Expressing my view!

Sharing with whoever would read my thoughts

The latest concept in dating and dining: Speed Plating

Chef Danny Boome tries something new

By Antoine Craigwell

Celebrity Chef Danny Boome’s concept of “speed plating”, a take on combining speed dating with dinner, was a welcome change from some of the tired old three-minute dating routines. At Tree & Garden restaurant in the upper East Village on Tuesday evening, more than 40 people gathered to sample Boome’s creations, in four courses, and to engage in an unusual activity: in as much time as it takes to complete eating a course to match and connect four different people with each other. The guests for the dinner, selected from marketing promotions, included public relations executives, representatives from the media, teachers, non-profit administrators, lawyers, doctors, and music producers.

According to Boome’s bio on dannyboome.tv, the celebrity chef from Food Network’s Rescue Chef, started his culinary training in 1999 as a cook in Switzerland, while as an au pair for a local family. After training at the West Wind Inn in Canada, he attended the Grange Cookery School in England. Following his culinary training, he started out as a young chef at the fashionable Asia de Cuba restaurant in St. Martins Lane London Hotel, where he recognized his passion for fusion cooking, the concept of concentrated ingredients with intense flavors being blended with select others to produce enhanced or amplified tastes. Boome launched his television career in 2004 on UKTV Food’s co-production Wild and Fresh for which he travelled across Canada to obtain the best home-grown ingredients and produce each province had to offer. Returning to England, he hosted Danny By the Sea, Coastal Kitchen and Local Food Heroes, and was a regular cooking feature ITV’s Summer This Morning. Boome became the “Rescue Chef” in 2008.

After being plied with copious amounts of champagne and lychee flavored drinks, the guests, introduced themselves to each other, and began the process of getting to know each other, preempting the formalized introductory process. The ladies were ushered first into the restaurant’s back garden seating area, where on a summer evening, the temperature was just right, neither stiflingly hot and humid nor prematurely chilly. Each man was given an envelope with a number printed on a card when he arrived, followed, and found his place opposite a woman at a numbered table. Throughout the dinner, Tree’s wait staff responded by ensuring that glasses were topped up with either red or white wine, politely and unobtrusively serving the courses, and clearing the tables.

Before serving the appetizer, Boome in his announcement of the process for the evening made a singularly significant request. He asked that the ladies refrain from using their cell phones and not to place them on the tables, which hinted at the trend where people at dinner or sharing meals spent time on their phones texting or in conversation, rather than with their dining companions. One diner suggested that sharing a meal with someone who preferred to text or be on their phone was not only rude, but showed a blatant disregard and disrespect to the person with whom they were supposedly sharing the meal.

Then the first course, a shared dish, arrived. It was pan seared asparagus with saffron aioli and grilled artichokes with horseradish mayo. The asparagus, tender, and saffron aioli and horseradish mayo presented easily identifiable flavors, teasing the palate, but a quick glance around the garden suggested that many didn’t quite take to the artichokes. Conversation between the pairs at tables seemed spirited and many seemed to be genuinely entering into the spirit of the evening by getting to know the person opposite, and regarding the experience as trying something new, something different.

When this course had ended, the men were again given cards with table numbers and asked to proceed to their new dates. The second course which followed, as Broome explained, depended on a person’s taste buds, which consisted of a new experience for everyone. The women were given blindfolds and their male eating companions fed lychee, poached pear in red wine, and liver pate on crackers to them and then repeated for the men. While this experience played with and challenged the senses, coming so soon after being introduced to someone for the first time, it required leaps of trust in the person sitting opposite feeding another food, and raised questions of how people responded to each other along with the bonds and commonalities food creates.

The third course, preceded again by numbered cards given to the men who changed places and had the opportunity to eat and speak with a different woman, featured either seared scallops on a bed of wasabi and mashed avocado drizzled with lemon grass oil or lamb cutlets with a side of roman salad, grilled zest polenta and hot fig jus. Everyone it seemed enjoyed this course, commenting that the scallops and the lamb cutlets were tasty. Instead of the usual litany of questions, conversation at one table, for instance, centered on a discussion of the Patriot’s Act, the U.S. Constitution and probable cause, and the case for the mosque near where the World Trade Center towers once stood. But as a result of one of the diner’s position within city government and the presence of press at the event, there was a reticence to speak more openly. During this course, creating a moment of mirth for one of the ladies, and to his obvious embarrassment, her dinner partner’s chair back tilted away from him, and he went into a slow fall over to another guest, appearing intoxicated, as if he had too much wine.

After the meat course, another numbered card followed with the men having to change places for dessert. This course, as with the first, was also shared, and seemed to bring the dinner full circle. It consisted of lemon grass and ginger panacotta, chili chocolate dipped strawberries, baked figs and fresh cream, finished with ginger snap cookies topped with mango chutney. While spooning mouthfuls of pancetta or sampling the chutney, conversation at one table was focused on one of the participants, a psychiatrist, and talked of how as a professional she separated the work side of who she is from her personal self when participating in an event such as this.

At the dinner’s end, the guests were invited to exchange information with those with whom they would like to remain in contact. As an observation, several of the female guests had come to the dating dinner with their close friends, where at least two groups of three women knew each other well and could be seen after the dinner comparing notes about their respective dinner partners.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Pride Means

(Note: This article reposted from the SASOD YahooGroup. It was  written by a Guyanese who resides in the U.S. The Center refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City.)

