Friday, October 30, 2009

Trafalgar Square Silence & Alarms
Over Gay Killings

This video footage, and I've seen it a few times tonight, gives me chills all over because of the visual sweep of the crowd, their candles against the darkness, and at the start of the video, church bells ringing faintly, before a siren screeches over the silence. Like an alarm being sounded by queers to stand in solidarity and fight back and commemorate our dead.

Over at the Gays Without Borders group on Yahoo, UK activist Paul Canning posted this note, with links to YouTube clips:
Broadcasters Sandi Toksvig and Sue Perkins introduce a two minute silence at London's Trafalgar Square at 9pm on Friday 30 October 2009 as thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (and their friends) conduct a two minute silence on behalf of those who have died as a result of gay-hate crimes.

After the two minute silence, Sue Perkins reads out the names of those who have died at the hands of homophobes over the last ten years in the UK.

If you're also moved by the video, share it with friends or post it on your blog or news site. Show the world that on Friday, October 30, in the heart of London, people said no to violence against gay people everywhere.

HRC Solmonese Not on
White House Visitors' List

The Obama administration has released the names of lots of people who've visited through the end of July, and the Huffington Post has published the list, with a request for help:
This list is not exhaustive -- it is responsive to specific disclosure requests. It is also not recent, spanning from from January 20 to July 31, 2009.

The new data is [here]. A challenge to the readers: sort through it and tell us what, if anything, is interesting that you find.
One name that is not on the list is that of Joe Solmonese, head of the gay wing of the Democratic Party, the Human Rights Campaign. Among the S names, the list goes from a William Smith to George Soros, without the HRC leader's name between them.

In August, Solmonese gave an interview to US News and World Report, and he explained his engagement with Obama, at his new DC digs:
I've had the chance to visit with the president personally both during the campaign and since he's been in the White House.
I won't say that Solmonese told a little white lie to US News, because, as the Huffington Post said, the names released thus far is not exhaustive. Solmonese's name could turn up on future White House lists yet to be released to the public. But I will say this. It would have been a feather in the HRC "=" cap if Solmonese had made the first cut.

Heck, even if Solmonese had been to the Oval Office to consult with the President on gay issues, I doubt he would have forcefully advocated for us. It's just not his or HRC's method to get pushy with Democrats.

Person With AIDS at White House Signing?

(From the left, the second person is Frank Oldham.)

Earlier today, President Barack Obama signed the Ryan White CARE Act 's reauthorization and legislation lifting the HIV immigration and travel ban, and his remarks are here. I have no problem with honoring the late Ryan White and his bravery, but I also would have appreciated if Obama had spent an equal number of words on a person living with the disease.

As a person with AIDS, and a client of CARE Act-funded services, I'm pleased he signed the reauthorization and removed America's shameful HIV travel ban, but I wasn't sure if a publicly-identified person with AIDS was present at the signing, so I emailed White House spokesperson Shin Inouye and replied with this list of names of who was supposed to be there. Not all were present:
Stage participants:
* Jeanne White-Ginder, Ryan White's mother
* Senator Tom Harkin, D-IA
* Senator Mike Enzi, R-WY
* Senator Tom Coburn, R-OK, not confirmed
* Representative Henry Waxman, D-CA
* Representative Frank Pallone, D-NJ
* Representative Joe Barton, R-TX
* Speaker Pelosi, D-CA, not confirmed
* Ernest Hopkins, Policy Chair, Communities Advocating for
Emergency AIDS Relief (CAEAR); Federal Affairs Director, San Francisco
AIDS Foundation
* Frank Oldham, Jr., President and CEO, National Association of
People with AIDS (NAPWA)
* Julie Scofield, Executive Director, National Alliance of State
and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
The head of NAPWA, Oldham, was standing behind the President as HIV history was made and that is something I applaud. It always helps when a person living with HIV is out there at high-profile events, representing the PWA community.

But Oldham's presence at the White House today is not being heralded in any way at the NAPWA web site, which is indicative of his tenure at the helm of this organization. He's just not a very visible leader, generates no attention for the NAPWA agenda or that of PWAs, and his organization, which represents lots and lots of PWAs who can't be out as pozzies because of the tremendous stigma, can't be bothered today with a simple release about the signing.

At the same time, the White House has not published a photo from the signing on its site. I asked Inouye about this omission. His reply:
The event was pooled press, so you'll have to go to the wires for a photo.
I found the photo at

Hey, Frank Oldham, how about getting a little bit a lively interaction from you and NAPWA when representing the PWA community? We need more engagement from you on that national stage. Simply standing behind Obama for a few minutes ain't effective leadership.

Can anything be done to reinvigorate NAPWA?

Savage Slog Notices 2-Year-Old
Jamaican 'Gay Eradication Day'

Up at the Seattle Stranger's Slog blog, activist and writer Dan Savage is calling attention to an April 26, 2007, story in the Jamaican Star about "Gay Eradication Day" in a part of Kingston.

From Dan's post today:
No quotes from the authorities about protecting the gay men and lesbians in town where the "eradication" is under way. Because, of course, the authorities in Jamaica don't protect gays and lesbians from mob violence. Background on boycotting Jamaica is here. And if Barack Obama is going to send an openly gay ambassador anywhere, he should send one to Jamaica.
I'm not clear as to why Dan is calling attention to the old story.

Readers will recall that in March of this year, I wrote about the 2007 Gay Eradication Day and the Star piece. Back in the spring, I was involved with the Boycott Jamaica project, and in doing research, I found a post on the Star article on Cheril N. Clarke's web site. Cheril blogged in May 2007 about the notorious day, and I don't think I would know about it if she hadn't blogged on it.

Here's the opening from the old Star article:
Today has been proclaimed 'Gay Eradication Day' by residents of the McGregor Gully community in East Kingston. Residents say that they will be taking action as a two-week notice given to all gays and lesbians to flee the community has now expired.

THE STAR learnt that about two weeks ago angry residents who declared that they were fed up with seeing the activities of several gay persons in their community, ordered that they leave by today or suffer the consequences. [...]
So Dan, like myself and other gays, only learned about Gay Eradication Day this year, and we have Cheril to thank for first getting the word out among USA gays about it, and there is every reason to keep reminding ourselves that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jamaicans face outrageous hostility and threats on a daily basis.

Regarding Dan's excellent idea of Obama appointing an openly gay man as our ambassador to Kingston, it's something I wish our professional advocacy groups in DC would push. And, let's stop at the top. Let's also advocate for openly gay Americans to serve in other capacities at our embassy in Jamaica.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another Gay Murder in Jamaica?;

WaPo: Gays Must be 'Discreet'

(Rudolf Gschloessl, found dead on October 25.)

Loud rumors are swirling on the gay Jamaican grapevine that a German national who was recently murdered was a gay man. Rudolf Gschloessl, according to news accounts and tourist guides, was business partners with Neville Anderson, a Jamaican chef. There is nothing I can locate on the web confirming rumors of Gschloessl's gayness, and the only link to anything gay-related is this story that says the suspect is a "homosexual lodger."

