Artistic Power

“Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. That is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.”

~ Edwidge Danticant – Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

These words are so powerful. I have been a huge fan of Edwidge Danticant since randomly finding her book Breath, Eyes, Memory several years ago. When reading Danticant’s recent work, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, she provided me with a new perspective on the power of creative works in the mix of horror, poverty, tyranny, persecution and despair. This book provided several examples of how art and creative outlets can often serve as the only method of escape or release during times of trial.

Using historic events and the recent earthquake in Haiti as a backdrop, she weaves the personal stories of Haitians, Haitian immigrants and artists along with her own personal account, into a reflective gaze on Haiti. Given the recent return of “Baby Doc” Duvalier to Haiti, many of the tales from his father’s leadership are timely and the work provides an overall glimpse into the many forces that shaped the current situations of this country. With the recent one-year anniversary of the massive earthquake, the book also provides another glimpse into the stories and lives impacted on that day. Highlighting in each chapter Continue reading

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Life after Death – Part One

Young, strong, sharp, reality?s electric in your present tense?this is who you are before the phone rings:

?Dead? Murdered, who was?? David Kato, 46, gay rights activist, Ugandan, bludgeoned with a hammer to the skull in his own home and now a group of organizers in New York City want a vigil in his honor followed by peaceful protest outside Uganda House would you like to come? Poof, just like that, from the time you answered the phone then put it back down, you?re older, weaker, matured in the face of sudden death. Two days later it?s Thursday and two hundred-plus people gather outside Dag Hammarskojld Plaza on 48th street and 1st Avenue, yourself included.

There are larger than life photographs of David Kato in black and white. Posters stamped with his profile held high above cardboard placards written in Kiswahili, east Africa?s lingua franca, the common language that binds a people who share similar customs, tribal traditions, and legislative bigotry against same-sex partnerships. Marching single column three-person thick, moments later we arrive at the Ugandan Mission to the United Nations. Men, women, leaders at the podium tell us why

Kato?s death is so important to this day and age. And so speech after speech adds power to our peaceful protest but the war of words, no matter how poetic or epic, can?t quiet the pain of losing a gay brother to state-sanctioned bigotry, fear, hatred, ignorance, denial, silence. The speeches die, the drumming stops, the chanting begins: ?What do you want?? ?Justice!? ?When do you want it?? ?Now!? ?Can?t hear you. What do you want?!? ?JUSTICE! JUSTICE! NOW! N?? Meanwhile Ugandan diplomats, safely snug inside their cozy atoledo mission, peep through blinders at the spectacle below. We?re a strong, diverse, fist-pumping crowd directing our anger at nobody in particular. My first thought? Where is the rage? My next thought? casino online Why is activism so inactive? My final thought? Since when is activity action? By which I mean, let?s throw rocks at the window the next time a diplomat dares look down at us, shatter any false sense of safety by breaking glass. Kick down a door or two, set off an alarm maybe, set fire to a tall pile of paper trash. Do something, anything so they feel what it?s like when hatred erupts at dgfev online casino any given moment for no reason then goes unpunished and unexplained. Not that revenge can snuff the fire burning in our hearts Please note, if you want to achieve 100% results, we highly recommend you follow the Program Protocol exactly as outlined in the book. by bringing David Kato back to life in a world remade without terror, a world filled with social justice. But unexplained hatred directed at someone for no reason is a feeling queers know all too well and Ugandan diplomats don?t know enough of, so maybe they should experience it just once before drafting legislation against homosexuals. It?s late. Protestors interviewed by TV crews are gone. Those carrying posters with slogans in Kiswahili are gone too. So are the diplomats. One group takes their candles, places them on a mound of snow covering slush. The candles are in a circle surrounding with flowers in the middle. They glow like embers, like stars in the nighttime sky. Before leaving, the wind blows so I turn, take one long, last look at circle of candles to keep their flame burning in my memory forever. Dead, the wind blew them out. But there is one that stands alone, free, and still burns bright to this day. David Kato. This is written as a follow-up to De-Gaying Uganda.

Nick Mwaluko was born in Tanzania, raised mostly in Kenya and other east African countries. Nick came to New York, transitioned from anatomically female to male, and is a playwright. His play S/He, the story of a man in a woman?s body, has its second run in southern Florida on February 27, 2011. Waafrika, a lesbian love affair set in a rural Kenyan village in 1992 immediately following Kenya?s first multi-party elections, will have a showcase run in October 2011 following a reading March 30, 2011. Other of Nick?s plays include Blueprint for a Lesbian

Universe, Asymmetrical We, Brotherly Love, Trailer Park Tundra, Are Women Human?, and others

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Little Travel Lies

One View of Downtown Durban, South Africa

I am an avid traveler and like most travelers, I enjoy taking photos of the places I visit as a reminder of what I saw and experienced. When I returned from a trip to South Africa, a friend remarked that she was surprised because my pictures didn’t look like they were of “Africa.” There were two things that caught me off guard by that statement. First, what is Africa supposed to look like and secondly, what part of “Africa” is she referring to.

Of course I say this already knowing the answer. She expected some safari image, swollen bellied babies and thatch-roofed huts. Instead, she saw my pictures outside a Westin in the middle of high rises in downtown Cape Town or with friends in Soweto outside their middle class home, that easily could have been in any city in America. She saw my picture on North Beach in Durban and wondered if I was in Los Angeles or Miami.

Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.

~ excerpt from Binyavanga Wainana’s,“How to Write About Africa”

We could blame the media, but we have to also hold ourselves accountable. Continue reading

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No More Dumb Development

The Administrator of USAID spoke yesterday at an event hosted by the Center for Global Development. For those unable to venture to Washington or to gain access to the event, it was streamed live on the new USAID website celebrating 50 years for the agency (http://50.usaid.gov). This new site highlights the achievements of the last 50 years and outlines plans for the future work of USAID.