Yesterday, in the quiet recesses of the Center, we met as a diverse group of mostly gay and undocumented immigrants to discuss Pride Celebrations. Releasing tension[s] absorbed from the outside world, we all relaxed, and began sharing our stories of coming from societies where no such celebration can occur, and our impressions encountering our first New York City Pride Parade. Some of our stories were of immediate relief, while others like mine, were of initial cynicism and apprehension.

The first time I was exposed to New York City pride, I decided I didn’t want to be that type of gay man. It appeared too celebratory, extravagant and vulgar. The parade didn’t reflect any part of me. I recoiled. Years went by, as I dismissed it it as a vehicle for certain aspects of the gay community that I didn’t identify with.

Now, as part of the Immigrant Social Action Group at the Center, my impression has been drastically changed. The year-long journey that brought me here has been life-altering, as desperation led to self-acceptance. In my case, self-acceptance opened my mind to all forms of diversity in sexual identity and gender identity. A large part of this was due to my presence inside the Center. It has been a wholesome and pleasurable womb for personal rebirth.

The themes of self-acceptance and wider acceptance emerged in our discussion[s] of what gay pride and the parades mean. Through my friends’ stories, I was taught how the celebratory nature of the parades have facilitated many gay immigrants’ acceptance of themselves. Stories were told that delighted me as I sat immersed in the camaraderie. One woman told of her first New York City gay pride, when she tremulously looked on, until a contingent of her fellow countrymen walked by in national wear and invited her into the parade. She jumped in, and immediately experienced a rebirth, and attainment of pride, in her sexual identity.

Another story told, was of a gay man who, newly arrived in the United States, was in San Francisco with a friend. They went to the pride parade, and were taken aback by the sight of gay men and women marching in public dancing and celebrating. It seemed the American Dream; it seemed everything they had come to America for. As they ran along the outside of the parade asking what it was, they were invited onto a Float. Two thin, brown men invited to dance on an all-white float. They melted into the celebration.

A third story came from a man of Caribbean descent who was afraid of being seen in public in the vicinity of the parade. His story reflected mine. After many years of living in fear, he finally broke free. He now marches proudly and openly. Another man, also from the Caribbean, spoke of his initial reluctance because of the pretentious atmosphere of the parade. Yesterday, he too reflected my impression. As he gradually learnt to accept himself, he became comfortable and accepting of others, so that today, he no longer sees the parade as a distortion of gay pride, but a valid celebration, to not only display our presence, but to invite the timid and unsure, and to entice those outside our community into a celebration, with lowered barriers of aversion.

There are still many barriers to be lowered. A significant portion of the intolerance we feel as gay immigrants comes from other settlers from our homelands, and other countries, who have brought bigotry with them. Even within New York City, we live with prejudice because we cannot afford to live elsewhere. It sometimes makes us feel resigned to failure in seeking a better life. This sentiment was shared by many in the room.

Even when those of us who find strength and courage to come out and immerse ourselves in gay-friendly parts of the City, do so, we encounter intolerance. This particular strain of intolerance is very hurtful because it comes from within the LGBT community itself. I personally know that identifying as gay doesn’t automatically lead to full acceptance by other LGBT individuals. At a recent celebration for gay pride, I witnessed racial tension between two individuals. I felt hurt. I went there expecting to see all facets of the LGBT rights movement under one banner regardless of each individual’s other identities. I was hoping to see unwavering acceptance. I was hoping to see public expression of the move beyond self-acceptance to acceptance of others. I came away disappointed, reeling from the reality of bigotry. Even as we ourselves struggle for acceptance, we sometimes fail to push our own insecurities away. I hear gay men mock lesbians and transgendered individuals. I hear macho-acting men berating effeminate men. I hear every possible distinction being used to discriminate. I feel deflated.

One of the storytellers spoke of coming to the US to escape living in the shadows of his society, but finds himself doing the same here. Yes, in coming into the borders, he no longer fears for his life because of his sexual orientation, but he finds it has been exchanged for other intolerances spread across many of his identities. He feels it against his complexion, he feels it against his effeminate manner, he feels it against his thick accent, he feels it against his muslim faith. The magnitude of the intolerance, he feels, remains the same. Another speaker feels it because she is also muslim, has a heavy accent, and because she is transgendered.

I mention this because it is, and has been, transgendered individuals, effeminate men, and macho-acting women who have been at the front lines of the fight for acceptance. No other choice exists for them. They, unlike many others who fit gender stereotypes, don’t have the luxury to hide behind mannerisms for convenience. So they absorb so much more. They also have to be stronger. It is for this that I force myself to accept all of us despite how insecure I feel, or how chipped, shattered or distorted we may have become in our personal struggles.  The line between preference and discrimination is a fuzzy one, and it takes diligent vigilance to remain on the virtuous side of it.

I have heard the term ‘post-gay’ being used to describe individuals who have moved away from activism and live openly within the confines of the larger society. They have given up some of their identity to be accommodated. However, when I hear the term ‘post-gay’ this is what I imagine: a biologically diverse movement that is no longer a minority, but encompasses all sexual and gender identities. A place where we recognize and celebrate all gender non-conforming individuals who don’t have the luxury of hiding behind secondary identities, and who make the pride parade even more colorful and exuberant. Post gay will happen when the laws of the land truly reflect the real biological diversity that humans encompass. It is the lawful discrimination after all, that keeps so many of us living on the fringe of this society as it did in our countries of origin.

