Monday, February 28, 2011

Black Bisexual Battles 
NYC's Dakota Coop Board

(Credit: Fred R. Conrad, NY Times.)

The New York Times on Saturday pulled the gilded curtain way back on one of Manhattan's most-exclusive coop boards at a fabled apartment building, the Dakota, and there's a bisexual angle involving a black man. One of the wealthy and well-connected tenants, Alphonse Fletcher Jr, has run into problems as he's tried to acquire more apartments.

The bisexual aspects surface early in the article, accompanied by the photo below, showing Fletcher, right, accepting an award in 2005 from a gay group at Harvard:

In a building whose name brings to mind Lennon, Bacall and Bernstein, Mr. Fletcher may not be the most famous resident, but he was already one of its most intriguing, even before he took on its board. In college, he was a member of R.O.T.C., which convened at M.I.T., as well as the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus; the reason he says he needs more space is because he is now married, and he and his wife have a young daughter. ....

The Dakota was not the only exclusive location where Fletcher was buying real estate with his very robust bank accounts:

He bought 1,100 acres in Litchfield County, Conn., with a storybook house employees called the Castle. He had his own security team.

He was popular among his neighbors, as was his companion, Hobart V. Fowlkes Jr., not least because of the parties they threw, often for charity. But he continued his quest to expand within the building, and kept coming up against obstacles that he now says are evidence of [racial] discrimination. ...

Adding another layer to the many issues involved in this high-stakes battle for valuable Manhattan property, were the charges of same-sex harassment:

Christopher Marsh, a contractor, said that in 2003 Mr. Fletcher hired him to manage his Connecticut property after they saw each other at their 20th high school reunion. After several weeks, Mr. Marsh, who was engaged to be married, quit. He said that Mr. Fletcher had made repeated sexual advances toward him. The two reached a confidential settlement, Mr. Marsh said.

Three years later, a man named John Van Hoosier filed a lawsuit saying he had been fired as Mr. Fletcher’s property manager after rejecting Mr. Fletcher’s sexual advances. Mr. Van Hoosier could not be reached and his lawyer declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement he reached. ...

It is only after facts and names about Fletcher's interactions with other man are provided that the Times writes about his wife and daughter, obliquely addressing the bisexual elements of the drama at the Dakota:

Despite becoming president [of the coop board], Mr. Fletcher began to spend more of his time in California, with Ellen K. Pao, a Bay Area venture capitalist he met at a conference and married in 2007. “Human beings aren’t so simple that you can characterize them as straight or gay,” said Mr. Fowlkes, Mr. Fletcher’s former companion. He still works for Mr. Fletcher and is the godfather of his daughter, Matilda. “What I will say about Buddy is that he’s my very best friend and I would do anything for him.”...

Over all, I'd say this Times story was more favorable toward Fletcher and his fights with the Dakota's coop board. I expect the paper will continue to cover Fletcher. His case has so many juicy elements - wealthy tenants, racial discrimination allegations, bisexuality and straight marriage, Harvard links, high-value real estate - it would make for great reality TV. 

Now, if the Dakota residents and their teams of lawyers ever miraculous agreed to such a TV series, you can bet it would attract a sizable audience.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fab Cartoon:
'2011 Naked Emperor Oscars'

Wonderful melding of political upheaval, the Academy Awards, trenchant cartooning and dictators coming in for well-deserved booing. From political cartoonist Zapiro for today's South Africa's Mail and Globe newspaper, via Al Jazeera's Libya live blog:

(Click to enlarge.)

No File on Harvey Milk

(The politician embraces his pal, the Pope of Pot, back in the day. Credit: Dennis Peron.)

About a year ago, I was at my favorite medical marijuana dispensary, the Market Street Coop, and my friends asked what I knew about the Drug Enforcement Administration having a file on gay icon Harvey Milk. They reminded me that Harvey was a vocal proponent of legalizing pot and had a close political and financial relationship with Dennis Peron, the longtime Pope of Pot.

Since the only way to learn what, if anything the DEA, had on Harvey, I sent off a Freedom of Information Act request to the feds. Practically a full year later, I've received a reply stating no DEA file on him was found after searching the archive, and we now know the DEA wasn't keeping tabs on him:

After reviewing your request as constituted, we conducted a preliminary search for responsive records pertaining to Mr. Milk. ... As a result of our query, we were unable to locate records responsive to your request. ...

Good to learn there is nothing at the DEA on Harvey, however, let's not overlook the year-long period it took for the feds to conduct a search for a deceased individual. It should not take any federal agency 12-months to rummage through the public records, then finally get back to the FOIA requester.

This matter of how long it takes the feds to expeditiously process a request needs to be addressed by Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Our government is taking too long with FOIAs and the lengthy process that all-too-easily stretches into years, and without Congressional action I don't see a reduction of processing time happening soon.

Here is the letter I received from the DEA:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bay Guardian Insults People With AIDS
as 'AIDS Victims'

 (The late Bobbi Campbell, a founder of the PWA empowerment movement. Note that his shirt does not say victim. This uncredited pic appears in the current Bay Guardian.)

The pretentious on-staff gay writer Marke B at the progressive weekly Bay Guardian wrote a rave review on Wednesday of the new AIDS documentary "We Were Here," about the dark years of the epidemic here. However, he made a bad choice of words that are a bracing and stigmatizing insult to those who've died of AIDS and the many HIV poz folks from the 1980s still alive today:

Other participants tell the stories of SF General Hospital's groundbreaking AIDS Ward 5B/5A, the Shanti Project, Visual AIDS, and the "San Francisco model" of multifaceted, compassionate care for AIDS victims before contemporary treatments became available. ...

After extolling many of the incredible advances in fighting the crisis and lending dignity to people with AIDS, Marke B cavalierly tosses out the "AIDS victim" phrase, which upset me and I sent a note to the Bay Guardian's editor Tim Redmond asking for an explanation. Tim wrote:

Okay, Michael, here's my understanding (and the understanding of Marke, who is more of an expert on LGBT PC than I am):

People with AIDS replaced AIDS victims as a term for those living with the disease. That was an important and appropriate distinction because AIDS victim was disempowering etc.

But I believe it was, and is, still okay (is it not?) to refer to someone who died as being a victim of a AIDS, as you would with any deadly disease or tragedy. (Cancer victim, victim of war, murder victim etc.) In this context, Marke was referring to people who had died (or were dying). If that wasn't completely clear, we apologize.

So the Bay Guardian is not apologizing for use of the term, and the editor and writer think the problem is this reader didn't understand the context in which the term was used. Pretty lame excuse, if you ask me, especially from a progressive publication in San Francisco, of all cities.

