows.”

I also remember my very good friend Stephanie, a German lady who has used her role and opportunities in Germany to highlight the injustice faced by Nigerian LGBT activists within the German political elites.

These are people who are standing up on our behalf. They are giving us voices. They are not speaking for us, but they are creating platforms for us to speak up.

‘Be a champion or be a victim’

When the attackers came to my house in 2007, they wanted to break me, but I refused to be broken. They wanted to silence me, but I refused to be quiet. They wanted to take away my pride, but I refused them that opportunity. Today there are many LGBT activists and many LGBT people in the continent of Africa who, like me, might be wondering, “What can I do?”

You have a choice. You can either choose to come out or stay in the closet. You can either choose to fall or rise. You can either choose to be silent or to speak up. You can either choose to be a champion or be a victim.

Because today I stand before you as a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s New Voices. I stand before you as a proud godfather of two amazing beautiful girls. I stand before you as a lover, as a brother and as a son.

I celebrate being listed on the World Pride Power List 2014. I celebrate being listed four years in a row on the UK Most Important LGBT People. I celebrate being listed as the third most influential free-thinker and secularist in the United Kingdom.

I celebrate being a champion and not a victim.”

This video is the ninth of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues that overall are designed to “reverse the megaphone,” allowing activists from abroad to tell Western viewers about the challenges that LGBTI people face worldwide. The videos were recorded at a December 2014 meeting in New York.

The series, under its full title “Quorum: Global LGBT voices,” is presented by The Daily Beast. The Erasing 76 Crimes blog, as a member of the advisory board for the project, helped The Daily Beast select Quorum speakers.

The video is on the Quorum page and on YouTube.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Harassment / murders, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Performers seek your help for LGBT refugees in Kenya

Gay-friendly Ugandan anthropologist and social science researcher Stella Nyanzi describes preparations for the March 28 performance that will raise money to help beleaguered Ugandan LGBTQ asylum seekers in Kenya. Below are photos of the living conditions of some of those Ugandan refugees in Kenya. 

Kanobana Mwanje Franco (Frank Kamya) prepares for the March 28 fundraiser. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Kanobana Mwanje Franco (Frank Kamya) prepares for the March 28 fundraiser. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

By Stella Nyanzi

Only a few hours are left to the Entertainment Fundraiser for Ugandan LGBTI asylum seekers currently lodged in different parts of Kenya. Kanobana Mwanje Franco, who is in charge of organising the fundraising event is trying out a brand new blonde wig, a silver necklace and attire for the performance.

“I will wear a silver six-inch high-heeled shoe and long black dress with a long slit up to my thigh while performing two gospel songs of Judith Babirye on stage,” Franco explained to me.

The plight of many Ugandan LGBTI people led some to flee from the country and seek for asylum on grounds of persecution for their sexual orientation, while based in neighbouring African countries. Many went into Kenya and suffered a range of challenges while based at Kakuma Refugee Settlement. Individuals also faced stigma and discrimination within the receiving/ transition center.

Arrangements were then instituted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) along with partner organisations and individual allies to process refugee status and resettlement of Ugandan LGBTI while in safe spaces in Nairobi city and its environs. Rather than sending individuals to Kakuma, arrangements were made for a local Kenyan support organisation to provide them monthly with money (i.e. 6000 KShs) for cheap accommodation and maintenance as their resettlement into a third country was being processed.

However, the support organisation is stopping the financial donations to individual Ugandan LGBTIQ at the end of March 2015.

Bedroom at a Kenyan safe house for Ugandan LGBTQ refugees. (Photo by Frank Kamya courtesy of Stella Nyanzi) bedroom for Ugandan LGBT refugees 3 2015

Bedroom at a Kenyan safe house for Ugandan LGBTQ refugees. (Photo by Frank Kamya courtesy of Stella Nyanzi) bedroom for Ugandan LGBT refugees 3 2015

Kenyan house shared by four LGBTQ Ugandan refugees. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Kenyan house shared by four LGBTQ Ugandan refugees. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

One of the nicer Kenyan safe houses for Ugandan LGBTQ refugees. (Photo by Frank Kamya courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

One of the nicer Kenyan safe houses for Ugandan LGBTQ refugees. (Photo by Frank Kamya courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Franco was in Kenya last week to assess the most pressing needs individuals face. He visited commercial safe houses accommodating about ten to twenty individuals, witnessed some Ugandan LGBTIQ asylum seekers arriving with their luggage to a safe house, and also witnessed their living conditions.

Many sleep on shared mattresses placed on floors and make do with one meal a day.

Security challenges still abound, particularly for transgender individuals — notably effeminate males or masculine females who get arrested, blackmailed and face extortion. Language barriers, xenophobic suspicions and clash of cultural values are experienced on a daily basis.

But thankfully, some of our LGBTIQ have been resettled into liberal countries including USA, UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, even Iceland and Japan.

Rather than sit down and wait for solutions from Western-based foreigners, Ugandan LGBTIQ who chose to remain in Uganda are fundraising in order to support their colleagues who will no longer have any financial support as they seek asylum to a third country of resettlement. Using their skills of drama, music, dance, fashion and art, they are staging a performance to raise funds to fill important gaps of basic needs faced by their friends, lovers and queer family members.