I asked Brett Lock of OutRage! in London if that term had a unique gay-slang definiiton. Brett's reply:
I've asked around and the consensus is that there is no formal or unequivocal understanding that a "lodger" _necessarily_ implied a sexual relationship, but that it would have been one of the ways to explain (in pre gay lib times) why two men were living together.
The basic facts, so far, from Wednesday's Jamaica Observer:

HOMICIDE detectives say they have a suspect in custody in connection with the murder of German national Rudolf Gschloessl, whose body was found with its throat slashed on Sunday morning. [...]

Meanwhile, the police said there were no signs of forced entry at Gschloessl's Mona Heights, St Andrew, home.

According to the police, an occupant of the premises heard screams for help coming from Gschloessl's apartment and when he responded, he found the businessman bleeding from a wound to the throat. [...]

The police suspect that his murder was a crime of passion.

"The man in custody admitted to being a homosexual lodger," a police officer told the Observer yesterday.

In other gay-related news connected to Jamaica, my friend Barrett Brick, long active with the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of DC on global issues, caught a response from the Washington Post reporter who recently authored a puff piece on Jamaican tourism. Andrea Sachs posted her reaction on the Post's online chat service a few days ago:
Warrenville, IL: Your article on Jamaica yesterday deeply troubled me. [...]

Failing to warn gay people to stay away from Jamaica is in effect inviting them to their own destruction. Not a friendly act.

Andrea Sachs: Thank you so much for your note. You made a very good point. While I personally did not see or experience any anti-gay sentiment, I did contact J-Flag for more information. (The organization works toward equality and fair treatment of lesbians, gays and all-sexuals.) I was told that the country's homophobia stems from its conservative roots, but that standards vary according to nationality, gender, etc. The country has a large gay population, but tourists are advised to be discreet. However, organizations like J-Flag are working hard to make Jamaica welcoming to everyone. [Italics and bolding added.]
Very curious that she notes in her online discussion, but not mentioned in her article, that gay tourists should be discreet. Why didn't she say that in the article?

Anyway, kudos to Sachs for contacting JFLAG, however, she could have also looked for other sources. Sachs might cast her net wider and learn what the U.S. State Department reported on the deadly homophobia on the island. We're not talking your garden-variety homo-hatred here. According to State, we're dealing with cases like this:
In February [2008] a mob broke into the home of four presumed homosexual men, killing three of them. The fourth was missing and presumed dead. The men had reported being harassed for their perceived sexual orientation prior to the fatal attack. Police made some inquiries in the case but did not conduct a full investigation or make any arrests by year's end.
Back at the Post page for Sach's story, several angry comments were left, before the paper closed the commenting function. From one of the comments:
Time to break out and meet the locals? Does Ms. Sachs realize that Jamaica is probably the most homophobic place on earth (,8599,1182991,00.html)? All those photos of smiling Jamacians - so long as you're not a "batty-boy" in which case they will beat you to a bloody pulp while the police look on and do nothing. [...]
Good to see that gay activists took the time to both use the Post's online chat and the comment function to take the paper to task for what it omitted.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Support Gay Muckraking & Accountability;

My Autumn Fundraising Drive

Dear Friends, Fellow Activists, Supporters and Skeptics:

Whether you’re an active commentator or lurk quietly while reading Petrelis Files, I hope you agree that I offer a singular perspective on the struggle for queer liberation and an end to the AIDS crisis. I work tirelessly for accountability – utilizing old-fashioned muckraking techniques – to illuminate overlooked but important issues affecting the lives of many marginalized peoples in San Francisco, throughout the United States and abroad.

I'm proud of my unique advocacy and accountability efforts through this blog, and now turn to you, readers and supporters, to ask you to donate funds so I can continue my efforts with renewed vigor and purpose.

My friend Bevan Dufty, the Castro District's gay member on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, has already made a donation to my current fundraising campaign. Bevan has kindly provided this testimonial:
"For over a decade, I've worked with Michael and seen him deliver changes. He has certainly kicked my tail, but I'm better for it. Michael's evolution into one of the blogosphere's most intrepid activists shows what's possible when you speak loudly for our movement. I've donated to him and ask you to do the same."
No amount is too small – or too large – and whatever you donate will go towards fighting the good fight. Yes, I'm occasionally provocative, but hope you agree am also quite productive at advancing gay liberation and institutional accountability.

In recent months, I've helped raise much-needed funds for gay Iraq refugees, obtained 51-pages on gay Iraqis from the British Foreign Office, reinvigorated the debate over Jamaica's human rights violations of gays, persuaded the San Francisco Police Department to issue press passes to bloggers, made FOIA requests with the FBI for Michael Jackson and Walter Cronkite's files, shared the transcript of a federal hearing on the Olson/Boies Prop 8 lawsuit, and zapped a rightwing press conference besmirching the legacy and life of Harvey Milk.

Now is the time to support my fearless advocacy. Simply click on the PayPal icon in the top-right corner of the home page of Petrelis Files.

Feel free to contact me with any queries or to request my street address if you’d like to mail a personal check:

T: 1-415-621-6267

Gracias mucho for your financial support and continued goodwill.


Foreign Ministry, Wash Post:
Gay Violence in Jamaica?

The Jamaican Foreign Ministry is the second ministry this week responding to my request for gay violence files, and like the Cabinet Office, has not found relevant records. From the letter this morning from Marion Edwards, ATI officer for this ministry:
I refer to your electronic mail of Tuesday, 20th October 2009, in which you have requested, under the Access To Information Act, records “that relate to or identify homicides, assaults or other violent acts committed against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons, or persons perceived to be such, in Jamaica’.

Having researched the relevant files, we regret to inform you that such records do not reside within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. However, I will refer your request to the Ministry of National Security which has primary responsibility for matters of this nature.

The contact person at the Ministry of National Security is:

Mrs. Claudette Macpherson,
Director, Documentation, Information and Access Services
[Address deleted.]

If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned.
Why did I believe the ministry would possess records about mob attacks and murders against gay and transgender persons? To start, because the U.S. State Department's annual human rights survey always documents and reports on the reprehensible mistreatment of gay Jamaicans, and the ministry might want to pay attention to what State has to say, if only because the USA is a large aid donor.

How much aid are we giving? An answer from a 2006 report to Congress, which included details on the murders of gay leaders Brian Williamson and Steve Harvey, sheds light on this matter:
Over the years, Jamaica has received considerable amounts of U.S. foreign assistance. Over $500 million was provided in the 1990s, making Jamaica the second largest recipient of assistance in the Caribbean. From FY2000-FY2006, U.S. foreign assistance to Jamaica has averaged almost $23 million annually.
Silly me. I thought the Jamaican foreign ministry would have discussed what State said this year, maybe even responded if only because America provides a nice chunk of change, to some damning charges, including this:
The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) continued to report human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals. Police often did not investigate such incidents.
Apparently, that was of no concern to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I'll let you know what the National Security response is when it arrives. I hope that ministry finds and releases documents relevant to my ATI request.