Dr. Rajiv Shah has been leading the agency for just over a year and is working diligently to change the way that development works within USAID. With a focus on measurable outcomes and local empowerment, he wants to eliminate strategies that produce what Dambisa Moyo calls Dead Aid. He also wants the agency to run more cost effectively and shortly after entering his position eliminated costly senior positions in high priced cities such as Rome, Paris, Tokyo and Madrid.

Dr. Shah’s comments were right in line with our thoughts, on the need for Continue reading

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Awareness building through music

I have shared how we are losing a battle as the number of suicides increase. A huge factor in this is the persecution and bullying that gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual individuals face because of their lifestyle and sexuality. One method of increasing tolerance is to build awareness and to show how our actions impact others. Marsha Ambrosius has created a music video for her new single “Far Away” that does an excellent job of showing how ignorant we can be towards each other. For her lead character, he is only accepted when he is assumed to be heterosexual. Nothing about him changes except who he is walking hand in hand with. It hopefully will lead people to think about how their reactions can have a lasting impact on the life of another. I am a huge fan of her music and am now even more impressed that she has used her platform to bring much needed awareness to this issue…Enjoy!

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We Are Losing

This past weekend another young person took their life. This news is starting to become all too familiar and the stories are starting to run together. A child is bullied for being different (gay, new, small, big, quiet,promiscuous, prude, black, white, purple etc.) and constantly tormented by their peers. These bullies never leave them alone. They harass them at school, online, via text messages and over the phone. The young person, unable to see how this will ever get better, makes an unfortunate decision to end their life rather than continue to face this situation any longer. And society loses the possibility of what that young person could have become.

We have to start winning.

Teen suicide continues to increase and we have to start looking at new ways to support and encourage young Continue reading

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Avoid Band-Aids – 10 Commandments for Social Entrepreneurship

So last week, we asked Social Entrepreneurs to Dig Deeper and to make sure that they had all the information they needed to start their venture. Our next commandment,

Thou Shalt Avoid Using Band-Aids

So you have a great idea, and now (since you dug a little deeper) you know that you have all the background information to really understand your issue. Now it is time to develop your plan of attack. Your approach should be innovative and truly add to the methods of addressing these issues. Sometimes this means that you will need more time to acquire the adequate resources, partners and funds to implement this strategy. It may also mean that though this problem is serious, you cannot accomplish anything for quite some time.

Avoid being pulled into the enthusiasm of just starting and addressing surface issues. You want, as much as possible, to address root causes. Does this mean that you don’t feed the person who is hungry today because you haven’t figured out a way to permanently eradicate his hunger? Continue reading

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Pick up your sign…

As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the MLK holiday, I have been reflecting on the work of individuals during the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights movement was a battle that included policy makers but was lead by those on the ground dealing with the injustice on a daily basis. It was individual people sitting in, facing hoses, angry crowds and lynch mobs that brought national attention to the South and the country. Their individual risk and voices brought monumental change. They picked up a sign for a cause they believed in, got out their house and marched.

If we were having this struggle today what would it look like?

With technology, (and the ways that awareness campaigns use social media) one could probably text or tweet to donate to a large campaign full of celebrities and policy makers. There probably would be large televised lobbying events in Washington and special events to raise awareness. The 24/7 news coverage would show the marching, the sit-ins, the shouting. That is if any of that still occurred… Continue reading

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Youth Entrepreneurs and the value of combining business and social sector work

In a webcast on Tuesday, as part of the Social Entrepreneur Empowerment Series, Ashoka CEO Bill Drayton shared insight into his feelings about social entrepreneurship. He defined social entrepreneurship in this way; “the most powerful force in the world is an idea in the hands of a great entrepreneur.” I would add that this entrepreneur should be the perfect combination of humility and confidence that allows for them to be open to constantly learning and truly motivated towards change. To Bill Drayton, empathy is a skill that must be learned and with the Ashoka Youth Venture program they hope to create a new generation of entrepreneurs that care about the good of all. In his vision there would be an end to hierarchies and everyone needs to be a changemaker in every society. This idea I completely agree with and think that too often we look only to foreign leaders, big businesses, celebrities and politicians to bring about change. Some of the best ideas for social change are found in the communities facing these issues and in the hands of everyday people. This initiative to prepare youth is exciting and encouraging for where the work of social entrepreneurship is heading. Continue reading

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Making tourism better

“Our everyday life is someone else’s adventure”

~ Greg Richards, Cultural Tourism: Global and Local Perspectives

This is the basic foundation for all tourist activities. People leave their homes to travel, and in the process, seek out the opportunity to see and experience life through the eyes of another. Some take that more seriously, working to participate in the most authentic experiences possible, while others are satisfied to just experience the staged activities, beaches, shopping and food of another locale. Regardless of the type of tourist experience, the tourism industry is an extremely powerful multi-billion dollar force in the global economy. “As the largest business sector in the world economy, the Travel and Tourism Industry is responsible for over 230 million jobs and over 10% of the gross domestic product worldwide” (The International Ecotourism Society, 2006, p. 1).

Tourism has been used as a model for economic development and cultural preservation around the world. It is seen as a way to bring foreign dollars into the local economy and as a way to create employment and monetary gains for the citizens of the destination. Unfortunately, tourism has not lived up to its promised benefits and often other foreign nations, and not the destination, benefit from the economic resources generated by tourists and tourism. “Although mass tourism was originally embraced by many countries as a ‘smokeless’ (nonpolluting) industry that could increase employment and gross national product, evidence quickly grew that its economic benefits were marginal and its social and environmental costs high” (Honey, 1999, p. 9). Continue reading

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