The paper used a photo of the brave PWA Bobbi Campbell, who did an amazing amount of work to reject the stigma of being called a victim, including being present at the meeting that produced the groundbreaking Denver Principles, which opened with this declaration:

We condemn attempts to label us as 'victims,' a term which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally 'patients,' a term which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are 'People With AIDS.' ...

Sadly, I believe the work of the PWAs who developed these principles and the values inherent in the principles have been diminished by Marke B and the Bay Guardian.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gay, Deaf Ugandan 
Granted U.S. Asylum

Back in the autumn, I became acquainted with Billy Urich of Connecticut who wears a a few fabulous hats, including the Chair InterPride Committee on International GLBTI Human Rights hat. Billy offered support for my efforts on behalf of gay Serbians who were attempting a gay pride march in the face of much political and religious hatred and intolerance.

Billy not only assisted in finding folks to attend a rally at the Serbian Mission to the United Nations, he also paid his own way to Belgrade to march in that city's first pride parade in almost a decade.

Today I heard from him, as he bears some genuinely good news about a gay Ugandan. Yeah, you read that right - a positive development for a gay man from this African nation. Here's what has happened:

Yesterday I traveled to the JFK Federal Building in Boston to appear as a witness on behalf of a gay Ugandan, Festival Coordinator and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliance officer for Connecticut PRIDE. This Ugandan citizen, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, petitioned for a stay of deportation and had requested US asylum.

For some time now, I have been working with his attorney, Marisa DeFranco, to keep the US government from sending his back to Uganda. We all know what happens there.

His case is unique in that he is not only gay, but is also hearing impaired since the age of 10 when an incorrect treatment for malaria in his village in Uganda left him deaf. There are no protections or accommodations for people with disabilities in Uganda.

That fact, complicated by his homosexuality, would surely have made him another sad statistic if he were to be sent back.

Because of attorney DeFranco's constant, diligent vigilance and amazingly thorough work over the past year and a half, it gives me an extreme pleasure to announce that the Ugandan has been granted asylum by the United States government and is no longer faced with the threat of deportation back to his native Uganda.

I should also add that the hundreds of hours of attorney DeFranco's superior work were completely pro bono.We at Connecticut PRIDE are deeply grateful for her dedication and hard work and share a huge sigh of relief with the Ugandan.

Let's all wish him the best of luck, now that he has been granted this important asylee status.

FBI Files: 
Gay Vet Outed Hoover in 1957

There is so much brave gay activism that took place before the Stonewall Riots, including during the very closeted 1950s, and slowly but surely more of our history is coming to light.

I don't in any way wish to denigrate the courageous anger and rebellion of the bar patrons and street folks and cross-dressers and hustlers at the riots in New York City in 1969. Let's simply expand our facts about what took place before then, and by whom, to bring some dignity and tolerance to gay people in America.

At the site, recently released Federal Bureau of Investigation files from 1957 and 1958 detail the courage of one former U.S. Army Colonel John Reybold, an acknowledged homosexual who alleged that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was "one of the boys." A total of 14-pages were released to in response to a FOIA request.

Several memos about Reybold were went to Hoover's deputy and life-partner Clyde Tolson. What do some of the memos report? From an August 1958 report on Reybold's private life:

During conversation, REYBOLD said at one time he had been an actor, that he had been in a Greek play that the police had closed. He said he liked young friends but that sometimes he had to beat them to keep them in place. Further stated he liked young men, liked to make love to them, liked to go to bed with them and to embrace them. He said he also like young men to go to concerts with him as this made him feel young.

At the Morals Division Office, REYBOLD said he has never been either the active or passive partner in any homosexual activity but admitted he "liked to love young men and embrace them." ...

In September 1958, more information was gathered on Reybold, as the above page states:

Reybold admits that he is a homosexual and he is very much angered at the ACLU because the Union will make no comment on laws regarding homosexuals. He has numerous complaints concerning the Washington vice squad and the manner in which it handles entraps such people as himself ...

The purpose of [redacted] furnishing this information is that Reybold has indicated to him that Mr. Hoover is "one of the boys" and also that there are supposed to be a considerable number in the Central Intelligence Agency and and the State Department ...

Also in September 1958, another memo about the allegations was copied to Tolson:

Reybold very obviously is a psychopathic case. He appears to have a warped, twisted, but cunning mind. He admittedly stated he is a homosexual by nature and has been one for a long time. He openly bragged of doing considerable reading and states he is currently carrying on a fight to change laws and social practices which besmirch homosexuality.

It was necessary to pin Reybold down in a very harsh manner. He denied that he had made the specific statement "Mr. Hoover is one of the boys." He denied ever making the statement that Mr. Hoover is a homosexual. He admitted that on several occasions, in company of other homosexuals, he had made the statement "J. Edgar Hoover is either an active homosexual or else has the potentialities of being a homosexual." Upon the immediate demand that produce facts to support such statements, he attempted to defend himself by stating: (1) the Director is a bachelor; (2) the Director loved his mother very dearly; and (3) the Director frequented the Mayflower Bar."

Then in October 1958, an agent sent Tolson a terse memo, above, about how the agency resolved the problems with Reybold and his allegations:

[Redacted] called me this afternoon advising that the above individual [Reybold] had called on him after his interview with representatives of the Bureau yesterday. He stated that obviously Reybold was shaky but, of course, had no idea where we had secured our information. [Redacted] stated he though Reybold was sufficiently "shook up" to keep his mouth shut in the future.

Googling John Reybold and homosexual and John Reybold and J. Edgar Hoover produce nothing of further relevance, leading me to wonder how this outing homosexual has fallen through the cracks. Have you ever heard anything about him, his open homosexuality, battles with the FBI and other institutions, and public statements regarding Hoover being homosexual?

Kudos to use of the Freedom of Information Act by the folks for requesting and sharing the file on Colonel John Reybold.

'Orphee' by Philip Glass
at Herbst Theater This Weekend

(Members of the "Orphee" cast in rehearsal. Credit: Steve DiBartolomeo, Westside Studio Images.)

Bay Area fans of Philip Glass eagerly await the fall 2012 performances of his landmark opera "Einstein on the Beach" in Berkeley, and until then we can expect a number of opportunities to hear his other works live including this weekend's two performances of "Orphee."

For this lover of Glass' music, there simply are not enough companies around our area performing his hypnotic scores. I also dearly miss the store-front Oakland Opera Theater that staged the Glass works "Akhnaten" and "Les Enfants Terribles" before financial crises forced them to close their doors. Both productions had a vitality of superior quality and the intimate setting genuinely engaged the audience.