I am happy to have had the opportunity to connect with so many LGBT individuals from all countries, sexual preferences and personalities during my own healing process. Being open and accepting of others has helped me heal even further than I would have otherwise. As I walk in my first New York City Parade this Sunday, I will be wearing personal pride and celebrating reaching it. I will also be opening my mind to other expressions of sexuality and gender identity as I encounter them. The Social Action Group, comprised of all colors, ethnicities, sexual and gender identities, have pledged to uphold open acceptance in defending equality.

We will be marching, celebrating our renewed enthusiasm and pride in accepting not only all sexual identities, but all other facets of the LGBT community. We hope our celebration is seen and shared. We hope that our voices as diverse, undocumented, immigrants seeking a better life as LGBT individuals will be heard, understood, and given empathy and support. We feel strongly that our concerns encompass and reflect those of the larger LGBT community; that listening and giving support to our plights will bring awareness to the gamut of issues, and facilitate a wide-ranging healing process.

Greg

June 24, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Caribbean, community, Guyana, Health, HIV, Immigrant rights, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, Public Health, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Breaking the silence of depression in the Black gay community

Speaking out about a taboo subject

By Antoine Craigwell

Nationwide, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community on Friday, Apr 15, 2010, commemorated a day of silence – vowing not to speak for one 24-hour period as a unified protest action in solidarity with other LGBT and against the treatment members of the community receive from a majority of people. This day of silence was also an occasion to create a crack in the reluctance to speak about depression and its debilitating effects in the Black gay community.

In the Black community, there is significant resistance to addressing depression. Without regard to ethnic origin, whether African American, Afro Caribbean, or African, the cultural belief is that one does not speak his business, especially his personal business about himself, out of the family. Equally, in many Black families, with the emphasis on masculinity and survival in challenging times, including dealing with racial discrimination, speaking out about one’s inner feelings is often regarded as a weakness or a significant flaw, to be strengthen or eradicated, at all costs and by all means. Therefore, many Black gay men are caught in a vicious cycle: it is taboo to talk about what’s bothering him, and if he should try, he would be branded as weak.

A New Jersey-based journalist, Glenn Townes, when he lived in Kansas City, MO, wrote about his own depression, in “Tale of a Wounded Warrior: One Man’s Battle Against Depression” for the Infinity Institute International, Inc., Website, “I still find there’s a strong stigma to African Americans and therapy, particularly for brothers. Tell someone you’re seeing a shrink and they just may haul off and hit you with: “Man, you must be crazy.” But I think it’s just the opposite: Sometimes you’d have to be crazy not to seek therapy.”

Writing for the New York Amsterdam News in May 2008, Townes reported that the Depression Is Real Coalition, a collection of mental health agencies, was formed to promote and advance discussion of this mental illness as something not to be ashamed of, with a series of public service announcements nationwide, “It is Depression.”

In fact, research has shown that the causes of depression are often a combination of biological as well as external or environmental factors.

Townes reported that David Sham, president of Mental Health America, a member of the coalition said, “What people may not understand is that depression is not just a matter of being in a bad mood or something that’s in a person’s mind. It’s just like any other biologically based disease and is a condition that commonly co-occurs with chronic diseases.”

The issue of depression in the Black gay community has many layers: psychosocial, socioeconomic, cultural, and racial, to name a few. Addressing one complex layer, sexuality and racial identity and their relationship to socioeconomics, Darrell Wheeler, Ph.D., professor of sociology with a specialization in HIV/AIDS issues in Black gay men at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York, said, “I don’t think that we [Black gay men] have enough control over our economic destiny and how we bring together our resources around issues…about our inability to really embrace the “Blackness” and things get too anchored to the “gayness” and, without bringing all of me to the table. We have to respond to micro-aggressions as well as full-frontal discrimination based on sexual identity or on racial identity, so all of these things converge and create an environment in which we are constantly hyper vigilant in whether or not we take care of ourselves enough and sometimes those internalized experiences get manifested as external aggressions towards each other over the “sexualization” of the experience and the use of substances as a way of coping. So I think there are mental issues that have certain consequences.”

In an article, “HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Among Black Men Who Have Sex with Men: Current and Future Directions,” Gregorio Millett, MPH, senior policy advisor in the Office of National AIDS Policy and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC); David Malebranche, M.D, assistant professor, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and John L. Peterson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, quoting from a 2004 CDC report, said that Black men who have sex with men (MSM) now account 30 percent, the largest proportion, of all Black men diagnosed with HIV.

Addressing the psychological issues surrounding Black MSM, in a section of their article, “HIV-positive Status, HIV Risk, and HIV-Protective Behavior Factors Among Black MSM,” Millett and co-authors quoted studies done in 2002 by Crawford, et al, and in 2003 by Myers, et al, which said that, “although no psychological variables were associated with HIV status, several psychological  variables were associated with sexual risk behavior among Black MSM.

“Few Black MSM studies examined associations between any of the dependent variables and HIV knowledge, mental health status, cultural beliefs, or self-esteem,” said Millett and co-authors.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Blogroll, Caribbean, community, depression, Guyana, Health, HIV, HIV Status, Jamaica, LGBT community, Male Health, Mental Health, mental illness, Public Health, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In Africa, a step backward on human rights

From the washingtonpost.com

By Desmond Tutu Friday, March 12, 2010; A19

Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity.

It is time to stand up against another wrong.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.

Uganda’s parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.

These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.

Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear.

And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said “Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.” Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.

