Monday, 31 October 2011

Le cygne (The Swan): Camille Saint-Saens

I couldn't think of a better way to end the month. I adore Saint-Saens' music, being as influenced as he was by two of my favourite composers, Sebastian Bach and Amadeus Mozart. Saint-Saens famously wrote,
"What gives Sebastian Bach and Mozart a place apart is that these two great expressive composers never sacrificed form to expression. As high as their expression may soar, their musical form remains supreme and all-sufficient".
Camille Saint-Saens (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921), was a French late-Romantic composer and he is known especially for his 'Carnival of the Animals', a musical suite of fourteen movements, most of which relate to various members of the animal kingdom, from the Lion and the Tortoise, to birds, (Aviary) and fish, (Aquarium). Le cygne (or The Swan in English) is the 13th movement and is the most famous movement of the suite. Enjoy..

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Today's LGBT Icon..

LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Icons.

Each day in October, a new LGBT Icon is featured with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images and other resources

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Ghana: Somewhere over the rainbow

The following works were produced and written by Mark S. Luckie and published by UC Berkeley's School of Journalism. I have not obtained copyright permission to reproduce the works here, but have instead chosen to post the links to the various stories. The stories were developed on a reporting trip to Ghana by Mr Luckie during the 50th anniversary of the country's independence from Britain. While there, he discovered the legal and social persecution gays face, how some men, both gay and straight, are driven to gay prostitution for the money and the Ghanaian government's failure to address the problem of HIV/AIDS within the gay community.

(Please click on each of the various titles appearing below to visit the webpage on which the story appears).

Homosexuality is considered evil and disgraceful by many Ghanaians and any public display of affection or accusation of being homosexual could mean swift arrest and jail time under Ghanaian law.

Ghanaians are known for their enterprising spirit and using their resources to sustain themselves financially. For some men, that means selling the only resource they have - their bodies.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Ghana and many in the country blame gay people for the spread of HIV/AIDS, yet there is no government agency that directly targets the prevention of the disease within the gay community.

A look at the HIV/AIDS prevention advertisements in Ghana and how the advertisements lead many gay men and women to believe that HIV/AIDS is a heterosexual disease.

Author's Note: I think that the works make for some great reading and starkly enunciate the reality, without being judgemental.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Man's inhumanity 2: Burned alive by angry mob..

I came across this story titled Gay African Man Beaten, Burned Alive by Angry Mob (Extremely Graphic Video) in which the assertion was repeatedly made that the victim of this gruesome incident captured on film was a gay man, beaten and burned alive because of his sexuality. At the same time, the story points out at length that nobody knows who the victim is, or even in which country the incident occurred. The only thing the author seemed to know for sure is that the victim was a gay man.

Well, I am way too squeamish to have watched more than the first few minutes of the video and so I am unaware if anything was said or done by those in the video to confirm what was said in the story about the victim's sexuality.

If there is anyone who has the stomach to watch it in full, I would be grateful if they could confirm to us whether in fact the video reveals that this was a gay man and that he was so brutally put to death because of his sexuality. Otherwise, I am inclined (with all due respect to the unfortunate victim in the video), to think of this story as another instance of gay people jumping on the 'victim' bandwagon.

That aside, what this video clearly shows us in graphic detail, is the degree of cruelty and inhumanity that we humans are capable of. And the presence of a large crowd of spectators too, obviously amused and entertained, speaks volumes. In which way now are these murderers better than the person that they killed? On whose behalf were they doing this? God's?

Click here for Man's inhumanity 1

Trouble sleep, yanga wake am..

Fela from 1972. I grew up listening to music like this. Timeless..

Monday, 10 October 2011

Foreign Aid and Homophobic African Governments..

Recently came the news that homophobic countries in Africa are to have financial aid from Britain cut.
"In itself, such a move should be applauded. Countries where gay people are persecuted, imprisoned or even killed merely on account of their sexuality should be treated as pariah states. Giving money ostensibly to relieve need in places where such true human rights to life and liberty are routinely snuffed out like this is quite obscene," observes the UK's Daily Mail newspaper's Melanie Phillips.
While I welcome this move and think of it as being long overdue, I believe that the timing of the UK government's announcement is significant, coming just after a Conservative Party conference at which the Tories attempted to boost a compassionate image of their party - a move that has been widely scorned as being a stunt. After all, it is not only gay people who are being persecuted in many of these countries. Several other social groups also suffer abuse, as for example in Islamic countries, where women continue to suffer systematic oppression. Yet we hear of no plans to cut aid to their countries on their account.

I think that this announcement might be a sweetener for those who have criticised the Cameron government for continuing to increase its foreign aid programme at a time when the same government is carrying out deep spending cuts at home. Prime Minister Cameron has famously stated that continuing to increase the aid programme at the time of austerity is a "sign of moral strength".