This chamber opera is based upon the classic French film by Jean Cocteau and the company putting on the show, the Ensemble Parallele, offers this synopsis:

Orphee, the poet and wayward husband of Eurydice, falls in love with a mysterious Princess – Death – who seduces him with the powers of the underworld. In Act I, set in the upperworld, the Princess holds forth as the Ringmaster of a disguised circus world. In Act II, in the underworld, the surreal burlesque circus is revealed in its full regale, as Orphée is put on trial.

The artistic director of Ensemble Parallele, Nicole Paiment, will be conducting and the production was designed and directed by Brian Staufenbiel.

In the cast are Eugene Brancoveanu, as Orphee, Marnie Breckenridge, in the role of the princess, John Duykers as Heurtebise, and Susannah Biller singing the Eurydice part. Smaller roles will be acted by Philip Skinner, Thomas Glenn, Austin Kness, Brooke Muñoz and David Poznanter.

Why wait until next autumn to hear a Glass opera in a live staging, by an adventuresome company with innovative folks putting on the show? Tickets can be purchased through City Box Office and the show plays at the Herbst Theater Saturday at 8 pm and a 2 pm matinee on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

'Liberate' Mideast Poster
Echoes 'Silence = Death' Design

Sometimes in history, graphic designers capture the mood of the people desiring change and empowerment with carefully created, stark poster images that advance revolutionary thinking and action . . .

. . . a black background, a few incredibly crucial words in white lettering and a splash of red or pink to grab the eye with simplicity . . .

. . . and my activist heart beats with pleasure, knowing both images contain the life-affirming desires of many people.

(Credits: Top poster is from Al Jazeera's Live Libya blog, which reported it was from @rutevera on Twitpic. Lower image is from ACT UP.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Forums to Pick New Boss:
S.F.P.D. 3 v. EQCA Zero

This is a very telling commentary on one thing that is very right about the San Francisco Police Department and also what is terribly askew at Equality California.

Because of recent political musical chairs at City Hall and the District Attorney's office, the city needs to hire a new chief of police, since George Gascon stepped down as chief and accepted an appointment to serve as the DA.

To better deliver community- and citywide- buy-in when a new top cop is chosen by Mayor Ed Lee, the police commission is holding three fully-open town hall meetings across the city to get as much public input as possible. Two of the meetings have already taken place, but the third and final meeting is coming up in a few days.

This Thursday, from 6 pm to 8 pm, the commission meets at the gay community center on Market and Octavia Streets, and all topics will be addressed not just issues of import to our community and a new head of the department. If you can't make the February 24 meeting, there is also the chance to address the commission at any of their regular hearings about what you want from a new chief.

Compare this municipally-mandated and ethically-required public engagement to hire a new police boss with the elitist, closed-door approach of Equality California to choose a new executive director and official representative for all of the state's gays.

As I blogged here and here and here, the self-appointed leaders of EQCA and the straight head-hunting firm they're hire to find the new director for us, have and will not be holding any such town hall forums.

At the end of February, the score for the San Francisco police department's number of town halls solely about a new chief stands at three, and the score for Equality California holding comparable forum is zero.

Should the out-of-touch and democracy-challenged board, staff and private consultants at EQCA need a model to emulate to pull themselves out of their tight-knit, closed circle of pals and bring in some fresh ideas and new voices, then can look to the local police commission.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Al Jazeera: Lesbian 'Corrective' Rape
Rising in South Africa

My heart goes out to the South African women of any sexual orientation who are violated through rape and the tremendous stigma they face in confronting this social scourge. I am also very concerned with how lesbians are subjected to "corrective" rape in South Africa and the awful lack of support they receive after they are sexually assaulted.

These human rights violations are the subject of a story at the Al Jazeera web site, and I applaud them and their reporter Jonah Hull for bringing their network's resource to report on rape against women in South Africa. This reporting needs some attention in the USA gay community and I hope other blogs pick up on the Al Jazeera story.

Perhaps attention from news outlets, gay bloggers and human rights activists beyond South Africa's borders will bring some pressure to bear on the country to address this outrageous violation of a woman's right to personal safety.

I also want to salute the incredibly brave and courageous lesbians who have stepped out from the shadows, to go public about what they have suffered, and how they have survived and now need support.

Here are excerpts of the written part of Al Jazeera's coverage, followed by a video report on some of the women who have survived being raped and how they are coping with their recovery and search for justice:

In South Africa, sexual attacks against lesbians are growing in frequency. Lesbians are violently abused, ostensibly to cure them of their "unAfrican" predilection, to teach them that they are women and not men. They are raped, in other words, in order to turn them straight. It is known as "corrective" rape.

Last April, in a Cape Town township, Millicent Gaika became a victim of so-called corrective rape. Overpowered, trapped inside her shack, she was beaten and raped continuously for five hours. ...

... Since South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994 lesbians, along with their gay male counterparts, have become more open about their sexuality, embracing rights enshrined in one of the world's most advanced constitutions. But their rights are often paper thin, their communities have failed to embrace them back.

Campaign groups say more than 500 women report being victims of corrective rape each year. In recent years more than 30 such attacks have resulted in death. Yet despite a concerted effort by concerned groups to highlight the plight of lesbians in the townships, the South African government has failed to designate corrective rape a hate crime - something that would force the police and courts to take it far more seriously.

In Millicent's case, her alleged attacker was arrested and then released on bail of just $10. As he awaits trial, he has been able to threaten her life. She lives in constant fear. Statistically, there is just a one in 10 chance that he will be convicted. ....

This is the video coverage accompanying the text:

Sure would be great to see an American network - ABC, CBS, NBC - pick up on this reporting, or one of the cable stations look at rape in general in South Africa, and how it is use against lesbians. I want to watch such reporting from domestic news channels.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Straight Firm Searches for
New Gay Leader at EQCA

The last time Geoff Kors and his colleagues at Equality California hired a firm of heterosexuals to carry out work for them, and by extension all of the state's gay community, was in 2008. During the disastrous $45 million No on 8 campaign to retain gay marriage, EQCA used the services of Dewey Square, a Sacramento-based political consultancy run by straight people.

What did Dewey Square and its main straight consultant to the No on 8 effort, Steve Smith, do for us? Among their lame decisions were the TV spots that didn't talk about or feature gay couples, the failure to use a letter from candidate Barack Obama opposed to the measure, and they refused to debate the Yes on 8 side.

Now, Kors and EQCA have retained the services of the executive search firm Morris and Berger to locate a new executive director, and guess what? It's a company run by heterosexuals and a straight person, Karin Berger Stellar, pictured, is in charge of the search. This means, yet again, a number of crucial decisions affecting the California gay community are being made by straight folks.