“But they are sinners,” I can hear the preachers and politicians say. “They are choosing a life of sin for which they must be punished.” My scientist and medical friends have shared with me a reality that so many gay people have confirmed, I now know it in my heart to be true. No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?

The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.

The writer is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christian churches and U.S.-based anti-gay promotion in Kenya

By Antoine Craigwell

Flag of Kenya

Following on reports of mob beatings and killings of men suspected of being gay, Christian evangelists intending to stir up anti-gay sentiment are distributing images of prominent gay and lesbian rights activists in Kenya on posters accompanied by biblical texts in Swahili to rural parts of the country. The posters, calling homosexuals “Shogas” carry not only the images of gays and lesbians, but also a simulated drawing of two people engaged in anal sex in a circle with a line through it, contact information of the person, and biblical texts in Swahili.

NOT WANTED poster featuring David Kuria Mbote

NOT WANTED poster featuring David Kuria Mbote

According to the Website, Projectsee.com, whose editor, Jonathan O’Toole, is a Kansas City, MO-resident, lists among its U.S. members Michael Bray, author of a book against abortion, “A Time to Kill” of Wilmington, OH, and Neal Horsley of Carrollton, GA, a contributing editor and a candidate for governor of his home state. From Kenya, the site lists: Pastor Peter Bushnell, The Ark of Kenya, of Nakuru; Patrick Kingori, Nairobi Coordinator, Nairobi; and Robert Wakhu, Eldoret Coordinator, Eldoret, and calls on Kenyans to contact their respective government ministers, listing contact information for all ministers, “Respectfully ask them to enforce the Penal Code against Illegal Abortionists and Illegal Sodomy”

Travel and tourism Website defaced by protesters

While the posters are not confined to Kenyans, it draws on the images of Kenneth Hieber of NYC and Arthur Frommer, who are involved with Gay2Afrika.com, a travel and tourism Website for gay and lesbian travel to Africa, accusing them of exporting homosexuality to Africa. On the “Projectsee.org” Website there is an image of Jesus, taken from the Shroud of Turin, superimposed over the continent of Africa, while an image of the devil, with horns, is over the continent of America.

Images of devil and Christ on U.S. and Africa

The site prominently displays posters of Kenyan gay and lesbian activists with the title “NOT WANTED” along with full contact information and biblical texts in Swahili. One poster, for example, lists David Kuria Mbote, who is the director of Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, as a “Shoga” in Nairobi, and using references to the Book of Leviticus, advocates death to all gays and lesbians in Swahili:

“Kama mwanaume akikutana kimwili na mwanaume mwenzake kama vile mwanaume afanyavyo na mwanamke, wanaume hao wawili wamefanya lililo chukizo sana. Lazima wauawe, nayo damu yao itakuwa juu ya vichwa vyao wenyewe,” which according to a translation by Dr. Paul Semugoma, from Kampala, Uganda loosely translates to: “If a man sleeps with another man like he sleeps with a woman, both men have done something extremely bad. It is a must for them to be killed, and their blood shall be on their own heads.” Leviticus 20:13

On Mar 10, Mbote had written and published a letter repudiating the anti-homosexuality activities of many Kenyan pastors and the developing crisis in Mtwapa, Kenya, including an article by Fr. Dominic Waweru, published on Mar 8 in the Daily Nation, where he reportedly said that the attacks on young people on suspicion of being gay is “only too comprehensible”. In his article, Mbote told a story of a young man who was suddenly caught up in a mob frenzy and his life saved by a prostitute throwing herself over him and covering him from being set alight. Mbote referred to the statement made on World AIDS Day, last December, by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who called for an end to the criminalization of homosexuality, which Ban said, made it more difficult to combat AIDS.

“It should be noted that compulsory heterosexuality has never

Map of Kenya

converted any one from homosexuality, but in the context of modern diseases, the African community continues to place itself in a curiously unintelligent position. By affirming what is globally known to be an alternative and legitimate form of sexual expression for a minority within any population to be unAfrican, they are saying that the African falls beyond the ambit of what is human. Instead of giving tacit approval to violence against gays, churches should be in the forefront preaching reconciliation and love to even those who they regard as “sinners”. Gay rights activism has reached a point of no return even in Africa, events in Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Zambia, and Mtwapa notwithstanding. It’s unfortunate that the Church stands at the vanguard for this extremely unjust violation of rights of gays, lesbians, transgender and intersex Kenyans,” Mbote wrote.

Mount Kenya homestead - Joseph Muchina

In an email circulating in African LGBT online chat groups about the posters, Mbote said, “I don’t know whether this is an appropriate request, but am requesting you to keep in your prayers – they are putting up this poster [with a picture of him] in Eldoret, a town in Rift Valley, I have no business to visit, but you can never know with these crazies.”

Semugoma commenting on the posters that published biblical texts in Swahili, that death is in order for gays and lesbians, said, “Encouraging these postings in a place like Kenya presents a very real and potentially harmful threat to their targets. They have put individual faces and in some cases contact information on the posters, placing some people at potentially immediate risk.”

Semugoma said that he is aware that there is no legal recourse to stop those in the U.S., since the campaign and Website are organized and financed by Americans advocating public humiliation, mental and physical harm to people in Kenya, and asked if those responsible could be brought under criminal charges.

