Wednesday, August 30, 2006

This Monday: Memorial mass, vigil will mark 5th year anniversary since Eddie Garzon died

Armando and Leonor Garzon (left on the cover of El Diario La Prensa), parents of Eddie Garzon, will be holding a memorial mass and vigil this coming Monday in Queens on the eve of the 5th anniversary of the death of their son, who died from injuries sustained after he was attacked in the streets of Jackson Heights back in 2001.

As we recently noted, it wasn't until June of this year that a John L. McGhee was arrested upon arrival from London and charged with the murder although a trial remains to happen. Until June, there had been no leads on who might have committed such a vicious attack or on the motives. The arrest brings hope that Eddie's family and friends will be able to find some answers to questions they have had for more than five years and be able to gain a sense of closure.

The Garzon family is inviting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to join them at the memorial mass this Monday, September 4th, at 6pm. The memorial mass will take place at the small chapel inside the Elmhurst Hospital Center at 79-01 Broadway in Queens. To get there, you can take the E, F, V or R trains to "74th Street - Roosevelt Avenue" subway station, get out on the Broadway exit and walk 5 blocks from 74th Street to 79th Street. A vigil will follow after the memorial mass at Elmhurst Hospital to the place where Eddie was attacked on August 15, 2001. If you would like more information you are welcome to write me at blabbeando@gmail.com.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr. talks about recent NYS ruling on same-sex marriages

Local Spanish-language newspaper IMPACTO interviews the Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. on a recent ruling by the New York State Court of Appeals not to recognize the right to marry for same-sex couples.

Diaz, also a New York State Senator from the Bronx, tells IMPACTO that, after the ruling, "there is now no way that organizations, movements or legal claims can get these unions recognized" even if he does expect legislative challenges to the State Constitution. "Perhaps in the Assembly, they (homosexuals) will be able to gather support, because the Democrats are in power, but not in the Senate, where the majority is Republican and some of the Democrats are against gay marriage."

He also continues to blur his responsibilities as an elected official and his role as an evangelical preacher: "I believe that my religion as a pastor and preacher of evangelical teaching, bars me from promoting a law of that kind."

But, in what the newspaper notes is a marked departure from past statements by the Reverend, he also ads "Of what I am absolutely in favor is that there should not be any discrimination against those people based on their sexual preferences in none of these areas," referring to access to education, housing and health services.

Diaz has previously editorialized on the marriage issue elsewhere as well.

Speaking of State Senators from the Bronx, Democrat State Senator Efraim Gonzalez, Jr., was indicted on Friday for allegedly using $37,000 dollars given to a charity organization he founded towards, among other things, trips to the Caribbean and baseball game tickets. Hm, I guess a man is not guilty until proven so, but why is there and indictment here when Diaz himself has gotten away with pretty much the same thing?

Friday, August 25, 2006

That Chicago house sound: Peven Everett's new album

Ok, I am officially, unadulteratedly, devotedly "a fan."

Earlier this year I thought that Peven Everett had literally come out of nowhere to take over the house music scene with his playful, joyful, syncopated and funky track "Stuck." I spent weeks trying to get the "you... got... me... in... your... pow-wah, I can't decide... which... way, I'm STUCK" chorus and the additional layered scattery vocal hooks, whoa's, huh's, a-ha's, and com'on y'all's that made it such a distinctive track. No wonder the UK's powerhouse Defected picked it up for their Soul Heaven imprint and released it back in April!

Turns out though that Peven actually had a multi-album history (well, ok, a two-album history, including Studio Confessions and Latest Craze, Part. 1) and has a background that includes jazz and classical music schooling which explains his intricate melodic wit.

Well, ad one more record to the turntable: A couple of weeks ago I went over to pick up Ms. Jody Watley's new (and, sad to say, disappointing) CD and lo and behold my heart skipped a beat when I saw a brand new Peven Everett CD on display called Easy Livin' (on the independent Unified Records). The ten tracks here are more subdued and not as immediately catchy as "Love This Way," "Latest Craze" or "See Saw" (all from Latest Craze). It is also darker with formerly subdued themes of longing and desire threatening to take over the beats. The gorgeous "Don't You" is a sultry love letter to a woman on the verge of rejecting a man, "Steady Now" is an insistent plea for stability in a relationship and the title track asks a girl to let things flow after an initial meeting.

Over at Everett's myspace page, there's mention of an non-authorized "representative" making the rounds and in March he told the Chicago Sun-Times "There is such a lack of respect from companies to musicians. They don't understand that they need to work with the musicians, not that the musicians are working for them. It's with, not for" so perhaps some of these professional tensions color the mood of the new album.

Then again, maybe not. Everett tells the Sun Times that this is a "therapeutic" CD targeted specifically at 'power women:' "It's about their style of winding down... It is for women, but when women hear it, I want them to understand men." Hm, ok? It's still a stunner.

Stunning too that the biggest hit of his career, "Stuck," is also not on the CD (though I'm not sure it fits within the conceptual angle of this album). I initially had wondered if the track might have been kept from this set due to whatever contract Everett signed with Defected (yes, I think about these things way too much), but the Sun Times indicates something more intriguing might be at play: Apparently this the first of two Everett releases this year!