Oh, and just like the straight people at Dewey Square, their counterparts at Morris and Berger are not holding any public meetings to democratically engage the community. Why should Morris and Berger listen to average gays at town halls, get a sense of what we want from our next statewide leader, who will soon be speaking on behalf of all of us? Because the community deserves transparency in how our official leaders are chosen.

There is so much wrong with this corporate/professional approach to gay advocacy, starting with how disempowering and disenfranchising it is for the community at-large. Keeping the decision-making process behind tightly closed doors, allowing heterosexuals to have a bigger say than ordinary gays, and then one day announcing who our new statewide leader is incredibly unhealthy for the gay body politic.

Putting aside for a moment the heterosexual angle of the search firm, even if it were run by homosexuals, we would still have to address the lack of democracy at EQCA. Other than pricey galas beyond the reach of many average gays, there are no public forums put on by the group, allowing more of us to set our state's gay agenda.

By no stretch of the imagination can EQCA be defined as democratic, small d, and truly representative of the full economic and political diversity of the Golden State's gays.

One member of EQCA's board recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, but like the rest of the board, can't find her way to the San Francisco gay community center for regular public engagement with the community. Upon her return from Africa, the board member held, what else?, a fundraiser.

When Morris and Berger, and the folks at EQCA who hired them, soon enough deliver the news about who will be California's designated leaders and spokesperson, it will be done without any voting having taken place among the rank and file. Only the A-gays on EQCA's board and its rich donors will have been permitted a say in choosing our new leader.

The rest of us will just have to swallow the latest autocratic maneuvers of what is supposed to be our community group at the state level. This is no way to run a movement.

Defense Agency FOIA Request:
5-Years to Release 2-Pages

At the end of 2005, the New York Times broke a story about the Bush administration engaging in domestic wiretapping and other forms of surveillance. The spying was carried out under a secret order signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, and one of the intelligence agencies involved was the Defense Intelligence Agency.

I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with DIA for their FOIA logs back in December 2005, and now, a bit more than five-years later, DIA has finally produced a reply consisting of two requests. DIA has not provided me with the FOIA logs I asked for and I seriously doubt only two requests were made over the 2001-2005 period covering my request.

The length of time it took to get this skimpy and incomplete reply is a prime example of how long it can take to get federal agency to comply in a timely manner to a FOIA request. There is no reason why it should take DIA five-years to locate and release other FOIA requests.

Conservative GOP Congressman Darrell Issa of California recently requested the FOIA logs from 180 federal agencies, and the New York Times reported on how this move made at least one journalistic group nervous:

It “just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking,” said David Cuillier, a University of Arizona journalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. “It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good.”

On the other hand, Nate Jones, one of the writers at the Unredacted blog maintained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, offered praise for Issa's massive request for the logs:

But from my point of view, I think it’s great that Congress is exercising its oversight to ensure that the Freedom of Information Act –an act which it passed in 1966 and strengthened by overriding President Ford’s 1974 veto– is effective. As President Obama stated, the Freedom of Information Act “is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.” ...

I welcome Congressman Issa’s investigation into FOIA and hope he can help lead a bipartisan effort to improve the FOIA system. 

If the folks at the National Security Archive, who surely know their FOIA business and who filed the two FOIA requests with DIA that were released to me, are supportive of Issa's attempt to get the logs and potentially improve FOIA responses for everyone who uses it, let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

As my five-year DIA FOIA request clearly shows, there's lots of room for improvement in prying loose public records. Here is the reply from DIA along with the two-pages released. Click on them to enlarge:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

EQCA: We Don't Need 
No Stinking Democracy

(Good thing this chap doesn't fear town halls like Gay Inc leaders do. Obama public forum on health care reform, July 2009. Credit: Mark Wilson, Getty Images.)

The gay elites who run Equality California, and who wasted $45 million in 2008 in their No on 8 campaign that not only saw a healthy chunk of change but also gay marriage go down the toilet, still are not the least bit interested in providing the average Golden State gays with genuine democracy.

It's been more than two-months since A-gay Geoff Kors announced he was stepping down as head of EQCA, and not a single public meeting has been held with the community to process his tenure, departure and what the rank and file want in his replacement. Democratic engagement through town halls, which are quite frequently just fine for the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, are anathema to the board and donors of EQCA.

Holding open meetings, which I'm very sure Harvey Milk would be screaming for and demanding on a regularly basis, are omitted from the job description for the leader of EQCA:

Community and Public Relations - Serve as the face of EQCA for external communication with the media, LGBT organizations and external audiences; use mainstream and LGBT media to communicate EQCA agenda to promote progress and goals; demonstrate visible leadership to the LGBT community; work within and outside the LGBT community to lead outreach and education efforts, specifically regarding issues of concern to the LGBT community. ...

My recollection of the last time EQCA's director was forced to meet with average gays in San Francisco, who weren't paying hundreds of dollars and wearing tuxedos and gown to schmooze with him, was two long years ago. In February 2009, 400-500 hundreds of people attended a town hall at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium proving there is deep community need and interest in such forums.

Let's be brutally honest. If one doesn't have a big bank account, fancy clothes, work at a corporation that can buy a gala dinner table or isn't a Democrat running for public office, EQCA simply is not interested.

Check out comments Kors made at EQCA's $350-a-ticket fundraiser this past Saturday at San Francisco's City Hall, if you need a reminder who matters to him and his org:

I want to especially acknowledge a few donors who are here tonight who have made gifts of more than $100,000 to our fight for equality. Tonight's presenting sponsor AT&T and 2009 equal award recipient AT&T California President Ken McNeely, PG&E, Bank of America, Wells Faro [sic], Horizons Foundation, Kathy Levinson and Naomi Fine, and Michael Dunn. To a true hero — Jim Hormel — and his partner Michael Nygen thank [sic] for more than half a million dollars of support. And let's show our thanks to our million dollar plus donors: the Walter and Evelyn Hass [sic] Jr. Fund and the California Teachers Association. ...

A local gay rag covered the weekend's gala, and reminded us that democratic principles are not an integral part of EQCA and its operations:

The search for Kors's replacement is proceeding rapidly, according to EQCA board member Cary Davidson. Executive search firm Morris and Berger is in talks with a broad range of stakeholders, he said, and they welcome suggestions and resumes.

But there are unlikely to be any public meetings regarding the search process. "I'm not sure that we gain anything through public meetings," Davidson said. "So much is done through professionals and conversations with candidates." ... [Emphasis added.]