“What can we do? We can’t let this sit and get out of hand, before this gets somebody killed. Who will be next, me, you?” He asked.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Comments: Plaxico Burress actions

December 02, 2008 2:19 pm – published in The New York Times: http://community.nytimes.com/article/comments/2008/12/03/sports/football/03burress.html?permid=28#comment28

While Burress’ actions are irresponsible and contemptuous, either because of his conferred or assumed “celebrity” status, he is not above the law; whether he had an expired permit from Florida to carry a concealed weapon, which applies to neither New Jersey, where he lives, nor New York, where he was partying. What defies rationale, is if he is going to a club, why did he feel it necessary to “pack heat,” and while there is a blame game going on into the comedy of errors, has anyone thought to question the club’s promoters and owners about their policies not to allow weapons and firearms into their establishment, what does that mean for their liquor license, and was it because of Burress’ status that he, perhaps wasn’t searched at the door, denied entry or had his weapon taken for safe keeping?
Also, how stupid could Burress be, at a time when the world and every little Black boy is looking to identify with sorely needed Black role models: the country and world just took a deep breath with the election of Barack Obama, who has become a role model at a time when other Black personalites who were put on pedestals and through their own shortsightedness, for want of a better descriptive, have been depedestaled in disgrace and ignominy. Couldn’t Burress see beyond himself and his ego, that his stellar performance on the field to help his team win the Super Bowl made him instantly a role model, with duties and responsibilities to carry and execute and that many people, especially, young Black men and boys would be looking up to him as an example of success?

March 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to Editor – answer the detractors, bringing discussion closer to home

On Feb 26, 2010, Kaieteur News, a local daily in Guyana, published an article I had written as a letter to the editor in response to the cross-dressing suit brought by five young men and the organization SASOD in the High Court. Following publication of that letter, there were response letters to the editor in the same papers and in Stabroek News, another local daily. Below is my response to those comments:

Dear Editor,

I first met Mark, a young man in his late teens and early twenties, when he came to join the Catholic-sponsored Scout troupe at Sacred Heart Church. Then he wasn’t a Catholic and since it was a requirement for membership, he did what was necessary to become a member, including converting and receiving the initial sacraments; I was his godfather and sponsor. As a leader of the troupe, I sensed that Mark desperately wanted to belong, and when he was able to join, he fit right in and was happiest when the troupe went on camps, because there, being in charge of the food and kitchen, he was in his element, ensuring that more than 50 teenage boys had three meals on time every day for the duration of the camp. When we weren’t at camp and had regular meetings, Mark was fastidious with the gear: the ropes and staves, ensuring that everything was well taken care of and properly stored. To my knowledge, while Mark was in the KBS, he never displayed or perpetuated any inappropriate behavior to and with any of the boys. He wasn’t effeminate or flamboyant and did the boys care that Mark may or may not be gay? I don’t believe that concerned them. But a few years later when I was in my novitiate in a religious organization, he came to see me. He was troubled; the pain of suffering and abuse was evident in his eyes. His face was gaunt, he was thin, his clothes hung on him, and he appeared tired, he had lost weight and was homeless. He told me how his stepfather beat him and put him out the house he shared with his mother and other siblings because the stepfather suspected that he was gay. He looked at me and as the tears streamed down his face, told me of some of the abuses he had endured and I realized then, even though there was no definitive confirmation, that he was gay. Also, knowing the society’s reaction to anyone who they think is an “anti-man”, and by association anyone seen with someone they perceive as such, I told Mark that I was proud of him and I would not be ashamed to walk with him on the street. After our conversation, we walked north on Camp Street, oblivious to the stares. I knew he felt proud, supported and accepted.

Sometime in August 1995, as was related to me, Mark died. I was told that in the circumstances surrounding his death he had attended a party on the West Bank of Demerara and while on his way home, after the party, he was set upon by a group of young men and beaten, all the while accused of being an “anti-man,” ostensibly because of how he was dressed. According to the report, with a broken arm, sustained in the attack, he dragged himself to a nearby police station for assistance and instead of receiving help, he was placed in a cell beaten again, suffered a concussion, and when he lapsed into unconsciousness, he was transported to the Public Hospital Georgetown, where he later died – alone, abused, battered and probably wondering why he deserved this treatment. Who should be held responsible for his death: the misguided who are blinded by their beliefs to forget that the person they are attacking is another human being, someone who could be their brother, son, cousin, nephew, uncle, or close friend; by extension, the religious organizations that demonize homosexuality and advocate curing by any means, but who are just as guilty of the same offenses they ascribe to gays and lesbians; or the stepfather who put him out of the house?

I recall this story because of the vitriol, hatred, and bigotry spewing from the many commentators incited by the equally misguided and brainwashed Roger Williams and Abu Bakr, both of whom leveled criticism against my letter published in the Kaieteur News on Feb 26, 2010. In his response, Bakr correctly stated in the beginning of his critique that I was attempting to encourage a change when I wrote about the far reaching consequences of the cross-dressing suit before the High Court as a break with the mental slavery in which many Guyanese are still living, victims of a colonial power that is physically absent, but yet present in the laws. I ask those who continue with their hatemongering, using religion, convenient morality and pseudo-scientific examples to justify their misogyny how would you feel if your son, brother, daughter, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, cousin, or close friend was treated as Mark. Some would say, “pray for him,” others “beat it out of him,” but, in this world of religious indoctrination, where is the acceptance and compassion that are tenets of Christian teachings?