The next one will be called "Power Soul" and be, not surprisingly, on Defected (Everett says that it combines "elements of speed rock with soul music" and is "geared for people who like faster stuff, but who still want to be soulful").

That the Sun Times column on which the interview ran is one generally devoted to hip-hop, shows how difficult it is to categorize, much less find outlets for this type of music in the United States. Even in dance music circles,
DJ Tiesto-type trance techno crap is what gets trumpeted and promoted big time. Let's hope there is some room for the Peven Everetts of this world to conquer at the very least some parts of the universe.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bloggeando: What other blogs are saying

Reading other blogs, here are some entries that have caught my attention (Lance included):
  • New York Law School Professor Arthur S. Leonard writes about a transgender woman from Mexico who just won a new political asylum hearing when the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that immigration authorities used the wrong standards to deny asylum in a previous hearing. Professor Leonard comments on the increasing difficulties for LGBT immigrants in gaining asylum based on sexual identity in the Unites States under the Bush government and on an emerging pattern of similar asylum denials being overturned by higher courts. Most interestingly, he also writes about how difficult it is for LGBT immigrants with credible and demonstrated cases of persecution to gain asylum if they come from countries that the United States perceives as increasingly tolerant of gays (Mexican Asylum Applicant Wins New Hearing, LeonardLink, August 23, 2006)
  • Keith Boykin talks about a Primetime special tonight on ABC that takes a look at "AIDS in black America" (which ABC has trumpeted, in part, for featuring Peter Jenning's last appearance for the network) and raises preliminary issues about some of the featured guests (ABC AIDS Special: Help or Hype?, KeithBoykin.com, August 24, 2006) [UPDATE: Rod2.0 has a review here and reaction from his readers as well]
  • Bernard Tarver comments on the "I Am Gay" ads that were officially launched this week (I Am Gay, Bejata, August 23, 2006)
  • Dan Vera talks about gay Cuban poet Rafael Campo [in between reviews of this season's episodes of Project Runway, if I may ad] (Poetry: Rafael Campo, DanVera.com, August 22, 2006)
  • Pedro Julio Serrano celebrates his new undetectable HIV status (in his Spanish-language blog) and plays around with Blogger in Beta formatting as well (Esperanza..., El Blog de PJ, August 23, 2006)
  • John K writes on the recently announced format of the new "Survivor" season that pits race against race, and tags my blog for recent comments as well (Survivor's Racing Ahead + Lee's When the Levees Broke, j's theatre, August 24, 2006)
  • Gloria, a former California Democratic National Committee delegate, is not happy about recent changes to rules that the DNC has used to guide how state party leaders select gay an lesbian delegates to the presidential convention (DNC v. 2.0, Miss Wild Thing, August 22, 2006)
  • Transgender advocate Pauline Park writes about the lurid coverage of the Jon Benet Ramsey murder and recent allegations that John Mark Karr, who has confessed to the murder though it's not so clear that his confession matches the facts, might have sought counseling for gender reassignment surgery while in the Thailand (Jon Benet Ramsey! Sex-Change Operations! Transsexual Pedophile Murderers! Screaming Tabloid Headlines!, Big Queer Blog, August 23, 2006)
  • Lavi hangs with Lance and Reichen, the boy is anything if not resourceful - and, yes, I'm talking about Lavi (Dancing the Night Away at Star Room, Soloway, August 20, 2006)
Happy reading everybody!

Update: Chad, again

One of the most interesting things I've found about writing in a blog is that anyone can simply find their way here if they do a blog search on a topic that I've covered. When it gets thorny is when some of those topics touch on emotional issues and when people who are directly or indirectly related to the issue want to comment, sometimes anonymously.

More often than not, this has happened when I have written about people in the community that have been killed, whether in a hate crime or in an assault, in instances that are mostly under-reported elsewhere.

It happened when I wrote about Angel Melendez, it happened when I wrote about Adrian Alun Dennis Exley as well.

Though I've only just recently started moderating comments, when dissenting views pop up, I've done my best to allow the comments through although things get trickier when people start anonymously posting hearsay about a specific incident when some details have yet to be reported. The only time I removed a comment from this blog is when I found it to be patently offensive and homophobic though, in some circumstances, I've left those in as well if only to prove a point.


This is the case with the beating that left Chad Ferreira (pictured above) dead on the streets of the Castro in San Francisco back in February. His boyfriend wrote to me offline to see if I knew more about the case and his mother wrote to thank us for writing about him.

Now, even though the original confrontation and beating happened more than six months ago and the alleged assailant was actually taken into custody (Kyle Adams pleaded not guilty to the charges and says that he was acting out of self-defense), from the start the Bay Area Reporter stated the police saw this as a "problematic case." I still didn't know what to do when an anonymous posting popped up this week defending Kyle, followed within a day by another anonymous poster who said he was with Chad the night of the attack.