What other institution this week has nothing to say about the homo-hatred in Jamaica? The Washington Post and its travel section. On Sunday, the Post ran quite a glowing promotional travel piece on Jamaica that failed to in any way deal with the overwhelming and brutal violence on the island.

In her sunny-side up article, subtitled "Enough with the gates resorts," Post writer Andrea Sachs breezily mentions guarded fortresses for tourists, and omits any context for why they are needed. You know, little things like poverty-driven violence, oh, and targeted shootings and other deadly mayhem perpetrated against gays. From the Sunday Post:
The all-inclusive resorts where most Americans stay encourage guests to remain on the property, shielded behind the guarded gate. If you wish to leave, you sign up for a tour, a bubble-wrapped view of the country. Most interactions are with your poolside neighbors, some of whom may share your area code.

But this time, it was going to be different. No fortress-style resorts [...]
Just as with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I don't get the sense that the Post reporter and her editors are the least bit concerned with numerous State Department human rights reports detailing tremendous Jamaican violence against many citizens, especially gays and transgender individuals.

Hey, Washington Post editors and Andrea Sachs: Shed your bubble-wrap and notice the homo-hatred.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gleaner: 'Jamaica is Deeply Homophobic'

As we enter the third week of intensely heated debate over the treatment and human rights abuses of gay Jamaicans, a debate reignited by a controversial meeting between homo-hating singer Buju Banton and gay activists, me included, the most widely-read paper in the nation, the Gleaner, has been doing its Hearstian best to keep throwing fuel on the fire. Rarely does a day go by without the paper finding reason to write about the meeting or gay people.

On Monday, in an extraordinarily candid editorial, the Gleaner admitted something no nation should be proud of. It claimed the island nation hates homosexuals. There is no hiding behind a pretense. Jamaica hates fags. The Rev. Fred Phelps would be right at home in the Cabinet.

It should be pointed out that the Gleaner's constant inflammatory gay coverage contributes to that hatred and it isn't just politicians who use gay people to advance harmful, and deadly agendas. The Jamaican press, including the Gleaner, more than do their part to bash gays.

Just look at how this editorial cites an attack on a man perceived to be gay because of his walk, was mob-attacked, then "happily" protected by the cops and he should thank his good luck for not getting maimed or killed. The Gleaner can't be bothered to condemn the mob, and call on the cops to _always_ help gay persons facing a bashing.

The editorial is prime example of how parts of Jamaican society say a few paragraphs about the awful violence against gays, but never go further and demand that the safety and security of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons should be the norm.

From Monday's Gleaner, bolding is mine:
We wish to make two observations. First, when politicians are short of cogent and workable solutions, their default position, usually, is a reach for populist distractions - drawing the red herring, as it were.

The second is that the real test of a democracy is not only its ability to cater to the will of the majority, but how well it acknowledges and protects the rights of the minority, including people with whose ideas and concepts we may not agree. [...]

We have been drawn to think on these issues in part because of some of the tone of the parliamentary debate on Jamaica's proposed Charter of Rights, especially remarks by Prime Minister Bruce Golding and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller. They reached for the lowest common denominator and [...] it was an appeal to their ever-narrowing political base. [...]

Significantly, however, there is no protection in this charter for the individual who faces discrimination because of his or her sexual orientation. A parliamentary committee that drafted the final recommendations contorted its way out of offering any such protection. [...]

The fact is, Jamaica is deeply homophobic, or pretends to be. Homophobia attends the country's sense of machismo; it frees us to go gay-bashing, and not just figuratively. Indeed, the week before the MPs began to sing their platitudes to the Charter of Rights, a young man was attacked by a mob for his perceived effeminate gait. Happily, he was rescued by the police, for which he might count himself lucky. [...]

The Jamaican Parliament, Mr Golding added, would not make same-sex unions legal - "not as long as I sit here". And he inveighed against gay-rights lobbyists who wanted to undermine the country's "values or culture".

Mrs Simpson Miller was not as extreme in hiding behind the supposed inability of leaders to be "too far in front of those who are being led" and for the positions of the majority to be taken "scrupulously into consideration".

What, in reality, was on display was weak leadership and, we fear, an unintended endorsement of abuse of and discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation.

Accused $6M Lesbian Embezzler
Pleads Not Guilty

The Des Moines Register is following the case of Phyllis Stevens, a lesbian accountant accused of embezzling close to $6 million from the insurance company that employed her, and the paper ran two updates in recent days.

First up, the piece about her hearing on Friday:
Phyllis Stevens, accused of embezzling of $5.9 million from Aviva USA, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of wire fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Stevens, 58, made her first appearance in an Iowa courtroom following her arrest Sept. 25 in Las Vegas. She faces prison time and fines if convicted on the 18 counts from a grand jury indictment made public Friday. [...]

Investigators say that Stevens, using the name of a former company employee, manually adjusted the company computer system to credit commission payments to an account held by her and her partner, Marla Stevens. [...]

Court records say that Phyllis Stevens - once she learned that company officials knew of the scheme - flew from Des Moines to Indianapolis in an attempt to get cash from her account. She later flew to Las Vegas, where she met Marla Stevens. [...]

Campaign finance records have disclosed that the couple spent more than $170,000 in the past two election cycles on federal and state candidates in Iowa and in other states. The vast majority of the money went to Democratic candidates.
Marla Stevens, who has more name recognition among LGBT activists due to her visibility from stints like her job in the 1990s at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, remains free.

The Register yesterday ran an article raising many questions about the couple, with a detailed look at their public lives, especially on the web in the past few years:
Missing from the courtroom was her longtime partner, Marla Stevens, whom Aviva named in a lawsuit, claiming that she benefited from the embezzlement.

From Indianapolis to Des Moines, the alleged criminal exploits of Phyllis Stevens and wonder over Marla's role have become hot topics of speculation among friends, foes and acquaintances. [...]

In her 2005 blog, Marla Stevens described how her partner kept her job:

Phyllis "became one of seven people retained by new owners after the old company's agents threatened walkout if they didn't keep her. (She's brilliant and big on service provision and expertise.) " [...]

"Iowa and I are not a good match. Doing itinerate marriage-related political work elsewhere. (We fly a lot.) Have legal domicile I've never spent a night in," she wrote in her 2005 blog.

Bil Browning, the editor of the Bilerico project - a gay activist Web site in Indianapolis that hired Marla Stevens as its first regular blogger - said that he talked once or twice weekly with her over the past two years. [...]

I believe this unfolding case will generate much interest in the gay community and among Democratic Party stalwarts who know the Stevens', for quite some time to come, and expect the Des Moines Register will continue to give the story prominence.

Jamaican Cabinet Office:
No Gay Violence Files

This was a fast turn-around. My ATI request was submitted last Tuesday, and the Jamaican Cabinet Office, one of several ministries to get my ATI, has already searched their archive and found nothing responsive to request. This letter arrived late today:
Thank you for your application for information under the Access to Information Act.