However, when one considers that the UK is having to borrow huge sums of cash from parts of the developing world, such as the Middle East and China just to stay afloat, but is at the same time doling out enormous sums in aid to poorer developing countries in Africa and Asia, one cannot but wonder whether the government's critics don't have a point. More so when the facts are that: although the budget for the UK's Department for International Development is set to increase from the current £8 billion per year to £11.5 billion by 2015, the Home Office budget, which pays for the Police and counter terrorism within the UK, has been cut over the same period, from £10.1 billion in the current financial year, to £8.3 billion in 2014/15. Yet, it is still the case that much of the aid given to poorer countries is not capable of being monitored as to how it is utilised.

Aid funds are manipulated by tyrants in order to oppress, enslave, suppress and even kill their own people and to prop up their brutal and corrupt regimes. (I will refrain from mentioning names, but to bear out this argument, there seems to be a correlation between those African countries most reliant on foreign aid, and those with the most brutally oppressive regimes). It has been argued (disingenuously in my view) that the problem of misapplication of aid funds is a thing of the past, and that aid budgets have now been made "rigorously accountable". But even the UK government-established Independent Commission on Aid Impact has stated that up to 27 per cent of the UK's aid budget goes directly to the recipient countries' governments to spend as they choose. A further one-third of official aid money goes to expert international bodies such as the World Bank and the United Nations. Only a relatively small amount is spent by the UK Government directly on humanitarian projects.

Therefore, governments that are recipients of foreign aid are free on the larger part, to do what they please with the money that they receive. This money is seen as easy pickings by those in power in those countries. And far from helping poor nations rise from destitution, foreign aid has encouraged dependency, fostered corruption and prevented the development of the free institutions of government and civil society, whose absence is the principal cause of the poverty in the first place. Also, to protect the rights of gay African people, it will not be nearly enough merely to force African countries to repeal or amend their anti-gay legislation. There must overall be changes in societal attitudes too, yet it is difficult for me to envisage how the withholding of foreign aid alone will bring those changes about.

In conclusion, I must express how strongly I feel about the fact that several decades after achieving independence from their former colonial masters, many African countries continue to rely so very heavily on financial aid from abroad, such that this aid has been allowed to become a whip with which African governments can be flogged into submission. This is another count in the long indictment against the leadership that the African people have had inflicted upon them..

Rays of hope theme continued

I decided to create another post, even though it is a continuation of the previous post.

The view points articulated by such prominent Americans from the video clip above stands in direct contrast to the hate-filled stance being advocated across much of sub-Saharan Africa. This includes passing legislation specifically designed to imprison people for being gay as in this case

Anti-gay legislisation from Nigeria

or public ministers pushing for a public witch-hunt of gay people, here

Public intolerance in Ghana

These kind of examples are more akin to the atmoshpere in pre world war II Germany.

With these two camps ie the intolerant view coming from Africa or the tolerant view from America. For me I will take my stand with that of the Americans on this point. Colin Powell and Phylicia Rashad win, hands down. Phylicia has presence and authority, she could bring sanity to the most ignorant hot-head.

On another point they held a Pan-African film festival. I was surprised that to have the term LGBTI and African mentioned in the same breadth, would even be tolerated by the African contingent. Some great themes and issues were being explored here. It was interesting to note the consciousness that some actors displayed.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Rays of hope from the land of the free

I was having a browse on a gay search engine (as I do), and came across this.

It seems very interesting and is long overdue. Here's a brief description
No More Down Low.TV is a groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind lifestyle and entertainment series dedicated to dispelling myths and stereotypes about same gender-loving people in the African American community.
I couldn't have put it better myself, so I didn't; I just borrowed that from the About page on the site. While there I also found out that the site was launched in 2010, so it's been around a while. It's free to check out the blog and look around, see what's new and happening in the areas the site covers, and you're going to find that this isn't just your ordinary blog. There are lots of posts and interviews and the episodes of themselves, of course, but there's also a community area and bonus videos. Perfect, a great place to check out LGBT issues concerning the African American community.

It is a relief to know that change can come from a land that is more enlightened, than Africa & the Caribbean (for the most part). It makes a refreshing change than to read of stories such as,

Ghana Rounding Up And Arresting Gays & Nigeria: Days of Gay Marriage will soon be Numbered

which are all too depressing to dwell on.

However as the esteemed Akin says on his blog:

"In other words, the concept of the acceptance of homosexuality in Africa will only be under duress from free societies in negotiations for other things than it becoming an accepted thing in society.."

This is not to say the struggle for equality should be left solely to those overseas, the more intimidating and infinitely more dangerous campaign must continue from the home base also.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

You're on a 1980s music trip this weekend. Gloria Estefan's 'Don't Wanna Lose You' triggers memories of something that came into your life at that time, but lingers in your mind long after it was extinguished; bringing with it thoughts of bittersweet moments that can only be triggered by a piece of music such as this. Like wine aged as time has passed, your appreciation of that long-lost thing has deepened. And with melancholy, you push the replay button, again. And again..

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Nigeria: A Nation?? at 51

By Zainab Usman

“ ‘Nigeria is a state, not yet a nation’. Discuss” was the very first continuous assessment essay question for GENS 101, Nationalism course in my first year and first semester at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Myself and many of my classmates probably wrote complete drivel in a bid to answer it partly because we were fresh out of secondary school and hardly understood or were able to distinguish the concepts of statehood and nationhood, and partly because the lecturer hardly came to class to actually “teach” that module. It was not until relatively recently that I got to fully appreciate the weight and import of these concepts, how they relate to me as a citizen and why I was asked that question at the university. This question of Nigeria’s statehood and its viability as a nation was an issue our immediate post independence leaders were confronted with at independence in 1960 and remarkably more recently, as Nigeria marks 51 since the attainment of political independence, Nigerians are increasingly asking the same question: whether we recognize ourselves as members of a single Nigerian nation, bound by common values of Nigerian-ness.

At independence, Nigeria’s political leaders were acutely aware of the socio-economic and political challenges confronting the newly independent entity and were aware of the profound socio-cultural divergence between the hitherto autonomous northern, eastern and western regions. As former US Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell rightly notes, the nationalist leaders, their differences notwithstanding recognized the need for unity under the common banner of a democratic Nigerian state due to shared ideals for the pursuit of economic development, governance according to the rule of law and to serve as a beacon for other African countries on the global stage. These ideals were embodied in the lofty motto “unity and faith, peace and progress” as inscribed in the Nigerian Coat of Arms.

Along the line, after years of intense elite bickering, military coups, a civil war, electoral manipulation and fraud, those common values, yearnings and aspirations have become lost on both leaders and followers in Nigeria. A typical manifestation of this phenomenon is that some Nigerians, from students and civil servants to public office holders cannot recite the national anthem or the national pledge. The basic philosophy of our Nigerian-ness after more than 5 decades has become lost amidst the rubble of crippling poverty, increasing inequality between the haves and the have-nots, the dearth and near collapse of infrastructure, alarming level of insecurity, intensification of ethnic, regional and religious cleavages and animosity amongst citizens, infamous bad leadership and scandalous corruption.

All these have culminated in a political leadership that is confused, mediocre and grossly inefficient populated by a corrupt, self-seeking, and fractured political elite devoid of patriotism, nationalistic pride and sovereignty as the recent batch of Wikileaks cables on Nigeria have revealed. This leadership and elite have not only resulted in weak and dysfunctional state institutions but also a followership which in the absence of effective and inspiring leadership is distrustful of such leadership, and is mutually antagonistic of one another; a followership bedevilled by poverty, inequality, marginalization and a sense of injustice that is increasingly becoming desperate, disillusioned and militant. The militant and violent Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND) recently warned Nigerians to steer clear of Independence Day celebrations in Abuja because it claimed it was planning a bomb attack.

A leadership which lacks nationalism and patriotism similarly inspires a followership that has little nationalistic pride and devotion. For several years many Nigerians, save the ones in government who have to participate in official protocol, hardly genuinely participate in the Independence Day celebrations. What celebrations can you participate-in when there is hardly power (electricity), when several bombs have gone-off in various parts of a city, when you are grieving over the loss of a relative or friend who died in a ghastly road accident, when newspaper headlines are daily screaming with sordid salacious stories of government corruption and inefficiency, when parents have several graduates loitering aimlessly at home unemployed and where university students nurse a perpetual mortal fear of finding themselves stranded, unemployed in the labour market?

Interestingly, while acknowledging many of these enormous problems, one basic fact which most Nigerians fail to recognize or prefer to (willingly) overlook is our role in it all. It has almost become an automatic reflexive action for everyone to quickly attribute Nigeria’s problems to bad leadership (which is not under dispute). It is almost a comical irony to read the transcript of interviews with some legislators, ministers or other public office holders and hear them complain about bad leadership as the bane of Nigeria’s problems forgetting that they actually constitute such “leadership”. It is as though the concept of leadership in this context has assumed the notion of a nebulous, abstract bogey-monster which provides an escapist punching bag for us to blame for our woes. In our eagerness to blame “bad leadership”, we conveniently forget that those leaders are not foreigners or aliens, but are part and parcel of our society – they were once ordinary citizens like us and are an embodiment of the nature, the pulse and attitude of our society. We fail to remember that if we want our leaders to change, we need to change our ways, our mindset and re-assess our aspirations so that the leaders will reflect those values and when they falter or waver we make them (or pressure them) to toe those lines.

After 51 years of “independence” and over 12 years of democracy we are yet to accept that change has to come from within all of us. If we have forgotten or we no longer respect the philosophy and common values that bind us together, if we have relegated our yearnings and aspirations for a developed, progressing, stable and effectively governed and democratic Nigeria where everyone is equal and can realize their full potentials, then how do we expect our leaders to be any different from us and miraculously have the much desired “interest of the nation at heart”?

As Nigeria marks 51 years since independence, we need to embark on a sober reflection of what Nigeria means to each of us, and what role we have played and are playing in the state of Nigeria today. A nation is built when it’s constituent inhabitants recognize the common values and aspirations they share despite their differences and how crucial it is to safeguard and protect those ideals in every sphere of life. Until we recognize and embrace that, our march towards nation-hood will continue faltering.

Cross posted from Nigerians Talk