Why couldn’t Mark be allowed to live, as he was, a same-gender loving man? Is our society so hypocritical that we would rather kill than show compassion? Mark was rejected by at least three important pillars of his society: his family, those sworn to protect and defend the laws, and by the community. I could again be accused of romanticizing this issue before the court, but Mark’s suffering in life and his death are real. By extension what the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking, is it not to claim the guarantee and the rights provided by the Constitution, the acceptance it assures? Is denying someone the right to live as he feels, free from fear of abuse and of discrimination, depriving him of his human right?

No one is advocating turning the society lawless, no one is promoting incestuous practices, bestiality or any perverted behavior to which being gay was associated. Bakr and Williams have conveniently chosen to cherry pick, ignore, and deny historical facts, that homosexuality was practiced and accepted as a part of the way of life in superior African civilizations and cultures long before the colonialists arrived. In a conference paper, “Homosexuality in Africa: Myth or Reality? An Ethnographic Exploration in Togo, West Africa” presented by Virgile Capo-Chichi and Sethson Kassegné at the 5th African Population Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, December 2007, quoted in the introduction: “Same-sex relations are denied in most African countries even though studies have found cultural and traditional practices that demonstrate their existence for centuries (Roscoe & Murray, 1998)” and “Compared to other regions, Africa has the lowest levels of awareness and communication with regards to male-to-male sex (McKenna, 1996) and the most repressive laws against it.” The report continues, “Other gatekeepers believe that same sex relations and homosexuality have always existed in traditional societies in Togo “…tendencies towards homosexual behavior have always existed among men as well as women. It is more pronounced among men and that’s why they were called ‘nyonu – sunu’ (man – woman); that is, a man living as a woman. Or, alternatively, ‘sunu nyonu’ (woman-man) because they tend to behave like a person of the opposite sex.”(Gatekeeper, Aneho)”.”

We can all choose the material we want to justify or support an argument, but there has to be a meeting point, of agreement, that in human nature, homosexuality is as natural as being male or female. Dr. Tiger H. Devore, a New York-based psychologist, in a recent interview said that Western civilizations created the binary delineation, male and female. In reality, he said, there are three genders, male, intersex, and female. In India where on Nov 12, 2009 the Indian election authorities granted independent identity status to those who are intersex or transsexual, allowing them to be counted in the census and to vote – both democratic rights. It is reported that in remote villages in the Dominican Republic and other countries, there are the “guevedoces,” (literal translation: penis at 12) people identified as female at birth and transformed into male at puberty; all accepted as part of their respective societies and cultures. According to the Oct 2006 The Medical News report, 1,500 species in the animal kingdom practice homosexuality. Petter Boeckman, academic advisor for the “Against Nature’s Order?” exhibition at the Norwegian Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo, said, “One fundamental premise in social debates has been that homosexuality is unnatural. This premise is wrong. Homosexuality is both common and highly essential in the lives of a number of species.”

Despite the airs and pretensions with which we have clothed ourselves, and the exploitative and oppressive effects of religion, we should not forget that in the wider scheme of nature, we are still part of the animal kingdom. Many of the detractors have ignored the qualitative contributions gay men and lesbians make to society: they don’t walk around wearing a sign on their foreheads announcing their sexual orientation, instead they go about their tasks or jobs without fanfare. Looking beyond the colonial mindset, one wonders at the preference of perpetuating the “rod of correction” and beat that which is natural out of the child or continue to have a society where there are men and women living unhappy, trapped lives, resorting to violence against their spouses, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity, which of course means that many of the men would be down-low, and a consequence the rise in HIV infections. Or, would the preference be to perpetuate the hypocrisy of those men and women who sneak around for trysts and assignations, but profess heterosexism and homophobia, and deride anyone who is gay with their friends? While many people like to pretend that there is no one gay or lesbian in their family, “not in my family”, it is a fact, homosexuality is a part of human nature. What would these commentators do if their son or daughter were to declare they were in love with someone of the same gender?

Respectfully,

Antoine Craigwell

March 6, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Blogroll, Caribbean, community, death, Guyana, Health, HIV, HIV Status, Jamaica, LGBT community, Male Health, Public Health, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I come from the nigger yard

by Martin Carter (1927 to 1997)

Guyana Flag

I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
leaping from the oppressors’ hate
and the scorn of myself;
from the agony of the dark hut in the shadow
and the hurt of things;
from the long days of cruelty and the long nights of pain
down to the wide streets of to-morrow, of the next day
leaping I come, who cannot see will hear.

In the nigger yard I was naked like the new born

Golden Arrow Head

naked like a stone or a star.
It was a cradle of blind days rocking in time
torn like the skin from the back of a slave.
It was an aching floor on which I crept
on my hands and my knees
searching the dust for the trace of a root
or the mark of a leaf or the shape of a flower.

It was me always walking with bare feet
meeting strange faces like those in dreams or fever
when the whole world turns upside down
and no one knows which is the sky or the land
which heart is among the torn or the wounded
which face is his among the strange and the terrible
walking about, groaning between the wind.

Jaguar

And there was always sad music somewhere in the land
like a bugle and a drum between the houses
voices of women singing far away
pauses of silence, then a flood of sound.
But these were things like ghosts or spirits of wind.
It was only a big world spinning outside
and men, born in agony, torn in torture, twisted and broken like a leaf,
and the uncomfortable morning, the beds of hunger stained and sordid
like the world, big and cruel, spinning outside.