We wish to inform you that checks made by us have not revealed any documentation that "relate to or identify homicides, assaults or other violent acts committed against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons, or persons perceived to be such, in Jamaica".

Since matters concerned with homicide come under the purview of the Ministry of National Security we have transferred your request to this Authority in accordance with section 13 of the Access to Information Act.

You may contact the responsible officer at email address '[address deleted]' to follow-up on your request.
When choosing which ministries to request files from, I read their sites and this description certainly made me curious to know if the Cabinet had ever internally address the gay violence in the country:
The Cabinet of the Government of Jamaica is the principal instrument of government policy. It consists of the Prime Minister, the Honourable Bruce Golding, and a minimum of thirteen other Ministers of Government, who must be members of one of the two Houses of Parliament. [...]
Since the U.S. State Department's annual human rights report consistently notes the documented anti-gay violence and murders in Jamaica, and lack of government response, and the country's abysmal record on gay human rights record has been deplored by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other NGOs, and publications such as Time magazine and the New York Times have called for the government to address the horrific hatred of gays, I thought, mistakenly, the Cabinet might have discussed the concerns of those institutions for gay Jamaicans.

On the other hand, considering the hostility from Prime Minister Golding and other forces, it would have been surprising if the Cabinet had released any documents showing any communication about gays.

Well, I may not have received the files I had hoped for, but I find small comfort knowing I at least made a few staffers in the Cabinet Office deal with gay violence, in a tiny way, in that they had to spend some time searching for records and adjudicating my request.

I've already been in touch with the ATI officer at the Ministry of National Security, and she assures me they are searching their archive. We'll see if they, and the other ministries that have received my ATI request, turn up anything, and if they release the documents to me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Q-Notes: NC AIDS Organization Collapses

There's vexing news out of North Carolina, about the collapse of a local AIDS service organization, recently plagued by questionable leadership and accounting practice. The Q-Notes newspaper has been covering this unfolding story for a number of months, and last week reporter Matt Comer broke the news about the organization's failure:

After almost 25 years of service to the greater Charlotte-metro area, a local AIDS service organization has made the decision to close shop in the midst of internal problems, staff resignations, dwindling resources and claims of financial mismanagement.

Metrolina AIDS Project (MAP), originally founded by six gay men in 1986, has faced a tumultuous two years. Q-Notes first reported on some financial problems in February 2008 and again in January and February this year.

On Oct. 22, the MAP board of directors made the decision to close the organization, according to a press release issued shortly after 3 p.m. on Friday. The organization has not decided on an exact date to cease operations. [...]

Adding to the fiscal woes were not the only serious matters for the board of directors to address:

Friday’s announcement comes just four days after the board announced to staff that executive director Dr. Jose R. Hennessey Diaz had been placed on temporary suspension pending an investigation into “reports on matters of significance,” according to an Oct. 19 email from board chair Shawn McMaster obtained by Q-Notes on Oct. 21.

At the request of the board, Diaz resigned his position with MAP on Friday, according to the release.

It is not clear why Diaz was first suspended or why the board later asked him to resign, but questions regarding his medical credentials have been rumored among community members for months. [...]

Diaz said he worked under provisional medical licenses while overseeing research studies with Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center in New York and the University of California-San Francisco.

“You cannot become licensed until you have completed a full residency and passed level one and two of your boards and level three,” he said. “I didn’t go through that process. I came here as a foreign medical graduate.” [...]

Q-Notes also reports that Diaz and another executive were receiving a combined $3,000 monthly toward their rents, and that many local advocates expressed concerned with high salaries for Diaz and other top leaders at the Metrolina AIDS Project.

I applaud reporter Comer for his comprehensive article this week, which looked at a remarkable number of factors leading to the demise of the agency, and for his past coverage of the problems there. Comer raised the matter of how the collapse will affect the local people with AIDS population, but no openly-identified person with AIDS was quoted, so I emailed him and asked why this was. Here is his thoughtful response:

Thanks for the message. I appreciate it when folks reach out to me when they have concerns about a story, allowing me the opportunity to respond. So often folks simply lash out without first getting a response from journalists or writers. [...]

I did talk to a couple MAP clients. None were willing to go on the record with their thoughts, concerns or reactions. [...] Hopefully, I'll also be able to write-up a second piece exploring the history of MAP, talk to a few of their founders and I'll try my best to get a couple clients or other HIV+ folks to go on the record in that piece. [...]

[Earlier this year] HRSA had put Ryan White funds on hold, but the hold was later lifted and that "restricted draw down" was put in place. In February, the local United Way put the group on a probationary status. You can read our February piece here:

In the coming weeks, we'll be following up on this story from the client angle, speaking to clients and other local AIDS service organizations (and the county) who will be responsible for providing care to MAP's clients. [...]
This fiasco is clearly far from being over, and the coverage by Comer in Q-Notes is a vivid reminder of why we still very much need a gay press to follow AIDS institutions and devote the proper amount of space to the troubles. And I offer nothing but praise to Comer for publicly committing to do his best to include the voices of PWAs in future pieces.

I'm sure it's no picnic being publicly identified as a PWA in North Carolina and potentially increasing the stigma associated with living with HIV, especially outside of New York or San Francisco, but it's crucial that PWA voices affected by the collapse of Metrolina AIDS Project speak up.

Oakland Police Don't Control Their Site;
No News Releases Since 2006?

A sunshine advocate and friend of mine asked me this week if I knew what the policy of the Oakland Police Department regarding press passes, and to find some answers, I went to the OPD site.

The public info office's page listed coordinating department press passes as one of its responsibilities, but no further info was given. There was only one link at the page, and it was to recent news releases. The page for OPD releases and advisories was last update in March 2006, more than three years ago.

Yesterday, I emailed Jeff Thomason, spokesperson for the OPD, asking a few questions about all this. His response:
As for the website, the reason it hasn't been updated is that we are in the process of transitioning to a completely new website with the City of Oakland. Our current website is very old and outdated. Also, the Oakland Police Department does not have access to the current website. We will have more access to the new website.
That reply didn't satisfy me, so I sent follow up questions to Thomason and he quickly replied:
Q: Who controls the OPD site now?

A: City of Oakland IT.

Q: Why isn't control with the OPD?

A: The system is very old and we do not have the software or expertise to update it.

Q: Have any news releases been written since 2006 and, if so, where are they posted on the web?

A: Yes, [but] they are not on the web.

Q: Finally, when will OPD have its own web site under its control?

A: Hopefully soon, the Mayor's office is in-charge of the project.
How strange that a major California city's police department is not in charge of its own web site and admits the site is old. I would think, given all the major crimes and longstanding troubled relationship between the OPD and the citizens it serves, that Oakland would do everything it could to use the web to better communicate and interact with the community.

I'm not saying simply posting current news releases and more info on the OPD site is the large solution to myriad problems, but quickly and constantly sharing information could go a very long way to create better policing, maybe even help cops solve crimes.

