Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Search for a leading Black LGBT role Model

At the last NUS LGBT conference, the Black LGBT students caucus had a training session where they were asked to name celebrity role models from the Black LGBT community. We spent 30 minutes thinking and we could hardly come up with a name.

The problem was not lack of Black LGBT celebrity or role models, it is just that we could not relate with them, at least after 30 minutes, many of us remember Steven K Amos, but again you asked yourself what really has he done for the Black LGBT community apart from coming out, and then we also remember John Ameachi.

I was worried why we found it pretty difficult in the UK to find a Black LGBT role model, but then I got the answer when I went to America in December with my partner. I was in New York for some days, and there I heard about a strong organizing of Black LGBT people, they have great representation and the community is very strong. The same can be said of Chicago where I had a wonderful reception and met influential Black gay men and we talked about their struggles and how it is very easy for them to organize.

I was worried about the lack of same thing here. But one thing the Americans have going for them was the Black liberation movement of the 60's, a battle that created a great sense of consciousness in the people and has taught them that if you do not represent yourself, no one will do it for you, something the Black community in the UK does not have.

The fight in the UK is more of Black community fighting against each other rather than fighting for each other. I have only lived in London for 3 years, but I can still recollect attending many Black gay men's meeting most of which are dead by now, due to bickering, hatred and quest for leadership. The community is in disarry and the so called leaders are busy individualizing the struggle for personal gains.

The fight against stigma and discrimination within the Black community in UK is one that can not be won unless there are strong Black LGBT movement and people out there. The demand for a significant figure in the Black community is one that is urgently needed.

I am not looking for a role model like Sir Elton John or Sir Ian Mcknelle, but I am looking forward to a more proactive Black LGBT community that has a leader, one that is built on the struggle for freedom within and without. One that will start an anti discriminatory campaign within the Black communities and in our schools. One that is strong enough to push for Black LGBT agenda in all fields.

As I await this day, I call on the ones that I know to please take the chance, take the risk and lead your people to the promise land. No one will do it for us.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Africa LGBT event at the BFI..... my take

When i was invited by the organizers of this year's London Lesbian and Gay film festival to be on the panel at the African LGBTI film screening, I was really excited. Not because he gives me another opportunity to open up my mouth wide again and start yarning something, or that I happened to be among the few that get driven to the venue while I have a VIP attention and then watch the film for free while someone else pays close to £10 to see same film.

But because it presents a chance to discuss the plight of the LGBTI movement in Africa, over 40 years after the Liberation of same group in Europe and America. Knowing that I will be speaking on the panel, I promised myself, never to demonized Africa and her people, I belong to the group of advocates (as I hate to use the word "activist" for myself), that believe if there are information, there will be a change in attitude from Africans towards LGBTI people. How these information is created and passed on to the people at the grassroots is another thing I will talk about some other day.

The entrants for Africa this year were from South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria. The South African film shows the new issues tearing the soul of that nation apart; corrective rape of Lesbians. I heard of these 4 years ago when a friend of a friend was raped and killed. The believe is that if you rape a Lesbian, she will turn heterosexual. It reached its peak last year when a top female footballer in South africa was raped and killed. These has also been identified as a means of transmitting HIV to the Lesbian community in south Africa. The pain and the agony of being raped and rejected by family just because you are Lesbian is so traumatic that the scare will live with you for the rest of your life.

While I was still dealing with the pains and trauma of "Mosa" , the next film from Uganda was another affirmation of what I know. As someone who has been buying my family love for over 6 years now, I know what it is like to be a rejected gay man. I remember always telling my friends back home in Nigeria that the only way they can be loved and respected is when they have money to give. it sounds bizarre, but that is the truth. Though I have never met Victor face to face, I have the honour of being painted by Gabrielle, who did an artistic activist work around Transgender issues in Africa, and Victor was one of the people she painted. She told me of the courageous world of Victor. I have also longed for an opportunity to meet him and tell him how much I adored him.

Watching the "Kuchus" (the local name for Gay people in ugandan) of Uganda, brought back memories. Memories of growing in Nigeria, trying so hard to effect change, trying to work for the community i am passionate about. The tears we shed for lost battles and won battles. The pain of having nothing to eat, of joblessness because we are gay and open. The frustrations from the press and the local people, the rejections from families and friends. To me the "Kuchus" film reminds me of myself, but also brought a feeling of guilt.

I sat in the audience in London watching the courageous determination of LGBTI people in Africa, people that could have used the abuse they face to run away but they decided to stay. Not that i consider myself a coward, but sometimes, I asked myself, would staying back at home change something by now? But again, I know that my coming to Europe has not been in vain, and it has not been for self glorification and for a life of luxury.