The former rulers of Tunisia and Egypt would probably agree with Davidson's thinking that there's not much for the ruling elite to gain from public meetings. Little things, like community empowerment, true grassroots coordination, and respect for the views and needs of low- to moderate-income gays are not on the EQCA agenda.

Nope, they don't need no stinking democracy, not when they've hired a professional search firm, whose fee has not been disclosed, and not when EQCA is committed to closed door leadership. California gays deserve actual democracy from the organization that claims to represent us. If anyone needs a refresher as to just a few of the problems with this lame organization, be sure to read Patrick Range McDonald's excellent LA Weekly piece from early January.

With democracy breaking out across the Middle East, I wonder what it will take to get a dose injected into EQCA and the rest of Gay Inc.

Married Lezbezzlers Sentenced
in $6M Insurance Scheme

(Phyllis Stevens, left, and her wife Marla, leaving the federal courthouse in Iowa last month, after a sentencing hearing. Screen capture: Des Moines Register.)

This may is surely a first for married same sex couples, in that the lesbian partners collaborated to defraud an insurance firm, spent some of the ill-gotten gains on real estate, were living large in Las Vegas and donating to gay-friendly politicians.

As if that weren't enough to capture your attention, the partner who worked for the insurance company claims she has hundreds of split personalities and her wife is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson.

According to a January 21 story in the Des Moines Register, sentencing went rather quickly:

Aviva embezzler Phyllis Stevens received a six year prison term Friday while her spouse, Marla, received just over three years for her role in the crime.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Longstaff imposed the sentences on the two women at the end of a three hour hearing in which both women admitted their guilt, but explained that mental disorders caused by abuse as children contributed to their crimes. ...

Similarly, Marla Stevens, a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, took responsibility for spending large amounts of money including more than $400,000 in room service charges at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. ...

But Longstaff said that the amount of money embezzled, $5.9 million, plus how the money was spent was key to determining that both women have to serve prison time.

“When you steal $6 million, you are going to jail and going to go for a long time,” Longstaff said. ...

In a separate Register article, details emerged about the unique defense presented by Phyllis Stevens:

She says she has dissociative identity disorder, commonly known as multiple personalities - and hundreds of them.

Stevens told the psychiatrist that she first learned of the embezzlement during a meeting with Aviva officials.

"I figured it must be pretty close to the truth from what the Aviva folks were telling me from the reactions I was getting from the personalities." ...

As far as I know, Phyllis and Marla Stevens are the first legally married lesbian couple convicted of embezzlement against an insurance firm, and they'll have quite a story to tell the community after all their legal troubles are solved and their prison terms are served.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BF's Love Cures The Flu;
Colin Farrell Helps Too

The flu bug that hit our happy homo home about two weeks ago is finally almost over. Big Mike is doing much better. He started getting well days before I did, and I've been trying to catch up with the healing. His love, and delicious chicken soup with heaps of fresh vegetables, have done much to put me back to normal.

I think one thing that helped me from feeling totally miserable was spending much less time on the web and when I was online, keeping visits to the usual political and news blogs and sites to a minimum.

One site that kept my mind off the flu was Jane Fonda's terrific blog. I've long been a fan of her films and much of her political activism, and when she started blogging, I liked how she opened up her personal and professional worlds, giving me reason to return.

Fonda likes sharing pix of her life and friends, and she recently marked the opening night of the play "33 Variations" down in Los Angeles. Among her pals in the audience and at the play's West Coast premiere party was hunky, dreamboat, super sex symbol Colin Farrell. Here he is sharing a moment with Fonda:

(Farrell and Fonda. Credit: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.)

Let's be honest. It's nearly impossible to stay sick when there are new pix of Colin Farrell on the web to look at. Who cares that he's a very confirmed heterosexual? Such fine eye candy transcends all barriers! Now, let's get back to some political blogging.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Two Mikes Fighting the Cold Bug

We will spare you the medical and physical details. My partner Mike and I have been battling a very unpleasant cold thingie/almost flu for the past four days. It may be due to the extreme shift in the weather this past week, or maybe we picked up the bug from friends who've recently come down with this ailment.

Both of us have been in touch with our doctors, we're drinking gallons of water, getting lots of rest, and today had our friend Tate Swindell go food shopping for us. Not only did Tate schlep to the store to get us fresh fruits and veggies, but when he was here, he gave us a few reasons to laugh and smile.

The last thing I want to say about this bug is that at least we're not back east or in the heartland. I can't imagine being sick and also having to contend with below-freezing temps or chest-high snow.

We hope you and your loved ones are doing well this cold season.

Monday, February 07, 2011

BAR-Backed SF David Kato
(Non) Rally Attracts 5 People

(Raymond Hong, with camera, Milton Baird talking to the crew inside the KTVU news van.)

(City Hall at 5:30 pm on Sunday.)

The editor of the Bay Area Reporter, Cynthia Laird, who lives, votes and pays taxes in the East Bay, said in her editorial on Thursday that anonymous grassroots organizers were holding a rally for murdered gay Ugandan David Kato on Sunday at 5:30 pm at City Hall. A lot of folks, myself included, wonder if she's really in touch with the San Francisco gay community or if the BAR has much influence.

I rode my bike down to City Hall at the appointed hour, because I wanted to snap some pix for my blog and see who the organizers were. I found one BAR reader, Milton Baird, local gay video documentarian Raymond Hong and a reporter and cameraman from Channel 2, all waiting for the BAR-backed rally to start. The rally never happened.

Raymond sent around this note:

One wonders the source of misinformation the BAR listed at the end of the editorial (02/03/2011) regarding David Kato murder in Uganda at

John Sasaki with the KTVU news truck, three other people, and I were there at SF City Hall at 5:30pm yesterday, but there was no memorial event to be found.

This is undermining the BAR's reputation for reporting accurate information.

As she rides the BART train back to her East Bay home tonight, will Cynthia feel any need to explain her big mistake to readers, activists and the media? Will she issue just a terse "mistakes were made" statement in this week's BAR? Does she give a damn that her reputation has been seriously marred?

If memory serves, she has been at the BAR since 1995 and served as the news editor since 2000, and I wonder if like Hosni Mubarak she has been in power too long. Even if the publisher Tom Horn were to install an editor who resides in San Francisco, one who has strong links to more parts of the community other than just the businesses and nonprofits who advertise in the paper, we could expect the same conservative approach to gay and AIDS news.

But maybe a new San Francisco-living editor wouldn't make promote a non-existent rally at City Hall, and perhaps that editor would append a note to his or her mistaken editorial on the paper's web site.

What excuses will Cynthia offer up for her initial error and letting days go by without issuing an online correction?