Oakland recently swore in a new police chief, Anthony Batts, and as the Oakland Tribune has noted, he faces lots of problems, both citywide and within the police force. I suggest he immediately instruct Mayor Ron Dellums to turn control of the OPD web site to the police, give the cops the technical resources necessary to modernize their web site and better communicate with the community he serves.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jamaican PM: ATI and Gay Violence Files;

Gleaner Poll on Buju Meeting

(Transgender Jamaican person under attack by a mob, Arpil 2007.)

The Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston received one of my formal requests for any files, from January 2004 through this week, related to attacks against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender Jamaicans. Prime Minister Bruce Golding's director for such requests, Damian Cox, sent a detailed reply, shared below.

Always good to have governmental officials anywhere engaged in searching for and releasing gay-related files, and to have them requesting other government ministries do likewise. However, I do have one small complaint with Cox's reply. He omits the word "gay". I'm used to similar replies from USA officials in which they clearly spell out the nature of public information requests.

I noted this in my response to Cox and hope the omission is not reflective of any bias against gay Jamaicans, either by him or the Prime Minister.

One other thing, related to the continuing controversy almost two weeks after I and other gay activists in San Francisco met with homo-hating singer Buju Banton, the Gleaner newspaper is conducting an online poll over this question:
Have gay activists gone overboard in their campaign against deejay Buju Banton?
Click here to vote; poll is in the far-right column and you must scroll down to find it, and go here to view results of the poll.

The letter from the Office of the Prime Minister:
I acknowledge receipt of your access to information request.

The Access to Information Act and framework in Jamaica provides for designated officers (Access Officers) to process your request. In the case of the Office of the Prime Minister that person would be:

Ms. Sandra Braimbridge
Director, Documentation, Information & Access Services [...]

This information is also available in the Access to Information section of the website of the Office of the Prime Minister.

I have copied my response to you to Ms. Braimbridge who will be in contact with you on whether any such records exist within the Office of the Prime Minister. I have also copied the access officers of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of National Security so that they may begin to research whether there are any reports or statistics within their public authorities that may exist prior to the likely transfer of your request.

The Office of the Prime Minister is not responsible for the collection or dissemination of crime statistics. This is matter that is primarily within the domain of the relevant unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (Police Force).

Preliminarily, I would caution that homicide and violence statistics in Jamaica may not be kept in the way you seek.

The only consideration in fulfilling your request if relevant documents do exist is, whether they are exempt or not? Your occupation, reasons, agenda or other status is irrelevant.

The Access Officers have a legal duty to assist all applicants and will do so with the professionalism demanded of all public servants.

I will ask that you allow the established process to work to facilitate you. Bypassing systems established by the Government to ensure the efficient provision of Access to Information to all members of the public does not aid the efficient and timely processing of your request within 30 days (calendar not working as you indicated).

In Jamaica we strive to abide by the letter and the spirit of the Access to Information Act and requests are processed as soon as possible within the statutory time-lines.

Access to Information requests should not be directed to the Honourable Prime Minister, Ministers of Government, Permanent Secretaries or the general staff of Ministries or other public authorities, but to the designated Access Officers.

Kind regards,
Damian Cox

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

After Kevin Jennings: Obama AIDS Czar
Crowley in the Right's Crosshairs?
(The White House's Office of National AIDS Policy director Jeff Crowley. Photo credit: Bob Roehr, BAR.)

The rightwing succeeded in forcing White House green jobs adviser Van Jones to resign from his post in September, because of controversial positions he took as a progressive advocate in the San Francisco Bay Area before accepting a position in the Obama administration.

After Jones resigned, the rightwingers revived and amplified their criticism against Kevin Jennings, a gay man heading up the safe schools effort within the Department of Education. So far, he's kept his job, and the support of the President's top staffers, but the conservatives who want Jennings forced out are not relenting in their campaign against him.

Who might be next in the rightwing's crosshairs of Obama advisers and staffers they want to resign or receive a pink slip? I think the next target could be Jeff Crowley, the director of the White House's Office of National AIDS Policy. Crowley is conducting town halls around the country, very much controlled by AIDS Inc groups and leaders showing, IMO, that he is not under the influence of any radical activists. He's a stalwart mainstreamer and has publicly stated his fears of cable news shows related to HIV prevention advances and gay men.

A hard-right blog, whose author remains anonymous, called ParrotPatriot, seems to be getting the ball rolling to make Crowley the next person targeted for smearing and intense scrutiny for any missteps anathema to conservatives. The person behind the blog describes himself thus:
It’s in the blood. I’m a patriot. I won’t be silent. I can’t be silent. It’s impossible. I am strong willed and angry like the Scotch-Irish from whom I’m descended. I am the red-haired grandchild that my great, great, great grandmother always wanted. I’ll be described the same way she was when I’m gone. “That parrotpatriot was “firey”,” they’ll say about me. And then they’ll laugh hysterically at all the stupid things I did to get myself in trouble with my mouth and the words that come out of it. And when they do, they will most certainly wonder if, like Grandma Page, I’ve buried my silver and two enemy soldiers in the backyard.
ParrotPatriot's blog is one hot-blooded, red meat kind of site, and it very curious about Crowley's resume, which the blogger has posted here. My gut says the resume is being put out there so other conservatives can go over it and use the info to dig up dirt on Crowley. Click here to read a 2005 policy brief by him on Medicare's drug program restructuring, which was posted by ParrotPatriot.

At this point, I can't say there is a full-fledged campaign to get Crowley to resign or get fired, based only on the fact his pre-White House employment resume and a paper he penned have been posted on the web by a rightwinger, but I'd advise Crowley to be mindful of all this. ParrotPatriot is not sharing his resume and paper because he likes them or Crowley.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jamaican Justice Ministry:

Searching for Gay Violence Files

(A Jamaican transgender person under attack by a mob, April 2007.)

I've learned that in 2002 Jamaica enacted an Access to Information Act (ATI), comparable to our Freedom of Information Act, which clearly states that "every person shall have a right to obtain access to an official document, other than an exempt document. [...] An applicant for access to an official document shall not be required to give any reason for requesting access to that document."

Such words set my "government sunshine" heart aflutter, and I yesterday filed several ATI requests with various Jamaican ministries, asking for records related to violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, or persons perceived as such, stretching back to January 2004.

So far, only the Ministry of Justice, has acknowledged receipt of the request and begun processing it. Here is some of the correspondence I've had with Ms. Brenda Smith, the Information Manager for this ministry:
This serves to acknowledge receipt of your application for access to documents held within the Justice portfolio. Please be advised that the request will be treated in accordance with the guidelines for administering the Act.

You will be advised on the progress of your application hereafter. The legal team will direct, so if there is need for clarification we will continue to communicate with you.
I'm waiting for equivalent acknowledgments from the other ministries and expect to have them by the end of the week.

A similar request was sent to the British Foreign Office yesterday, and one of their information officers, Mr. Henry Leitch, sent this note:
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. It has been passed to the relevant section within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with. They will be in touch with you should your request need clarification.

We received your request on the 20th October 2009 and will aim to respond within 20 working days.
I want to see what records the Jamaican and British governments locate responsive to my ATI and FOIA requests, how they take to process them and what, if anything, they eventually release. And let us all give thanks for every ATI and FOIA statute on the books around the planet, and let's utilize such sunhine laws to pry loose any and all records related to the suffering of gay people.

Monday, October 19, 2009

SF Chron Says NYT 'Borrowed' From Them;
Reaction from Grey Lady

Over at the blog for managing editor Phil Bronstein at the San Francisco Chronicle, some serious charges are being leveled against the New York Times' bureau chief in SF, Jesse McKinley, whose name is omitted in Bronstein's post. Kind of odd that he would leave out such an important fact, but who understand Bronstein's motivations these days?

From Bronstein's blog:
The grand, grey New York Times made its Bay Area "local content pages" debut last Friday, even as execs there prepared to cut 100 newsroom staffers in Manhattan. [...]

A story about the new Oakland police chief, the lead and longest of four pieces in the two-page Bay Area NYTimes insert, began with a compelling anecdote:

Anthony W. Batts was enjoying a successful run as the head of the Long Beach police when a headhunter called last winter and asked if the chief's job in Oakland had any appeal. Mr. Batts said no.

Then, he said, came March 21, when a recently released parolee, Lovelle Mixon, shot and killed four Oakland police officers and cemented the city's reputation as the violent crime capital of the Bay Area.

Sitting at the officers' funeral, Mr. Batts said, he changed his mind. "I decided that I'd like to help," he said. [...]

But there was just a gnawing deja vu sensation about it. Oh, right. Here was the beginning of a San Francisco Chronicle story written two months before, on August 17th:

When a headhunter called Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts in March and asked him whether he was interested in becoming Oakland's next chief, Batts knew the answer: No.

"I was happy in Long Beach," Batts said during his first public appearance Monday since accepting the chief's job in Oakland. [...]

"I watched the pain and the suffering in the Police Department," he said. "I watched the pain and the suffering in the community as it too hurt at the same time."

After attending the officers' funeral at the Oracle Arena, Batts said he text-messaged the headhunter: "I want to help."

Eerie. Maybe the Times was just being economical. So I checked the names. Chronicle reporter Matthai Kuruvila wrote our story. There was another completely different name on the Times piece.
For a high-ranking member of the supposedly grown-up dead tree mainstream media, that is not created and edited by folks in their pajamas, Bronstein's omission of McKinley's name seems quite juvenile.

I emailed McKinley for a reaction, and he put me in touch with his editor, Felicity Barringer, and she sent me this note:
There's not much to say, beyond this:

Unfortunately, neither Jesse nor I saw the Chronicle's piece on Mr. Batts until today. It is clear that Mr. Batts, like many people, is given to repeating anecdotes that have resonance for him.
Speaking of Bronstein and the Times, it was only yesterday that the Grey Lady's arts blog had a very favorable and amusing post about Bronstein! Check this out:
“I’m Phil,” Mr. Bronstein, who blogs for, the Chronicle Web site, told about 100 blog enthusiasts, many of them in their 20s. “I’m a recovering mainstream media addict.”

Rather than read from his blog, Mr. Bronstein spoke on the issue of old media versus new, making the point that the way the Internet has put writers in closer touch with their readers has been good for journalism. Readers and their concerns are often the source of ideas, he said. And so it is valuable to pay close attention to them, in spite of the steady stream of invective that people feel free to spew at online writers they disagree with. [...] (Emphasis added.)
Hey, Phil, welcome to the world of online writers who spew invective at the competition. Nice of you to join the club.

Methinks Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has wounded Hearst's SF Chronicle with the twice-weekly Bay Area pages, and a wounded Bronstein had to strike back in some way.

But if Bronstein wants to retain local readers, he should heed some advice the SF Bay Guardian offered a while back, when Hearst closed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Cut back on wire pieces and devote more dead tree space to hyper local coverage, like the weekly and bi-weekly health, police, education and other commissions. San Francisco needs a major daily that delivers lots of neighborhood reporting, more than we're getting now from Hearst.

We Have Milk Day
Thanks to 'Meathead' Reiner?

File this story under the header "Only in California." This is the only state in the union where the Governor, a former steroid-pumping actor, can be successfully lobbied by a leftist film director who first came to prominence playing a character nicknamed "Meathead," to give the good citizens a gay Harvey Milk Day.

From the SF Chronicle's Matier and Ross political column today:
Milking it: What changed since last year, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a Harvey Milk Day, saying the slain gay activist wasn't big enough for statewide recognition?

How about two Oscars, a Presidential Freedom Medal and calls to the governor's office from the likes of Rob Reiner?

Jamaica: 2 More Nabbed in
Murder of Gay UK Consul

On Friday morning, Jamaican police made additional arrests in the brutal strangulation murder of John Terry, a gay UK citizen. From the site:
Two more men have been arrested in connection with the murder of Honorary British Consul John Terry last month. [...]

The two were picked up during an operation at a house in Bushy Park Friday morning.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green says the police have established a motive for Mr. Terry's killing but are not prepared to release it at this time.

Earlier this month, a 23-year old man was arrested in connection with the murder. He is still in custody awaiting an identification parade. [...]
Over the weekend, the Jamaica Observer ran a column by Mark Wignall that makes some startling and provocative claims, both about Jamaicans and gays:
If male homosexuals want to live their lives in peace, there are certain realities they have to face up to. Our culture is virulently anti-gay, plus we are a naturally violent people. That said, the vast majority of gay killings is done by gays when the relationship sours. [...]
I don't know where Wignall got the wrong notion that alleged gay-on-gay violence is responsible for most of the murders of gay men, and it certainly is not from the US State Department's February report on human rights and gays in Jamaica. From the report:
The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) continued to report human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals. Police often did not investigate such incidents. [...]

Homosexual men were hesitant to report incidents against them because of fear for their physical well-being. Lesbian women were subject to sexual assault as well as other physical attacks. Human rights NGOs and government entities agreed that brutality against homosexuals, primarily by private citizens, was widespread in the community. [...]
There is no evidence presented by the State Department to back up Wignall's outrageous claim.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

SF Police Have Granted Me a Press Pass

A little over a week ago, I received a press pass from the San Francisco Police Department, after publicly complaining I had been denied one because of the department's strict criteria regarding who qualifies as media. This is certainly a step forward, but I have to point out that the pass was not issued to me as a blogger, which was my original request to the police.

The pink plasticized pass, which is valid till the end of the year, and is signed on the back by the chief of the department, George Gascon. The news agency line reads "POZ Magazine." How did this happen? In reviewing my appeal, the cops asked for any articles of mine that appeared in more traditional media, so I sent them columns I'd written for POZ, and for some reason that is the outlet the cops chose as my agency.

When I renew the pass in December, I will ask for one that identifies my outlet as this blog. Getting the pass generated some local press. Here's how the SF Examiner covered my efforts over this:

A local advocacy journalist’s persistent challenges to the San Francisco Police Department’s press pass policy have paid off.