Sitting sometimes in the twilight near the forest

Indigenous rock paintings - Iwokrama Rainforest

where all the light is gone and every bird
I notice a tiny star neighboring a leaf
a little drop of light a piece of glass
straining over heaven tiny bright
like a spark seed in the destiny of gloom.
O it was the heart like this tiny star near to the sorrows
straining against the whole world and the long twilight
spark of man’s dream conquering the night
moving in darkness and fierce
till leaves of sunset change from green to blue
and shadows grow like giants everywhere.

Remains of entrance way arch of Fort-kyk-over-al on the Essequibo River

So I was born again stubborn and fierce
screaming in a slum.
It was a city and a coffin space for home
a river running, prisons and hospitals
men drunk and dying, judges full of scorn
priests and parsons fooling gods with words
and me, like dog tangled in rags
spotted with sores powdered with dust
screaming with hunger, angry with life and men.

It was a child born from a mother full of her blood
weaving her features bleeding her life in clots.
It was pain lasting from hours to months and to years
weaving a pattern telling a tale leaving a mark
on the face and the brow
Until there came the iron days cast in a foundry
Where men make hammers things that cannot break
and anvils heavy hard and cold like ice.

And so again I become one of the ten thousands

Amerindian Village

one of the uncountable miseries owning the land.
When the moon rose up only the whores could dance
the brazen jazz of music throbbed and groaned
filling the night air full of rhythmic questions.
It was the husk and the seed challenging fire
birth and the grave challenging life.

Until to-day in the middle of the tumult
when the land changes and the world’s all convulsed
when different voices join to say the same
and different hearts beat out in unison
where the aching floor of where I live
the shifting earth is twisting into shape
I take again my nigger life, my scorn
and fling it in the face of those who hate me.
It is me the nigger boy turning to manhood
linking my fingers, welding my flesh to freedom.

Kaietur Falls

I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
leaping from the oppressors’ hate
and the scorn of myself
I come to the world with scars upon my soul
wounds on my body, fury in my hands

I turn to the histories of men and the lives of peoples. I examine the shower of sparks the wealth of the dreams.
I am pleased with the glories and sad with the sorrows
rich with the riches, poor with the loss.
From the nigger yard of yesterday I come with my burden.
To the world of tomorrow I turn with my strength.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Caribbean, community, Guyana, Uncategorized, Walter Rodney | Leave a comment

The rise of technology in time of Disaster

By Antoine Craigwell

About nine minutes after disaster struck, the first Tweet was sent to the outside world, alerting those on the sender’s Tweet list of the devastation.

Red Cross International reported on Wednesday, Jan 13, that as of then, approximately $3 million was raised through people texting “Haiti 90999” since the earthquake and untold amounts of money was donated, also by texting, to “Yele 501501” to the charity headed by Haitian singer Wyclef Jean’s Yele Foundation. In a 24-hour period, the Red Cross raised $1.7 million through text donations.

Contrary to some schools of thought, that social media, including FaceBook and Twitter, and Skype encourage the sharing of an inordinate amount of personal information – though social media detractors do have a point, as it is in some cases used by many subscribers who divulge the minutia of their everyday lives, either as a sign of boredom or of exhibitionism run amok; that it is through the power of this media that at least three major global events were transmitted to the wider world, against other established and traditional forms of communication which had failed, were severely compromised or damaged.

On Nov 24, 2006, when most Americans were sitting down to their traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and when the attackers had laid siege to the hotel in Mumbai, India and were wreaking havoc, journalists, members of the Society of Asian Journalists, who Tweeted, using their allotted 140 characters to send reports and updates of what was happening on the ground.

Last summer, when protests erupted in Tehran, Iran over the results of that country’s general elections, and the government had shut down phone service, blocked Internet access, expelled journalists, threatened its citizenry with arrest and imprisonment for using cell phones to Tweet or to take photographs, that some brave souls in the capital risked their lives to Tweet about the state of affairs. It was through the brave efforts of those who Tweeted about the scale of the protests and the wanton use by the government of the Revolutionary Guard and the basjee to violently suppress all protests, was the world outside of Iran made aware.

Once again, when, at 4:53 pm EST time that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, hitting the port city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and the traditional communications networks had been destroyed, telephone infrastructure leveled, it was through people on the ground with their cell phones who were texting and Tweeting the state of affairs, what they were seeing and experiencing. As with the attacks in Mumbai, the protests in Tehran, and now the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, the first pictures appearing in mainstream media, though blurred, were taken and distributed by cell phones.

Following this explosion of cellular activity, it came as a technological surprise to many when two organizations put abroad that donating money for the relief efforts could be sent by a “text” and the amount would be added to the sender’s cell phone bill. Not forthcoming or asked about is for those making donations over their cell phones, the cell phone companies making a pledge or commitment to donate a portion of their grossly inflated revenues to the Haitian cause, and only later did the cell phone companies agree not to charge taxes and miscellaneous fees normally levied on subscribers.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Haiti : destruction what was – recreating anew

by Antoine Craigwell

Since the earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, there has been a rush by many, including governments to provide aid: in rescue and recovery, and with medical supplies and food. With the announcements, thanks to the prolific media’s presence, especially through CNN and BBC, there has been an outpouring of aid from non-profit organizations, led by the United Nations and the American Red Cross, and the organization founded by the Haitian singer, Wyclef Jean, the Yele Foundation; people from all across the U.S., from all across the world, from as far as Taiwan on the other side of the globe and Israel, of all nations, stepped in to help rescue the Haitian people. It was particularly admirable that a rescue team of 40 from Iceland, a country in the throes of its own economic crises and a bankrupt government, with their specialty in search and rescue, came to help.

