Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Russian Gays Bring Hope & Solidarity to SF's Castro District

[Permission granted for free use of the images, as long as credit is given to Bill Wilson of Gays Without Borders.]

As part of the U.S. State Department's public diplomacy program assisting gay activists around the world in developing and strengthening skills to protect their human rights and personal safety, five Russian gays visited San Francisco this week. They were accompanied by two translators and met with activists from our group Gays Without Borders, staffers at LGBT and HIV/AIDS nonprofits and also sat down for an interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

Because of threats made against them from homophobes in Russia, I am using only the first names of the visitors to protect their personal safety when they return home.

The photo above shows Gleb, right, standing with Robbie Sweeny of the Facebook group Boycott4Russia with the majestic Castro Theater marquee behind them. Robbie will stay in touch with the Russians via his group so please bookmark it and like it.

A handful of activists with Gays Without Borders staged a photo-op in historic Harvey Milk Plaza, to create images of hope and solidarity and to also say we engaged in a bit of street activism with one of the Russians. Gleb is in the middle with the Castro Theater marquee directly over his head.

Here's Gleb holding a sign in Russian that translates as "Equality and Justice for All in Russia!" He's standing under the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza with Robbie next to him.

Striking handsome poses, enjoying the warm autumn weather and smiling in the plaza are,  from the left, Yury, Andrew and Alexandr.

The Russians were given a tour of the Castro district by Kathy Amendola, a local lesbian historian who showed the visitors the exterior of the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, a public grammar school. From left to right: Alexandr, Gleb, Kathy, Evgeny, Andrew and Yury.

The top photo is of Andrew near the entrance to the academy and the bottom image show Evgeny in front of the academy exterior artwork created by the school kids, illustrated with a black-and-white painting of Harvey Milk with his moustache.

Prior to taking the tour of the Castro, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center hosted an informal brown-bag lunch chat. Starting on the left we see Evgeny, Andrew and Alexandr.

Please be sure to read Melanie Nathan excellent report on the chat at the center, and learn more about our activist friends from Russia and their important advocacy work.

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