The bottom line is this. Thursday's rally at Harvey Milk Plaza, promoted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Gays Without Borders/SF, Trans Thrive, and many individual members of the San Francisco community attracted 100 people. Sunday's vigil, pushed only by the BAR editor was a bust.

Here's a photo by Clinton Fein of our Thursday rally with 100 people in attendance, and which received no pre-event publicity from the BAR:

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Castro Sup. Wiener Snubs Uganda Vigil;
Bay Times: Keep Flag at Half Mast
(District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, at a recent HRC dinner. Credit: 123NonStop.)

The new member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for the Castro district is Scott Wiener. I reached out to his staffer Gillian Gillett on Monday, after the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro denied my request to lower the enormous rainbow flag in honor of murdered gay Ugandan advocate David Kato.

As far as I know, Wiener has no activist credential or history to speak of, and his involvement with political advocacy has been restricted to the Human Rights Campaign, on who board he was a member for many years, and retaining a seat on the local Democratic central committee.

Getting in touch with his office a full three days before our rally, I had hoped to work with Wiener on lowering the rainbow flag and other ways to honor Kato. Unfortunately, his office didn't contact me until Thursday morning. In an email Gillian said Scott had singularly focused on the arson fires from earlier that morning, which was why he hadn't been in touch. Ok, but I contacted them on Monday and the fires broke out on Thursday, so they had had some days to reach out.

On Friday, I spoke with Scott on the phone and he mentioned he and MUMC president Steve Adams had several conversations about the flag controversy. In response to my question of where he stood, with the merchants or the activists, Scott took no position and said he was happy there had been a resolution. "If you had time to speak with MUMC, why couldn't you find time to speak with the activists?" I asked. I got the same reply about him being pleased the flag was lowered.

Let's cut to the chase. Neither Scott nor anyone from his office came to the rally, offered help to lower the flag, send us a statement to be read at the rally, or do anything public about the murder of Kato. Scott snubbed us and our effort. Not a good sign for him becoming engaged in global gay activism in his district.

After not reaching out, making no appearance at the protest, etc., Scott said he might close this coming week's full Board meeting in memory of Kato, and he asked me to send him the latest info on the situation in Uganda. My response was no, after being snubbed, and I suggested that he or his staffers search the web for that info.

I hope Scott surprises me and he develops an international gay activist agenda. There's a lot he can do to help our brothers and sisters around the world, and it behooves him to have genuine engagement with experienced activists. Dialoging only with MUMC is no way to engage all sides nor show some activist interest. That can change, if Scott wants it to.

Now, after criticizing the Bay Area Reporter for failing to offer any pre-event coverage of the rally, and giving Scott a tongue-lashing, I wish to single out SF Bay Times columnist Ann Rostow. In her column that came out the morning of the rally, she made excellent observations and suggestions:

According to the merchants, who are in charge of the flag, there are four to eight requests to lower the flag every week. Obviously, as Steve Adams wrote Petrelis, if the group were to agree to all these requests, the flag would be permanently at half-staff. (Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the flag should be at half-staff all the time, and we could raise it on special occasions, like big court victories or Gay Pride Day).

Anyway, I can’t characterize the routine requests of which Adams writes. But Kato is a gay martyr. His life eulogized by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, his death covered in the pages of major newspapers around the world, his sacrifice marked by vigils in New York, London, San Francisco and Cape Town.

If the Castro merchants can’t lower the rainbow flag for David Kato, hammered to death after his name and address were published last October in one of the most homophobic countries in the world, who would they choose to honor with this sign of respect?

Thank you, Ann, for recognizing the importance of San Francisco gays and the Castro neighborhood working with activists on global gay matters. I still can't believe the unnecessary hurdles placed in our way of properly and publicly honoring Kato, and remain optimistic similar problems don't crop up the next time we want to lower the flag at Harvey Milk Plaza.

NYT Omits Iraqi Body Count from
Rumsfeld Book Review

The New York Times on Friday printed a review by Michiko Kakutani of the new memoir by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It was a pan of the book, "Known and Unknown," and one paragraph stood out for what was omitted:

Of a war that has already cost the United States more than $700 billion and claimed more than 4,400 American lives, Mr. Rumsfeld writes: “Knowing what we later learned and recognizing the costs, there is not a persuasive argument to be made that the United States would be in a stronger strategic position or that Iraq and the Middle East would be better off if Saddam were still in power. In short, ridding the region of Saddam’s brutal regime has created a more stable and secure world.” 

Has the war in Iraq also cost any lives of that county's civilian population? Yes, of course, it has and the latest estimate for civilian deaths from the Iraq Body Count site puts the number at 108,782. A six-figure loss of life among the Iraqi population and it doesn't warrant a mention in the Times' review.

I suggest Kakutani and her editor widen their worldview to encompass not only the American lives and dollars squandered fighting the Iraq war, but also the heavy death toll on Iraqi civilians.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

SMUG: No Fundraising in Kato's Name;
UK Group Scrubs Web Site

The confusion surrounding a bunch of anonymous Cambridge University students setting up an organization,, to raise money using murdered gay Ugandan activist David Kato's name, contrary to a stated request from the Sexual Minorities Uganda, is getting cleared up due to my expression of concern to the students and SMUG.

The notes below provide details giving us all a clearer picture of what mistakes the people made, and SMUG defining better what sort of financial assistance they deem appropriate. I appreciate the replies from both parties. All well and basically good.

However, I find it disturbing that the Cambridge students have scrubbed their site off the web, have made no public statement about why they've scrubbed their site, the very changed relationship between them and SMUG, and the one student who has written to me using only her first name, Katrin, is now requesting that I basically go silent about my previous post and the accountability I've brought about.

For whatever reason, the students have left up their Facebook pages for their pub night and black tie dinner events, as this writing.

One of my replies to Katrin in no uncertain terms told her I will do no scrubbing of my blog, nor will I keep silent about the mistakes she and her colleagues made. The students made a public web site, which generated a healthy dose of publicity and they don't seem keen at all about doing the decent thing and publicly addressing their mistakes. That is no way to engage in global gay organizing.

An email on behalf of the Cambridge folks:

Dear Michael

I just come from a half hour phone conversation with Frank Mugisha, during which we discussed the problem.

He asked me to reply to your email and CC him in (which I see you have already done now), so he can add his personal statement to the conversation.

The confusion has arisen because we used the word "endorsement" with respect to Sexual Minorities Uganda on our campaign website. We will now remove this from our website and refrain from using it in further correspondence.

However, Frank told me that he sees no problem in us continuing raising funds for the purposes specified on our website. I will let him add his own words on that point.