Ten days later, while those who had come into the island nation to provide assistance had shifted gears from rescue to recovery, incredibly, people were being pulled from the rubble, alive: images were on the news an 84-year-old woman was rescued as well as a 22-year-old man, beating all the text book odds of a human being unable to survive beyond three days without food or drink. And, through an American perspective, seeing this disaster through the presentations of the media, the Haitian people, with the exception of a few isolated pockets of expressions of frustration and anger at the slow pace of aid reaching them – water, food and medical supplies; there was calm. The people were behaving.

Interestingly, the same media, striving for its oft sought after fair and balanced reporting, as well as showing the planes landing at Toussaint International Airport, spoke of the flights held in holding patterns and diversions, of the towering pallets of food, clothing and temporary shelter, all still cling-foil wrapped on the airport’s apron; also showed interviews with aid personnel who complained of being forced through the absence of materials to sterilize surgical equipment with, of all things, vodka – which they surely would’ve wanted to drink, to help dull the images of death and dismemberment, suffering burnt into their consciences, seared into their memories; of the smell of decaying, decomposing, putrefied human remains, those who had as yet to be found in their crumbled concreted tombs, and those, the estimated 80,000 who were buried in mass graves, unidentified and unaccounted for. The same media, showed images of regions outside of the capital where no one had gone to help: who knows how many may have died entombed in their crumpled homes, buried under their respective prides and joys – their own homes.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake (a force the equivalent to more than 100 mega tones of TNT or several times the force Hiroshima and Nagasaki), which struck at 4:53pm along the fault line, was the crust of the earth going about its business – readjusting, shifting, fitting into place; caught an estimated two million people by surprise, as they went about their business. In truth, the island nation of Haiti was no stranger to disaster. A few years ago, as if the climate, the very weather, which turned azure skies and a turquoise, tranquil warm water sea, a respite from the cold of the north in balmy 85-degree temperature, into a sign that all was not well with the world; the island was slammed by more than one hurricane, natural disasters, which as of the time of the earthquake, the island nation had not quite recovered.

But, for those Haitians who were killed either by falling masonry, died of starvation or from their injuries because no one could get to them or knew they lay in pain, trapped in their homes, the shadow of disaster seemed to be a permanent cloud stuck, hovering over their country; at least for them they were out of their misery, they know nothing anymore. It is those who have survived; those who were trapped, pinned under steel or concrete, tons of it, whose limbs were amputated, to stop the insidious and pervasive march of infection that threatened to join them with their country men and women who had ceased to breathe, who had shuddered in darkness and in silence one last time, and literally didn’t know what hit them; to save their lives. It is those who survived, the major question is: what life for them now?

In the U.S. as in many other so-called first world countries, being in any way unable to provide for oneself or family has truly become a curse of this age. Many thousands of Haitians, who just moments before the earthquake, who had survived countless triumphs, were to be brought low, reduced to a life of who knows what. In the U.S. for example, while ostensibly there are resources for the disabled, and a law to protect against discrimination, in a land and among a people easy to marginalize; life for an amputee is hard, often, as in NYC, to wander the city’s streets or the subways begging for a handout. For the many able-bodied men and stout women of Haiti who before this devastation held their heads high with pride, what now would be their fate, how would they be viewed, who would have mercy on them, who would forget that an earthquake caused buildings to collapse and in the rubble trapped many, and who would see these amputees as survivors? What does one say to a child, boy or girl, who now is disabled?

The article written by Sir Hilary Beckes, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, and published in the Barbados Advocate, (http://www.nationnews.com/story/guest-column-hilary-beckles-copy-for-web) circulating around on the Internet focused on the bigger picture: the sovereignty, nationhood and identity of the Haitian people – aspects of which at the microcosmic level essential for the creation of a home are just as important as for those who died in their improvised tombs, as if they said to the world at large, “this is my house, my castle, my domain and I’ll die in it.” Could it be that those who recently died in this natural disaster waved their fists in the air and dared that Haiti should rise once more and be the nation it once was? Sir Beckles addressed the history of Haiti, from its inception, when Christopher Columbus landed on the island, which he called Hispaniola, to the occupation by the English, Dutch, Spanish, and then by the French, who made the island into a colony and imported slaves to till the soil and to produce for the French government and people. Sir Beckles recounted the nation’s history, reveling in the pride of a people, the first in the New World to achieve independence from France in 1804 (Part II- http://antiguaobserver.com/?p=22628) and took his readers through the path where that glory was stripped away, taken, to be finally summarized in the words of an American evangelist, Pat Robertson, who suggested in his bigoted view, that the people of Haiti had made a pact with the devil, but who could not see that the devil the Haitian people trusted was someone like he.

Now with the outpouring of support, aid, and assistance, is anyone asking those pertinent questions: would the island nation of Haiti be allowed to rise up to reclaim even a semblance of what it once was? Is the Preval government capable of charting a new course of nationhood, forged in the blood recently spilt and the blood of his country’s ancestors? What would be the fate of all those who are missing limbs, their ability to provide for their families severely compromised, or who would take care of them? What can anyone say to the young men and women who are maimed by this disaster? Would the heavy American presence, 10,000 troops, act as a guarantee that U.S. companies would get the chance at first dibs at bidding or the best assignments to rebuild?

Was the earthquake indeed necessary for this nation to start over?

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment