Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Postcards from the Tidal Basin

It may not feel like spring along the Northeast Corridor today, but the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., are a definite sign of the season for which the region's winter-weary residents continue to yearn.

Here are some snapshots from earlier this afternoon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Is Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill dead?

It appears as though Uganda’s controversial anti-homosexuality bill is dead.

The New Civil Rights Movement; Blabbeando and other bloggers posted last night that Ugandan media indicated the measure, which would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex acts, will no longer remain on the table. The proposal sparked widespread outrage among LGBT activists inside the East African country and around the world. And gay activist David Kato’s murder in late January highlighted the plight of LGBT Ugandans.

This potential development comes only days after the United Nations' Human Rights Council voted to condemn anti-LGBT violence. President Obama also highlighted the issue in a Jan. 27 statement that urged Ugandan authorities to investigate Kato's murder.

"LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights," he stressed. "My administration will continue to strongly support human rights and assistance work on behalf of LGBT persons abroad. We do this because we recognize the threat faced by leaders like David Kato, and we share their commitment to advancing freedom, fairness, and equality for all."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A spring snow falls upon Bushwick

Thunder sleet and snow is certainly not an everyday occurrence in New York City, but that is exactly what happened earlier tonight.

Here are three pictures and a clip I shot around 9 p.m. as a burst of heavy snow approached the area. And yes, that is a tag scrawled onto the camper van parked across the street from my building on Jefferson Street. Only in Bushwick...

The view from Jefferson Street

A coating of snow remained on the ground here in Bushwick around 9:40 a.m.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Brooklyn Community Pride Center seeks to connect LGBT Brooklynites

By Caran Wakefield

Out of the five boroughs that comprise New York City, Brooklyn's LGBT population is arguably the largest and most diverse. But until recently, Brooklyn had no LGBT-oriented community center—making it the last district to provide this service for its residents. In 2008, Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn pledged $2 million in capital funding towards the creation of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. Since it opened its doors in 2009, BCPC has been working relentlessly—not only to provide various supports and services to the community, but also to serve as a hub of information regarding related organizations in Brooklyn. By promoting the empowerment; development and general welfare of the community with emphasis on gender, racial and ethnic parity, the Center is committed to affecting positive change within the borough and the LGBT community at large.

BCPC has offered a wide range of programs, ranging from social to educational. In the past, BCPC has hosted legal clinics, panel discussions, and holiday parties for same-sex families. More recently launched services include coming out groups for men and women (with Identity House), after-school youth programs (at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice) and workshops for older adults.

Last April, BCPC hosted its first Founder's Ball fundraiser at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn. The money that was raised allowed the organization to expand much-needed services in the borough. This year, this event will feature live entertainment, h'ors d'oeuvres, an open bar, and a silent auction. The Founder's Ball also provides an opportunity to network with other individuals who share a commitment to the LGBT community. The money raised from the event will allow BCPC to further develop its programming, and obtain a permanent space where these programs can be hosted.

Caran Wakefield is with the Brooklyn Community Pride Center.

The view from Jefferson Street

It's another rainy morning here in Bushwick. Forecasters have predicted it may snow in the five boroughs on Wednesday, but this news is almost certainly the last thing weather-weary New Yorkers want to hear.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The view from Jefferson Street

A rainy Wednesday morning here in Bushwick...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Queens man succumbs to injuries after alleged anti-gay attack

Not again!

An 18-year-old Queens man died at Jamaica Hospital yesterday after four teenagers beat him in what police said was an anti-gay attack.

The Daily News reported four teenagers—Alex Velez, Nolis Ogando, Christopher Lozada and Luis Tabales—attacked Anthony Collao with a metal pipe outside a Woodhaven birthday party on Satuday, March 12. A judge arraigned them on Monday, March 14, on manslaughter and assault charges. And the teenagers remain held on $100,000 to $200,000 bail.

“I want to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Anthony Collao,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a statement. “My Council colleagues and I are saddened and disturbed by this outrageous attack. We celebrate diversity in New York City, we do not tolerate bias attacks in any neighborhood in Queens or anywhere else in our great city.”

A number of anti-LGBT hate crimes have unfortunately garnered headlines over the last couple of years. These include José Sucuzhañay’s murder on a Bushwick street corner in Dec. 2008, the near-fatal beating of Jack Price outside a College Point bodega in Oct. 2009, gay Puerto Rican teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado's brutal death in Nov. 2009. Gang members also allegedly sodomized and beat two teenagers and a man in the Bronx in October because they reportedly thought one of their recruits was gay.

Collao's death once again proves New York City is not immune to anti-LGBT hate crimes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

An indescribable tragedy

The scenes that continue to emerge from Japan are simply heartbreaking.

I was listening to Christiane Amanpour’s live report from outside Tokyo as I began to write this blog. I also streamed NHK English on my computer throughout the weekend, but mere adjectives and superlatives cannot possibly capture the scope of the tragedy that continues to unfold.

The destruction an earthquake can cause only became clear to me when I visited Chile’s Colchagua Valley in January. Our guide pointed out several vacant lots along the road into Santa Cruz that had been homes before an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Central Chile on Feb. 27, 2010. The earthquake, which generated a tsunami that inundated coastal cities and towns, largely destroyed the church that had stood along the south side of Santa Cruz’s Plaza de Armas. The hotel in which we stayed sustained serious damage during the earthquake, and it only reopened in September.

The Chilean government evacuated low-lying areas along the country’s coastline on Friday, March 11, but the tsunami caused only minor damage. Japan, however, was not nearly as fortunate. And the only thing that seems appropriate at this time is to keep the Japanese people in one’s thoughts.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The view from Jefferson Street

Taken around 10 a.m.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brooklyn state senator surrenders to federal authorities

A case of another (potential closet case) hypocrite who falls hard?

New York State Sen. Carl Kruger [D-Brooklyn] surrendered to federal authorities earlier this morning for alleged corruption.

Kruger was one of the handful of Democrats—including disgraced former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate [D-Jackson Heights]—who voted against a bill in late 2009 that would have allowed gays and lesbians to marry in New York State. LGBT activists protested outside his Mill Basin home after the vote, and some even questioned Kruger’s sexual orientation.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mongolian LGBT activists honored in Manhattan

Bushwick is probably as far away from the Mongolian steppe as one can get, but Anaraa Nyamdorj of the Mongolian LGBT Centre had one of the best sound bites this cynical journalist has heard in a long time when she accepted the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's Felipa de Souza Award at Landmark on the Park in Manhattan on Monday, March 7.

“Long ago, our warriors conquered half of the world,” she said. “Now our warriors will go and conquer hatred. We are fierce and determined.”

IGLHRC also honored journalist Jeff Sharlet for his reporting on the links between The Fellowship and Uganda’s so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The view from Jefferson Street

Taken around 8:45 a.m. as the clouds broke after last night's torrential downpours.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Postcards from Manhattan

It was a beautiful afternoon to stroll through Manhattan. Here are some snapshots from West 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in the Flower District and Union Square.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fire damages two Bushwick apartment buildings

A fire damaged two apartment buildings on Troutman Street between Irving and Knickerbocker Avenues here in Bushwick earlier this afternoon.

Firefighters appeared to have the fire under control when I took these pictures around 1:45 p.m. Bystanders said everyone safely evacuated the two buildings.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Hampshire lawmakers postpone votes on marriage equality repeal bills

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee announced earlier today it has postponed a votes on two bills that would repeal marriage for gays and lesbians in the Granite State.

It appears as though legislators would vote on these measures sometime early next year, which coincides with the state's presidential primary. My mother's infinite wisdom on this issue remains all too appropriate: Don't politicians have anything better to do than to stop someone from getting married? Mothers--and even soon-to-be-grandmothers like mine--continue to know best!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Russian gay activist speaks at Columbia University

As part of his American speaking tour, Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev spoke at Columbia University on Tuesday, March 1.

Alekseev outlined the oppression and even violence he and other Moscow Pride organizers have faced since they first held the event in 2006. He also discussed the European Court of Human Rights' Oct. 2010 ruling that found Russian officials violated Moscow Pride organizers' right to assemble peacefully.

Alekseev appeared amid controversy over anti-Semitic comments he reportedly posted to his blog in late January. Karen Ocamb of LGBT POV reported earlier today organizers of Alekseev's scheduled appearances in California later this week canceled them after the activist refused to clarify his positions.

It remains somewhat unclear whether Alekseev will travel to California after all, but he denied he is anti-Semitic. Alekseev pointed out his mother's stepfather was Jewish, and he said he has many Jewish friends. Alekseev further praised the gay and lesbian Jewish Americans who have supported Moscow Pride over the years.

(David Badash has an extensive post on Alekseev's appearance and the controversy over his reported anti-Semitic comments at The New Civil Rights Movement.)

The view from Jefferson Street

Taken around 8:30 a.m.