As culture wars around gay rights rage in America, similar agitations have been cropping up across the continent of Africa, most notably in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia and, most recently, Nigeria. These events are not coincidental but rather share a perfectly causal relationship. In the face of Stateside losses in the marriage equality battle, Evangelical fundamentalists have expanded the battleground. Consequently the continent has seen notable increases in state-sponsored anti-gay sentiment that has left many who are or are perceived to be transgressive in their sexual preferences or performance highly vulnerable to the most heinous of violence including mob lynchings and stonings, life imprisonment and correctional rape. Despite the very real threat of harassment, imprisonment and death, LGBTI Africans and advocates continue to ensure that they can commune and that their voices are heard in quite innovative ways. This panel will explore  this phenomenon as well as grassroots advocacy and activities happening around the continent in response to it.

 

VVictor Mukasa is a human rights defender from Uganda with tremendous dedication and contribution to human rights struggles in Africa and globally. He is a founding member of several Ugandan and regional human rights groups, including Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), 2004, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRDN), 2005, Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) , 2002, Trans Support Initiative, Uganda (TSI-Ug), 2007 and the Pan African e-networks; African Solidarity (2006) and Trans Africa (2008).

Victor has also served as a board member of many African and international LGBT groups, including Gender DynamiX (South Africa), Behind the Mask (South Africa), Coalition of African Lesbians (Pan African), and the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

In 2008, Victor started working at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) as Program Associate at the Africa Regional Program. Thereafter, in 2011, Victor joined the secretariat of the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) as the Coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders Project and later Advocacy Advisor for East Africa. Through these organization, he has mentored individual activists and organizations in various tools needed for their struggles.

Victor was the initiator of the Nairobi Trans* Declaration 2007 and the first Pan African Transgender workshop supported by IGLHRC, from which the project Proudly Transgender and African, a longtime dream by Victor himself and artist and human rights defender Gabrielle Le Roux, emerged. The duo has a dream of having similar exhibitions focusing on human rights defenders in Africa.

Victor is currently an independent consultant specializing in minority human rights, effective campaigning, defending human rights defenders as well as movement building.

 

Tarso Ramos Headshot

Tarso Luís Ramos is the Executive Director of Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank that studies the right-wing. Ramos has been researching the U.S. Right for over two decades, contributing numerous articles and reports on Christian Right, anti-immigrant, anti-labor, and anti-environmental movements and campaigns. He has launched several new initiatives at PRA, including on Islamophobia and on the export of U.S. right-wing homophobic campaigns abroad. He previously served as founding director of Western States Center’s racial justice program, which resists racist public policy initiatives and supports the base-building work of progressive people of color-led organizations. Throughout the 1990s, Tarso worked in various western states to counteract anti-gay campaigns, right-wing militias, and other organized threats to social justice.

 

Spectra Web

Spectra is an award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s rights activist, and new media consultant. Her international blog, Spectra Speaks (www.spectraspeaks.com), offers insightful commentary about gender, sexuality, race, and movement building through the lens of media psychology. Spectra is also the founder and executive editor of Queer Women of Color Media Wire (QWOC Media Wire, www.qwocmediawire.com), a media advocacy organization that amplifies the voices of LBTI racial and ethnic minorities around the world, and is the Community Engagement Officer at Africans in the Diaspora (AiD), a philanthropic organization that nurtures principled philanthropy in Africa. Last year, Spectra successfully crowd-funded an independent project to travel through Southern African training African-women led non-profits to use new media and ICT for online fundraising, brand visibility, and thought leadership.

Her work as a media activist has garnered her international recognition, appearing in both mainstream and alternative media outlets such as Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, Racialicious, and BET, and even several awards. She is currently editing a collection of poetry from LGBT Africa for an upcoming anthology, and writing her first memoir.

 

imageAisha M. Beliso-De Jesús (Moderator) is a cultural and social anthropologist who joined the HDS faculty as Assistant Professor of African American Religions in July 2009. Since 2004 she has conducted multi-sited ethnographic field research with Santería practitioners in Havana and Matanzas, Cuba, and Miami, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area, where she studied travel, religious tourism, return dynamics, and the uses, practices, circulation, and consumption of religious media. In 2009 she won the Stanford University Department of Anthropology’s Robert Bayor Textor Dissertation Award for Outstanding Creativity in Anthropology. The most current phase in this project involves archival research in Cuba and publications on issues of race, gender, and sexuality within Santería religious travel, tourism, and media. Professor Beliso-De Jesús is particularly interested in the role of different forms of media as constitutive of religious-nationalist subjectivities within transnational connectivities; the consumption of popular horror films and religious media; and the uses of internet technologies in the constructions and negotiations of self and other. For nearly 16 years, she has worked with numerous grassroots, public policy, substance abuse, and other nonprofit organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area advocating social justice issues, teen-parent education, and nonviolence for youth of color. Some of her topical areas of research and teaching include: ethnography of transnational religions; African diaspora religious studies; transnational feminisms; anthropology of media and the internet; postcolonial and critical theory; anthropology of the Caribbean and Latin America; media, film, and cultural studies; and race, gender, and sexuality.

 

 

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