Michael, I'm sure I'm speaking for all of us on "the team" when I'm saying that we appreciate your concern about the legitimacy of any fundraising efforts that are currently being undertaken. I hope that after Frank's reply there will be clarification, and I hope that in return you will remove the private email we sent to you earlier from your blog.

Best Regards

Then this note arrived, giving much-needed further clarification:

Dear Katrin and Micheal,

Thank you for the call Katrin , first I would like to point out that SMUG is not endorsing any organization to do any kind of fund raising around the murder of our advocacy of officer David Kato and we would appreciate it if no organization raised money in the name of David Kato.

Like I mentioned to you on phone we have no problem with foundations and organizations supporting SMUG work, which is totally different from raising money in David's name.

Lastly you said you are a new organization or foundation we are only happy to receive donations and support from legitimate organizations that we are aware of for many reasons and so am going to put you in touch with some one who is familiar with SMUG work in the UK and we shall take the conversation further.


His message generated this note:

Dear Frank,

We are very much looking forward to being in touch with your contacts in the UK.

In the meantime, due to the miscommunications that have taken place, we are putting all our activities on hold, including events. We have decided to fully reimburse all the donations received so far, and we are taking our website offline for the time being.

We would like to ask the parties involved to respect that this is a private email exchange that is not meant for public distribution.

Wishing you all the best with current and future endeavors,


I initiated the dialog above and made absolutely no reference to my emails or any replies being private. Katrin can request all she wants to keep these notes out of the public view, thus evading taking public responsibility for her and the's missteps. Let's hope she and her colleagues soon issue a more official explanation to everyone about this matter.

UK Gays Reply on Fundraising
for David Kato & SMUG

There is confusion regarding a just-formed fundraising group by several students at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Calling themselves Paragraph 6, without explaining what the name refers to, the group's FAQs page contains no names of the individuals behind the campaign:

There are four of us who make up the core team behind this campaign. We met while studying in Cambridge and somehow all got stuck here for one reason or another. Other than that, we’re a diverse bunch, each representing a different nationality, outlook on life and score on the Kinsey scale.

The unnamed organizers provide details about where the money raised will go, list several money-making events including a pub night and black tie dinner, and the intentions are quite laudable:

ALL of your donations will go directly to helping make a real difference to individuals’ lives. Half of your donations will go to Sexual Minorities Uganda, David Kato’s activist organisation. The other half will be used to support individual LGBT refugees from Africa, who have had to flee their countries. ...

However, on January 29 the Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) organization's leaders - Frank Mugisha, Val Kalende, Pepe Julian - released a statement about Kato's murder and the aftermath, with this request to activists:

We call for respectful responses towards David Kato’s murder and NOT to use this tragic incident for fund raising campaigns. We thank and encourage everyone who has supported SMUG’s work to continue with us in the fight for LGBT rights. ...

Nothing is posted at the SMUG site about the UK campaign, nor is there a funding pitch posted requesting money be sent directly to SMUG.

I posted a comment to the Paragraph 6 blog, laying out these concerns and questioning the discrepancy between their goals and the objection to fundraising in Kato's name by SMUG. The comment has not yet been approved by the moderator, but in response to an email sent to the Cambridge organizers, they sent back this info:

Dear Michael

Thanks for getting in touch with us.

To be brief: We contacted Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of SMUG, to ask for his (quote) "permission and endorsement" to raise funds for the purposes now specified on our website before starting our campaign. On January 28th, we received an email reply from him in which he gave us his go-ahead and said that he was looking forward to our support.

However, it is clear that what matters above all is that the wishes of those who knew David Kato best and worked with him in Uganda are respected. We are getting in touch with Frank right now, to reconfirm his earlier endorsement and talk to him about this issue. If there has been a change in opinion regarding our campaign (perhaps because, as it has come to our attention, other people have started raising funds without consulting SMUG first) then we were not informed about that.

We will keep you updated.

The Team

Odd that they don't give any names of who comprises The Team, and they also state that others are also soliciting funds in Kato's name apparently without SMUG's endorsement, adding to my confusion. Paragraph 6 would greatly benefit themselves if they provided transparency as to who exactly the organizers are and make their names public.

Let's hope we soon hear from Frank Mugisha or another SMUG leader directly regarding all this, and the confusion is adequately cleared up and laid to rest.

Friday, February 04, 2011

David Kato/Gay Uganda SF Rally Attracts 100+;
DC, NYC Stage Vigils
[Click the pix to enlarge!]

(At sunset, the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza flew at half mast for David Kato. Credti: Clinton Fein.)

(Activists hold up "Stop the Violence" signs at Harvey Milk Plaza. Credit: Clinton Fein.)

(John Weber, past Emperor of the Imperial Court, was the engaging emcee, who really gave much anger and emotion to the pain we are all feeling over David Kato's death, and he reminded us of the murder of Emmett Till on U.S. soil. Credit: Danny Nicoletta.)

(Clinton Fein requests that everyone call Giles Muhame, the editor of the Rolling Stone tabloid in Kampala, on his cell phone: 0712-609-665. Tell him what you think of his role in fostering anti-gay bias. Credit: Danny Nicoletta.)

February 3 was a day on which three American cities saw gay activists and our allies hit the streets over the brutal murder of gay Ugandan David Kato, and we warm San Franciscans must laud our colleagues in DC and NYC who braved freezing temps and howling winds.

The day started with a picket outside the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton, then in the afternoon a speak out happened at Uganda's Mission to the United Nations. Thanks, east coasters, for not letting a little inclement weather stop us from our appointed duty for global gay solidarity.

The goddess provided me with the activist tools and comrades I needed to pull off a very successful rally honoring David Kato, starting with stirring up the Castro merchants, having them agree to lower the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza at half mast, ending with a fabulous turnout for our early evening protest.

I'm pegging our number at 100-plus for the hour we were rallying. Our roster of speakers included Melanie Nathan of LezGetReal who is working to secure UK asylum for lesbian Ugandan , Rev. William H. Knight of MCC/SF spoke about loving one another every day, Sister Pat N Leather distributed safety packets, Victoria Grace asked us to embrace her and all transgenders, Gary Virginia of Gays Without Border said we all bleed red blood, and I stated my opposition to the death penalty, everywhere and in every case.

Sister Phyliss With Joy brought the rally to a rousing and emotionally uplifting conclusion, leading us in singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I printed up the lyrics on slips of paper to hand out.

I'm sure as heck not paid to perform this community organizing, so it means much when praise comes my way, which is not all that often and tonight someone I respect, Jeff Cotter of the Rainbow World Fund sent me this note:

"Thank you for organizing tonight's rally. I was really touched by what you said and by all of the speakers. The whole event was inspiring. I was amazed that you got MUMC to lower the flag - it was really moving to see it at half mast. You are a tough cookie."

Yeah, and I ain't done with MUMC yet!

Words alone cannot say thank you enough from my heart to all the folks who all came out tonight, or freely gave of themselves to promote the action or otherwise backed our solidarity action with enthusiasm. You all, along with our frozen friends back east, did fine work today on behalf of David Kato and sending solidarity and hope to our brothers and sisters in Uganda.

Here's a terrific video of our speak out. It was made by James Oliviera and gives a great sense of what took place:

UPDATE on February 21:

My friend Raymond Hong, the longtime community videographer, was at the rally has made some videos of the event. This is part one of his report:

And here is the second part:

Thanks much, Raymond, for this latest great act of reporting and for your years of service to the community.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

1st Time Ever: Milk Plaza Rainbow Flag,
Half-Mast Tonight for Global Gays/Uganda

Many folks this week have advised me to not confront the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro or their president about their control of the city property at Harvey Milk Plaza, including the rainbow flag and pole. But it just so happened that the goddess provided for me today and I'm very pleased I followed my own drummer.

This morning was the MUMC monthly meeting and I was there to use public comment time to recruit for participants for the 6 pm rally, and to request that they re-consider their policies regarding the flag and who decides when it can be lowered or otherwise adapted.

After the meeting, MUMC's president Steve Adams and I spoke about how ways I want to transform the enormous rainbow flag into a living, breathing, ever-evolving tool for change and solidarity for gay people. He told me about their agreement with the city to maintain and control the plaza, and that he would bring my concerns to his board.

Steve said he would re-think my request to now lower the flag for just the duration of the rally this evening. A short while ago, he phoned and emailed the news that he's agreed to have the rainbow flag fly at half mast tonight. I thanked him for this arrangement and said it much a lot to local activists working on global gay issues, and to gays around the world.

As far as I can determine, the flag has been lowered in recent memory for gay San Francisco police officers and when the California Supreme Court upheld the Prop 8 vote. I fully believe that tonight's lowering of the rainbow flag is the first time ever that this is happening for a global gay issue. One more reason for you to join us tonight. I hope to see you!

Here's the official word:


MUMC will be having the Rainbow Flag at Harvey Milk Plaza lowered to half staff in honor of David Kato and all the other horrendous acts against our community worldwide for one hour this evening from 6 pm until 7 pm Thursday February 3, 2011.

Steve Adams
Merchants of Upper Market and Castro

BAR: What Gay Uganda Rally Tonight?
SF Paper's Censorship 

I don't have to be an Egyptian citizen to experience news censorship because today in San Francisco I can show you proof of an influential news institution blacking out information it doesn't like.

Many of you know that for the past I have been collaborating with a wide spectrum of activists - the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Gays Without Borders/SF, Trans Thrive, et al - to put on a solidarity rally for murdered gay Ugandan David Kato tonight at 6 pm at Harvey Milk Plaza. Dozens of local activists have spread the word about the rally, and are preparing posters, anti-violence packets, and drafting speeches.

Yet, there is not a single word about the rally or effort going into it in the Bay Area Reporter today. The editor, Cynthia Laird, who lives in the East Bay and may not always be up on San Francisco grassroots actions, wrote a compelling editorial about Kato's brutal killing and the dire situation for the Ugandan gay community.

At the end, Laird mentions unnamed grassroots activists are staging a vigil for Kato on Sunday at City Hall. She provides no info on who to contact for more details, and the vigil is certainly news to everyone working on tonight's rally. Might have cost too much in ink and newsprint costs to mention both actions.

In addition, the BAR prints a lengthy Rex Wockner story about gay Uganda, with much old info about President Obama and Secretary Clinton making statements. I guess if folks without access to the web in the past week had not heard about Kato's killing, this piece would be very informative. But I wonder why Laird couldn't add a brief bit info about our rally this evening.

What was some of the local news in the BAR today? The Edge bar has reopened, and voting is open in a readers poll, got space in the paper.

The BAR's web-only content contains a medium-length piece about how Laird's wife, Alameda county judge and trans advocate Victoria Kolakowski will be honored at Equality California upcoming $350 a ticket gala in a few weeks. More web-only news is about a member of the Equality California board trekking to Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for EQCA and gay youths.

Since EQCA and its director Geoff Kors knocked themselves out on behalf of the editor's wife's race for a judgeship, I'm not surprised there has been no critical anything against that organization for months. Oh, and given that the Edge bar has recently placed ads in the paper, and likely to do so in the future, I can understand why the reopening gets ink.

What reason did Laird have for keeping out any details about our rally? Her associate editor Matthew Bajko gets my alerts. Lots of activists are sharing info about the importance of getting into Milk Plaza for gay Ugandans. And Laird herself is making a lot of demands on the Ugandan government and American evangelicals. But her editorial rings quite hallow by her omission of the work activists are performing to publicly address these matters.

The rally at 6 pm tonight could have used some pre-event publicity from the BAR, just like the protesters in Liberation Square could benefit with encouraging pro-democracy words from Obama.

Shame on Laird and the BAR for their silence today about the rally.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

S.F. Unites for Gay Ugandans Feb 3;
Trans, Srs of Indulgence, Gays w/o Borders

A coalition of grassroots human rights organizations in San Francisco will honor murdered gay Ugandan David Kato with a boisterous solidarity action tomorrow in an historical public community space in the heart of the Castro.

WHAT: Rally to honor David Kato
WHERE: Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro Street
THEME: Stop killing queers
DATE: Thursday, February 3
TIME: 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Last week David Kato was hammered to death in Kampala, his funeral was racked with chaos and religious bias, and a suspect has been arrested and made a confession. Activists remain wary of the Ugandan police force and their investigation.

The rally's focus is on demanding justice for the murder victim, an end to American reverends meddling in Uganda's internal politics, and the pending death-penalty-for-gays bill in the parliament to be soundly rejected.

Three volunteer groups are the key organizers of San Francisco rally, starting with Gays Without Borders/SF, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Trans Thrive.

"We have a loud, unified message to Uganda's clerics and politicians: Stop the violence, social demonizing and killing against our brothers and sisters. Period.," said Sister PatnLeather, an event speaker.

"The word will go out clear and proud on February 3 from Harvey Milk Plaza: LGBT people under attack. What do we do? Act up! Fight back!," said Michael Petrelis, one of the organizers.

Michael Petrelis
Ph: 415-621-6267

(A coalition of human rights organizations in Uganda today circulated this joint statement about Kato's killing. It was written before the police announced an arrest and confession in the matter.)