A video presentation, awards ceremony and fundraiser on June 18 in Laguna Beach will support efforts to bring LGBT activists to Washington, D.C., this summer during the International AIDS Conference to make the case that laws criminalizing homosexuality need to be changed in order to combat AIDS among those countries’ LGBT citizens.
The evening will include a showing of excepts from the soon-to-be-released award-winning documentary film “Call Me Kuchu,” which focuses on the plight of gay and lesbian residents of Uganda, one of 76 countries where homosexuality is illegal.
Leading the effort is the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, former rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Laguna Hills, and the founder of the San Diego-based St. Paul’s Foundation, which supports services for LGBT people in Uganda and Kenya.
Ogle helped to launch the Spirit of 76 Worldwide project, which is raising money to bring as many as 30 witnesses from these countries to the AIDS Conference and to Congress in July.
Ogle says that most people are surprised when they learn there are still 76 countries in the 21st century who send lesbians and gay men to prison for being true to their own God-given nature. Transgender people also suffer enormous persecution and violence with few places to turn. Seven countries still execute gay people and often the religious dimension to the institutionalized homophobia is hidden.
It is also illegal in many of these countries to provide HIV prevention and health services to LGBT people, which means that millions of people will suffer and die needlessly unless people stand up to denounce this discrimination, Ogle says.
The awards ceremony will honor five individuals who are leading the way to create services for these people, bring about religious and political change, and educate the community about the problem.
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda will be honored, adding to the recognition he has received by being chosen as Grand Marshall of San Francisco Pride for his courageous work with LGBT people in Uganda. He is also featured in “Call me Kuchu.”
Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright, directors of “Call me Kuchu,” will be honored, but have to be in San Francisco to prepare for the film’s opening there. The film focuses on David Kato, the Ugandan gay activist who was murdered last year after his photo and those of other LGBT people were published by a Ugandan newspaper along with the words “Hang Them.” In Uganda, “kuchu” is a slang word for “queer.”
The film received four awards at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. The film’s American premiere will be June 16 in Los Angeles.
Robin Voss from Newport Beach will be honored for raising awareness about bullying and the negative impact of Christian fundamentalism through her films “For the Bible Tells Me So” and “Teach Your Children Well.”
A cocktail reception is planned from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, June 18, at Steven Lucas Fine Arts, 1945 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Tax-deductible $25 tickets can be purchased online. If you cannot attend, you can use that same link to send a tax-deductible donation.
[This post was revised May 9 to indicate that the directors of "Call Me Kuchu" will be unable to attend the June 18 event.]