While the "Kuchus" got the audience griming, the next film to following left them asking very probing questions. The entry from Nigeria was "House of Rainbow". A film that rather talked about the life experience of a British gay pastor who tried to set up a "gay church" in Nigeria. the film explored the challenges he faced in his attempt and what led to him "fleeing" the country. While Mosa and Kuchus looked at the struggles of African LGBTI in Africa, the HOR film was more about the struggles of the pastor.

It was quite interesting to follow for me as I was part of the formation of this church right from the beginning, and knowing very well that there was an agenda. A gay church in Nigeria is not bad, but as at the time it started, was it right? Considering the rising in hate crime towards LGBTI people in Nigeria? I will say no. History has shown that using religion as a basis for LGBTI right all over the world is a failed battle.

But was it liberation this pastor was bringing to Nigeria? from my perspective, the answer will be NO. The whole idea was more like setting a stage for the eventual life of luxury being enjoyed by the founder today.

The whole essence of this write up is not to attack the person of the pastor, but to uncover, the second wave of exploitation that is taking place in Africa at the moment. The exploitation of the vulnerable LGBTI community in Africa, a situation where, they are becoming meal ticket and flight tickets to the advantaged few who sees the situation to self glorified themselves.

So when next you watch "House of Rainbow" ask the pastor very important questions like: who are those boys? What happened to them? did they give permission for the film? did they even know a film is being made or have they been told it will be showing at the LLGFF? will they ever have a share from the money made? What happened to them after the church was disbanded? was the Reverend really a Nigerian? Did he grew up in Nigeria?

Maybe then you will get a better and clearer picture of things. Mind you I am not saying he should not be involved in the struggle, all I am saying is, it should be for the people and not for self glorification.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Semiotics of AVATAR.

Finally last night I saw the most expensive movie in history; AVATAR. there have been lot said about the film, the money involved, how much it has made from the box office and how James Cameron did not win the oscar for best director.

But the most interesting thing for me was the semiotics of the film, the signs and the signifiers, and how this could be related to Cameron not wining the oscar. Mind you, this is not the first time he had made a huge film that has been a flop at the oscars.

At least I can remember the TITANIC, one big movie I love so much. The film brought that us Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio, and make Celine Dion "my heart will go on" a hit in 1997.

So when he came back with AVATAR, i was more interested in his semiotics rather than the glamour and the scandals the film has attracted. It was really interesting that not in one newspaper has the signs and the signifiers of the film being discussed. This could be a deliberate attempt by the west to ignore what Cameron has to say, and in saying that he angers the "god" of hollywood and miss out in the oscar.

Now to the signs. To anyone watching the film, you are presented with "human" and the "blue people" or better "the blue monkey". While the human are trying to penetrate the life and daily activities of the blue monkeys. The blue monkeys on the other hand were protecting and preserving what they have. They had connection with their surrounding, they relate with nature, communicate with it and practice "juju" or what you will you call "voodoo".

The human (western white) were keen on destroying the heritage of the blue people, and they will do anything to achieve their aim, including behaving like them to get their trust and then destroy them.

If you are still thinking what is going on in my head, I will quickly relate this to my visit to the British museum on Saturday with my partner, my friend from New York and my two papas. We had gone to see the exhibition on "The Kingdom of ife" The exhibition has on display the great art work from IFE from Western Nigeria. These were art works taken away from the country during the colonial era.

I told my partner who is a British white man, that most of those works were actually stolen during colonization, they were forcibly removed by the colonial master that has come with the disguise of missionary. They had taken away the culture, the spirit and the soul of that community. They have put on display what the people of IFE used in community with their gods, and to add insult to the injury, are charging people to come see it.

So to go back to AVATAR, Cameron, explore the era of colonization, imperialism and oppression carried out by the so called "developed" world, or as my very good friend Peter Tatchell will say "first world". They invaded the land of the blue people, destroy their natural habitant and kill their people, and uproot their existence. Cameron also expose the wickedness of the west in the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other part of the world.

It explores the abuse of human rights and killing of babies, women and young people as we can see in Iraqi and Afghanistan, and the abuse of the Palestine by Israel backed by America and Britain.

So when it was time for awards, Cameron was seen at the BAFTA awards as a betrayal not fit for recognition, and in America he was considered as a not so good a director.

Though the "Blue people" were able to overcome the invasion of the "white people", many continent and countries were not so lucky in the past. Among them, my blessed Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas.

So when next you watch AVATAR, look beyond the film and see the message James Cameron is trying to tell.