Blogger Michael Petrelis applied the first time in July after he couldn’t get into the press box at a news conference inside the federal building. He was denied the pass under former police Chief Heather Fong because he didn’t cover crime scenes -- although press passes are regularly checked at busy hearings at City Hall and other government buildings.

But under media savvy police Chief George Gasc√≥n, more attention will be paid to the new media and those who don’t necessarily cross police lines. [...]

Back in September, the public affairs office informed me the rules for press passes was being revamped, at the direction of Gascon, and many suggestions were made by bloggers and reporters to the department to improve the process.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who had lobbied Gascon on my behalf, is helping the department issue passes to others who need them, and also modernize the criteria for passes. Many thanks to Bevan and his staff for the work on this matter.

The Society of Professional Journalists is also very interested in this issue and last week I attended a meeting with the local chapter, to discuss ways to meet the needs of mainstream reporters and new media types, and to address changing total control of local press ID cards with the police department.

In other positive changes at the police public affairs desk, the SF Chronicle notes:
We knew Castro Halloween was dead, but official word today from the San Francisco Police Department puts the final, um, nail in the coffin. Here's what the department (whose public affairs office now actually puts out press advisories!) has to say:

There will be no City-sponsored venue in the Castro district for Halloween, Saturday, October 31. There will be no official entertainment provided and no street closures are planned. [...] (Emphasis added.)
Believe it or not, and lots of reporters, bloggers and police watchdogs know it to be true, progressive San Francisco for years had to endure the police department's public affairs office treating basic info like the gold in Fort Knox. Their top commitment was to keep it from the press and public, and to treat anyone asking for details like a criminal suspect.

Thanks to Chief Gascon, who in his short time leading the police force, has heard the many complaints about the press office, and he's acted swiftly and responsibly to rectify problems. I'm looking forward to further improvements with that division of the SFPD, and smart suggestions coming from SPJ, bloggers and Dufty's office.

Friday, October 16, 2009

(Click here for info on the Buju boycott.)

Gay Jamaican: Buju Meeting Was A 'Good Step'

One of the gay Jamaicans who reached out to me after the launch of the tourism and Red Stripe boycott earlier this year, who prefers to be known by the initials H.A., has kept in touch with me. I asked him this week, as the roiling controversy over the Monday meeting between San Francisco gay leaders and Buju Banton, for his thoughts on it all. H.A. sent his comments to be shared because he wants to reach gay Americans and engage with us to help bring improvement to gay Jamaicans.

One idea of H.A.'s that is something we talked about when the Red Stripe boycott started - placing ads in Jamaican newspapers and on local TV - calling for respect of gay people. Of course, I don't have access to the kind of money it would take to begin media education campaigns in Jamaica, but if I did, I'd work with H.A. to get the ads before readers and viewers.

Thanks, H.A., for your time and thoughts. Please, give your attention to what H.A. has to say:
Hey, Michael. This is indeed interesting. I knew Mark (Buju) some time ago; in fact, I was his senior and one of his trainers when we did martial arts so many years ago. It has been a bit sad for me to see what has happened to him because of his refusal to use his influence and position to try to promote an atmosphere of tolerance towards the GLBT community here in Jamdown.

As you mentioned, he would have cited Rastafarian beliefs as his justification for not attempting to address the issue in any meaningful manner. At this point, I think he is certainly more willing to see what can be done to prevent any further tarnishing of his already riddled reputation. His pocket (and those of his managers, etc.) has certainly been hit hard more times than I'm sure he would care to count. The real challenge now, I suppose, is to not bully him too much (I'm not saying get rid of the bullying completely); just see how some kind of compromise can be reached.

Also, we don't need another case of the Reggae Compassionate Act, where artistes who signed or claimed to sign, recanted or denied that they ever did. The real problem is that Mark (Buju) stands to lose a lot of credibility and reputation both here in Jamaica and with hardcore dancehall fans abroad if he is seen to be "too friendly with the gays" (to put it nicely). There needs to be something very public, and very concrete that will be irrefutable.

Well, to be quite honest, I don't think the meeting was a waste of time. I believe that it is very good to have some kind of dialogue going, which was very evident from the robust discussion on your blog recently. :)

While it may be disheartening to the gay community here in Jamaica that the recognition of one's humanity and one's Jamaican-ness is all contingent on one being heterosexual; and also the fact that the government has not only been perpetuating, but actively participating in this bigotry and discrimination, the fact is that this meeting was a much-welcomed effort.

JFLAG's response to your initiative is unnecessary; just as much as JFLAG's existence. JFLAG, in its current state of passivity is, quite frankly, a useless entity; and not one that the Jamaican gay community should be allowing to speak on its behalf. Brian Williamson was the face of JFLAG. As much as it pains me to say it, his death and that of Steve Harvey, did more for advancing gay rights in Jamaica than anything JFLAG has done since their demise.

We are seen as a joke, because the gay community, barring a few dedicated members, is disgustingly passive. You call for a boycott, and only a very small few respond. You call for a meeting, and most will find some excuse to not be there. The majority of the gay community does not seem too concerned with their own rights and welfare, and it shows in their lack of action. The meeting was a good step.

Until we seriously galvanize the rest of the community to action, we are at a dead-end.

There is a little change going on, though. Royal Palm Estate, now The Blackburns, a local series - I don't know if you've ever heard of it - has made an effort to expose Jamaica to the notion of gays in the media (as more than just objects of ridicule) through the incorporation of characters like Jeffrey Blackburn, a few years ago and, more recently, the character of Alexi Goldberg, a gay (male) fashion designer, but played by local sportscaster and actress, Dahlia Harris. I suppose the idea of a gay man being played by a man was too much to ask. Still, it's a step in the right direction.

What is needed from JFLAG and allies of the gay community, is an alliance with local media and artists, to create more programmes aimed at promoting further objective discussion on various issues concerning gay rights, and the purchase of slots in print and electronic media, that will air or display public service announcements aimed at sensitizing the general population in Jamaica of the plight of gay citizens. Perhaps the government will get the drift that the time for change is now.

One Love,

Indians Get a Summit With Obama;

Gays Got a Nice Speech
(President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, on August 12, hosted Medal of Freedom recipient Joseph Medicine Crow during a reception for recipients at the White House. Photo courtesy Pete Souza/White House.)

Time sure flies when the White House is not delivering on Barack Obama's grand and fierce promises to gay Americans. It was a month ago when I wrote about Native Americans traveling to Washington for a meeting with the President's staff, and pointed out that gays have had no similar sit-downs with the White House.

And why was that meeting taking place? Had to do with a candidate, now in office, keeping his word:
A gathering of tribal nations, which was promised by Obama during his campaign for president to be a yearly occurrence, is expected to take place sometime this fall, but the exact date has not yet been decided, Inouye said.
Word is out today that Obama has set a date for the first Indian summit. Imagine that, a politician keeping his commitment to a major American constituency, while also making and sticking to a timeline. Would be great if Obama delivered the same engagement to gay America, but I don't believe Joe Solmonese of HRC is demanding it.