The event is this weekend! Entrance fees are 10,000/= UShs for ordinary seats, and 30,000/= UShs for VIP seats. Bigger amounts are also highly welcomed.

Entrance fee for the concert is 10,000 Ugandan shillings, or 30,000 shillings for VIP tickets (about US $3.50 and $10, respectively).  Tickets will be sold at the door at a location a few kilometers from a the center of Kampala.

Separate contributions and pledges are also needed.  Money can be transmitted by Airtel Money at +256753833910 or by MTN Mobile Money at +256784500759.

For more information, contact Kanobana Mwanje Franco on Facebook or leave your question in a comment below.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), International pressure for LGBT rights, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Swaziland lesbian murdered in latest anti-gay attack

Excerpts from a report in the Thought Leader blog of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper by Jabu Pereira, director of the South Africa-based human rights group Iranti-org:

Anti-gay attacks on the rise in Swaziland

Photos and articles about Kaylo Glover. (Photo courtesy of Jabu Pereira and the Mail & Guardian)

Photos and articles about Kaylo Glover. (Photo courtesy of Jabu Pereira and the Mail & Guardian)

Kaylo Glover, a young lesbian from Nhlangano, Swaziland, stepped into a bar with her friends on the early hours of Sunday morning. She was killed by an enraged man who did not want to be in the presence of lesbians. He left the bar, fetched an axe from his car, returned and killed Kaylo. Kaylo was rushed to hospital and her killers followed them to the hospital and chased her friends with axe. Kaylo’s friend ran as she heard one of the guys shout “let’s finish off these dogs”. Neither the nurses nor the doctors could reach Kaylo in time, she bled to death.

This is the second LGBTI murder in Nhlangano. Just a few months ago, a gay man known as Themba was murdered.

Kaylo was 26 years old. She was born and raised in Nhlangano. Proudly out and in a seven-month relationship, Kaylo was popular in her community. On the night that Kaylo went out to the night club in her town, she felt safe. She had always navigated the streets and was known for her kindness, warmth, and swag. Harassment did happen in Nhlangano but Kaylo often just shrugged off. On the night of March 15, her perpetrator was not going to have any lesbians socialising around him. He picked a fight, argued with them and later went to car to fetch an axe to finish off his utter expression of hate and anger.

When Kaylo’s mom spoke to Iranti-org, she was heartbroken. “I always walk with Kaylo, the guys always say horrible things and I tell her to ignore them. They killed her because she was a lesbian. She has never harmed anyone, or fought with anyone.” …

Logo of Iranti-org

Logo of Iranti-org

Iranti-org learned that in the previous month a gay man was murdered in Nhlangano.

“We don’t know what to make of these murders it is so disturbing and scary. Swaziland comprises mainly of traditional family structures, with extended families marked by a set of strong traditions and norms. Speaking about being lesbian, gay or transgender is very difficult and is often suppressed.

It is the usual silence of we know you exist, just don’t make a noise about it,” says Sane Mshengu, the director of Rock of Hope.

[Editor’s note: Since 2012, The Rock of Hope has been supporting, fostering and celebrating the LGBTI community of Swaziland. Through its work, The Rock of Hope uses trainings, advocacy and communication strategies to influence changes in policy and social practices. In recognition of the role that society plays in the creation of barriers to access to services, The Rock of Hope addresses human rights issues for the marginalized people and is dedicated to the building of a healthy and empowered LGBTI community in Swaziland. ]

Swaziland is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies where human rights are far off the radar and where freedom of expression or a critique of the monarchy or the judiciary can mean a prison sentence. …

It seems Kaylo’s death has broken the silence around hate crimes in Swaziland. It is bringing attention to the poor human-rights situation in this country, where the monarch is so incredibly rich and its citizens are poor and where LGBTI persons live hidden, framed as “the other”.

Rock of Hope logo

Rock of Hope logo

Rock of Hope is a beacon of activism in Swaziland, with its limited resources and volunteers, it seems that more support and attention needs to be made to Swaziland.

Swaziland is up for review at the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review. Rock of Hope, Iranti-org and Gender Dynamix along with other human-rights organisations will submit a shadow report on the human-rights situation in Swaziland. …

For more information, visit Iranti-org and read the full article in the Thought Leader blog, “Anti-gay attacks on the rise in Swaziland.”

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Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Harassment / murders | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Final days for supporting Nigerian safe house

House of Rainbow safe house appeal. (Click image for link to YouCaring.com fundraising site)

House of Rainbow safe house appeal. (Click image for link to YouCaring.com fundraising site)

With six days to go, the fund drive for the House of Rainbow’s safe house  is 75 percent of the way to its goal to keep open that sanctuary for LGBTI people in  Nigeria, where same-sex love is stigmatized and criminalized.

Your donations will help towards the cost of providing:

  • Housing (less than US$1 a night per person to keep them safe);
  • Free counseling, welfare and support;
  • Free sexual health information.

To donate, visit http://www.youcaring.com/…/safe-house-house-of-rainb…/316220 (where the figures reflect neither the full amount needed nor the full amount donated so far).

For more information, see this blog’s previous article, “Nigerian safe house might close without your help.”

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment