Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Brit, Army, and Gay? No Worries

Wait: You’re in the army and you’re gay?

Lance Corporal James Wharton gives a rather unextraordinary account of serving openly in the British Army for the “It Gets Better” project. Wharton celebrated his civil partnership in his regiment’s barracks and served in Iraq for seven months in 2007. He was even featured on the cover of the British Army’s magazine.

Perhaps U.S. armed forces could take a note from our allies abroad?

Filed under: gay rights, government, military, world, , , , , , , ,

Homosexuality: Like Terrorism, A Disease, “Spreading Like Wild Fire”

Ugandan newspaper editor Giles Muhami has some pretty horrendous things to say about homosexuality: that it’s similar to terrorism, that it’s a disease, and that it’s “spreading like wild fire.” Be sure to protect your kids.

Muhami recently printed a newspaper article in his Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone (not to be affiliated with the U.S. magazine of the same name) that calls for gays and lesbians to be hanged.

For mainstream media to promote hatred and violence against any human is deplorable. In my travels through central and western Africa, I have listened to hatred and ignorant ideas about gays and lesbians; it’s even worse to see anti-gay opinions published in African newspapers as fact, irresponsible journalism unconcerned with the privacy of the gay and lesbian Africans named in these articles.

But even more than privacy or social ill, the negative reporting is a matter of safety for gay and lesbians. At least four people have been attacked since the article was published:

Carrying the headline “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos,” the article came out just days before the one year anniversary of the introduction of a controversial bill in parliament that would make homosexuality, which is illegal in Uganda, punishable by death in some cases.

I had thought the Bahati Bill–anti-gay legislation introduced by David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan parliament–had died down. Apparently, the hate against LGBT Ugandans (and supported by evangelical churches in the U.S.) is as present as ever.

Filed under: gay rights, hate, homophobia, world, , , , , , ,

Prestigious TED Prize Goes to Graffiti Artist

"Women Are Heroes in Kibera Slum," J R's sprawling installation in Nairobi, Kenya, in early 2009.

$100,000 to a street artist?

The celebrated TED Prize, previously awarded to humanitarians like Bill Clinton and Bono, was awarded to Parisian artist J R, who paints elaborate, king-sized murals of local people in the world’s poorest slums. Like many street artists, J R remains anonymous because of the illegal nature of his work.

According to the New York Times, the award is prized just as much for the publicity it raises as the cash:

For most recipients, the value of the six-year-old award has less to do with the money than with the opportunity it grants the winner to make a “wish”: to devote the funds to a humanitarian project that will almost inevitably draw donations and other help from the organization’s corporate partners and influential supporters. The chef Jamie Oliver, the 2010 prize winner, recently proposed setting up an international effort to further his campaign against obesity; Mr. Clinton’s wish has channeled significant resources toward the creation of a rural health system in Rwanda.

"Portrait of a generation," Paris, 2006.

Banksy and Shepard Fairey are household names, with commercial work and museum retrospectives. Now, J R joins Bill Clinton in an award for humanitarian work.

Is mainstream acceptance toward street artists changing, or are the artists themselves forcing change?

Filed under: africa, art, politics, racism, social justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

Gay Couple in Malawi Pardoned

Heartening news from eastern Africa: the president of Malawi has pardoned the gay couple who were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor.

The BBC reports that President Bingu Wu Mutharika announced the pardon during a visit by UN head Ban ki-Moon. Mutharika seemed to enact the pardon with a sense of duty and under international pressure, still hewing to his country’s discriminatory culture:

“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” he said after meeting Mr Ban.

“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”

Whether a political move or out of humanitarian largesse, the release of Monjeza and Chimbalanga is welcome news. Perhaps the win for human rights in Malawi will affect the virulently homophobic culture in other African nations.

On a related note, Current television broadcast a fantastic documentary about the anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda called Missionaries of Hate. A thorough, well-researched piece of investigative journalism that I highly recommend.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Filed under: africa, gay rights, global justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

You Think Your Country’s Good?

Over at Information is Beautiful, an interactive visualization that shows each nation’s worth. The chart, titled “International Number Ones,” lists one thing that every country excels at. Whoulda thunk the most male smokers could be found in Mongolia? That Belize had the most mammal species? Or that the Philippines outranked its western counterparts in text messaging? Or that Israel was expert at diamond polishing?

I could go on (and the chart does so). What’s also interesting is the Excel spreadsheet revealing artist David McCandless’ sources: Unicef, the Museum of Fine Arts, the CIA factbook, among others. Kind of like a behind-the-scenes video of the making of.

What a meta-tastic (I just made up that word) society we’ve become.

Filed under: art, innovation, world, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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No food for lazy man

Mao and Du Bois

Inside W.E.B. DuBois' library

Commemorating the great pan-African writer

African drumming and dance

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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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