From this morning's Indian Country Today story:
White House officials chose Columbus Day to announce a first-of-its-kind conference to be held with leaders from all federally recognized tribes. President Barack Obama will host a White House Tribal Nations Conference Nov. 5 from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

“Indian country has been waiting for well over a decade for a meeting of this caliber with the President of the United States,” said Joe A. Garcia, National Congress of American Indians president.

Leaders of all 564 federally recognized tribes will be invited, an announcement said, adding that they will be given the opportunity to interact directly with the president and other top administration officials.

Each federally recognized tribe can send one representative.
Is it too late for the Gay American Tribe be federally recognized and allowed to send a rep to the summit? Wait a minute. If that happens, the likely rep we'd send would be Solmonese, a weak advocate. Back to the story:
“I look forward to hearing directly from the leaders in Indian country about what my administration can do to not only meet their needs, but help improve their lives and the lives of their peoples,” Obama said. [...]

The gathering is intended to be part of the president’s outreach to all American people, according to the White House.
Hey, White House advisers, when do gay Americans get such outreach from the President? Has HRC put in writing and shared with the community that receive equal outreach? If they have, lemme know about it, please.
The invitations note that the historic meeting will not be held in the White House, but at the nearby Sidney R. Yates Auditorium of the Department of the Interior.

[White House spokesperson Shin] Inouye said that all the tribal leaders could not fit in the White House. [...]

He said that a timeline, topics to be covered, and any policy announcements were not yet ready to be shared, but they are in the preparation stage.
Damn, there's that timeline word again in relation to Obama and a minority group, but it has nothing to do with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.

By the way, plans are in the works to stream some of the summit:
In an effort to allow more tribal leaders and members to view the historic event, the Department of Interior is working with MyTribeTV, an Indian-owned business in Seattle, Wash., to provide online coverage of the conference.
I'll watch it, and only dream that such an event might one day happen for the gay community.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Solmonese's ME Gay
Marriage Donations = $0?

Last November, after CA gay marriage was reversed by the voters, I conducted a survey of giving to the No on 8 side by top Human Rights Campaign leaders, and found that the boss, Joe Solmonese, had given zero dollars. The grand total for donations by HRC leaders to No on 8 was $2,275.

While the leaders as individuals had given small amounts, the organization had donated tens of thousands to retain gay marriage rights here.

With Solmonese under renewed and escalating pressure this week to prove he an effective advocate for gay equality in Washington, I checked up on any donations he made to the No on 1 campaign to keep gay marriage in Maine.

FYI, according to Cindy Sullivan, spokesperson for the Maine Commission on Ethics and Election Practices, in response to my query about how current their donations' search engine is, "The information is available as soon as [the campaigns] 'file' their reports [...] The next report is due on October 13th, which will include all activity from 7/6/09-9/30/09."

So the data is very current, and here is what turns up when searching for contributions from the head of America's largest gay political group:
Maine Won't Discriminate
Solmonese, Joseph
Washington DC 20036
Cash $300.00
No hits were returned for any donations from him to No on 1. I guess with his $338,400 salary he's got better things to do with his money than give to No on 1. Maybe he doesn't follow the EMILY rule, early money is like yeast, and contribute in the first months of such gay proposition battle. Solmonese could be waiting till October to make a donation.

BTW, at the federal level so far this year, Solmonese has made a single donation of $1,000, and it went to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Does it tell us anything that he's apparently given zero to the gay marriage fight in Maine but wrote a low four-figure check for a straight Democrat?

I looked at just a few other HRC folks and their giving to No on 1 and found they donated small amounts, and three key people have coughed up nothing:
Susanne Salkind
September 9 and 30

Mary Breslauer
August 24

David Smith

Cathy Nelson

Hilary Rosen
Not much giving by these individuals, but to their credit, the HRC Maine Marriage PAC has raised nearly $140,000 for the No on 1 campaign, with $95,000 of it coming from HRC itself and I publicly laud them for that giving. If HRC would care to disclose all amounts donated by HRC executives, board members and staffers, I would welcome such transparency from them.

However, if I saw the HRC leaders writing out their own personal checks to help the effort in Maine, I would more charitably upon them and the example they set as community leaders.

Scrutiny of everything to do with HRC and those who lead it on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans must expand, if we are ever to make this advocacy organization an effective one that benefits the larger community.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

(Click here for more boycott info.)

Gleaner: Gay Buju Boycott Effective;

Observer: Is Pressure Breaking Him?

As I expected once it became public knowledge that I was part of a crew of gay advocates that meet with a homo-hating Jamaican singer, I received messages from straight Jamaicans claiming to be Jesus-loving Christians, who then proceeded to condemn me for daring to call for the singer to say these three words in a public forum in Kingston: Love gay people.

Similar messages came my way earlier this year when San Francisco gays launched a boycott against Jamaica, and the central is always the same: God doesn't love gay people. This argument is why we suggested Buju open his mouth in his homeland and declare love for gay people.

I'm pleased this call for love of gays in Jamaica made it into the Jamaica Observer story. The headline, "Buju Breaks Under Pressure," is not positive press for him, IMO, and the end about the continuing protests lets readers know the gays are keeping up the pressure. From the Observer:
Deejay Buju Banton yesterday met with four members of San Francisco's gay community in what is being seen as a move to discuss the continued cancellations of the gigs at various points on his Rasta Got Soul tour of the United States, due to pressure from gay rights groups. [...]

Among the items on the list of demands the gay rights lobbyists put forward was that Buju think about making statements in Jamaica calling for love toward gays; donate to the JFLAG group; hold a town hall meeting in Kingston about the need to respect gays and sing about loving gay people. All the suggestions were rejected by Buju, which is said to have infuriated the lobbyists present.

Petrelis also stated that although the meeting was a beneficial first step, the gay community will want more concrete steps taken, before their actions against Buju's concerts will cease.

The Jamaica Gleaner, the largest and most influential paper on the island has also covered the Monday meeting and noted the boycott against Buju is succeeding:
Gay groups have launched an aggressive cyber campaign calling for a boycott of Banton's United States tour, which is in support of his Rasta Got Soul album. It has been effective, with dates cancelled in major cities like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Richmond, Virginia.
To reinforce the point on readers, the Gleaner notes gays in Miami are making their own troubles for the singer and his Florida gig:

The uproar over Banton's tour has been getting attention from major media in the US, including NBC News, the New York Times and Miami Herald. In September, the Herald reported that gay groups in Miami have already launched a campaign to have the October 30 Reggae Bash show in that city cancelled if Banton is allowed to perform.

Global Vybz, promoters of Reggae Bash, told The Gleaner that they have arranged a meeting with the groups this week. Efforts to contact Global Vybz staff yesterday were unsuccessful. Tracii McGregor, Buju's manager, also could not be reached.
If you ask me, this coverage in Jamaica in two important publications, is quite favorable toward gays and our organizing against Buju, and is sending a message to his followers: Buju can't ignore the gays and we are diminishing his earnings.

Yeah, Buju and straight Jamaicans, there is a price to pay for hating gay people. Try loving gay people. Your God has enough love for all his children.