In today's issue of the Bay Area Reporter reporter Ed Walsh writes that, in a preliminary hearing, a San Francisco judge has found that "that there is enough evidence to try Kyle Adams with assault and voluntary manslaughter for his alleged attack on Ferreira," even though one of the witnesses called on Ferreira's behalf seems to have contradicted statements he made earlier to the police regarding the incident. So a trial is coming and hopefully some of the issues that are still pending will be resolved.

Monday, August 21, 2006

When the Levees Broke...

The 9th ward of New Orleans in late 2005.
Additional photos by reporter Rex Wockner here


Any recent event in the United States pales, and I mean any recent event - including 9/11 - pales, when you are confronted by the scale of tragedy, death and governmental ineptitude that were exposed when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans a year ago and nearly erased one of the major cities in the United States from the map.

I've never been a Spike Lee fan but his understated, devastating, mournful and angry "
When the Levees Broke" (on HBO tonight and tomorrow) is as powerful a documentary as I have probably ever seen in my life (and that's only talking about part 1, part 2 airs tomorrow and that's when the New York Times says that the documentary "rises to greatness" - though I find it hard to believe that part 2 will be able to top the amazing part 1).

There is no way that you can watch this documentary, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, and not acknowledge that this government has been an utter and complete failure. Unfortunately, unlike the documentaries that were aired on national television just a year after the September 11, 2001 attacks (specifically "9/11" on ABC), you have to have a subscription to HBO in order to see this particular masterpiece. After August 30th it will also be available on 'HBO on demand' for those of you who have access to the cable systems. Hopefully it will also be released soon enough on DVD and provide even more people reason to throw this government out of office once election season comes around.

Immediate Reactions:

Spanish-language anti-homophobia ad #1

SOMOS... One of a series of ads that ran in Spanish language media back in 2003 and 2004 which comes to mind as the New York State Black Gay Men's Network launches a brand new campaign targeting homophobia in the African-American community tomorrow. Ad design: Pablo Caro. Photo credit: Javier Soriano

You might have noticed, but we inadvertently jumped the gun on a new initiative to combat homophobia in African-American communities here in New York. After writing about a poster I noticed last week in a subway station, Mark Jason McLaurin of the New York State Black Gay Network said:
Hello Andres-

Thanks for posting our campaign- This is actually a campaign of the New York State Black Gay Network and it will be running all over the city - We have a launch press conference scheduled for Tuesday morning [August 22nd] with Congressman Charlie Rangel and Borough President Scott Springer- if anyone wants any more info on the campaign or materials- feel free to contact me at mmclaurin@nysbgn.org

Thanks for getting the word out (although we were hoping to keep it under wraps a bit until Tuesday but they started the subway stuff early) LOL!
Oops! Aplogies to Mark and the NYS Black gay Men's Network! Rod2.0 picked up on the post on Friday and Keith Boykin gives the down-low on the campaign on his blog today. The campaign, as Mark and Keith say, will be officially launched tomorrow. We wish them great luck and success with the campaign and on-going efforts to tackle homophobia in the African-American community.

In the meantime, these ads have brought to mind an initiative conducted back in 2003 and 2004 to combat homophobia in Latino communities in New York. In the post immediately below and in this post, I wanted to share a couple of the ads that we ran in some of the local Spanish-language newspapers Hoy and El Diario La Prensa. For a high resolution version of the ad above go here.

The text of this particular ad reads:
Jose Sanchez, Graduate Student, Peruvian, Gay
How long have you known that you were gay?
"The truth is that being gay has always been part of my identity. What was difficult was to accept myself and to be able to be sincere with my family and my friends. Nowdays I am the pride of my parents and brothers. I don't have to keep anything from them."

And you, what do you think?

Spanish-language anti-homophobia ad #2

Ad design: Pablo Caro; Photo credit: Javier Soriano

This one in a series of Spanish-language ads that ran in New York City dailies El Diario La Prensa and Hoy as part of an anti-homophobia campaign developed by Francisco Lazala, Bolivar Nieto and I through the SOMOS... Project at the Latino Commission on AIDS back in 2003 and 2004. For a high resolution version click
here.

The text reads:
Nina Rosado, Executive Assistant, Puerto Rican, Lesbian
How did you feel when you realized that you were a lesbian?
"Confused and scared, I didn't know who to talk to about my feelings, I was afraid of being rejected by my friends and my family. I decided to participate in this campaign so that no one else would have to go through what I experienced. So that other Latina lesbians know that we are part of the community."

SOMOS... [We are...] part of our community...

The Latino community in New York is pretty diverse. We are of different ethnicities, nationalities and ages. We are from different social classes and professions and - many of us - are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons.

Nevertheless there is HOMOPHOBIA

There are many erroneous perceptions about homosexuality and people who ask themselves: Is a person born or made gay? can we chose a sexual identity?

And you... What do you think?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Let the light shine on thru...

The Blabbeator (center), my partner Raul and the Blabbeator's mom enjoying an amazingly beautiful day a couple of weekends ago upstate New York. Thougth I'd share.

The International AIDS Conference is over...

It's been a decade since I attended my one and only Int'l AIDS Conference when it took place in Vancouver, Canada, in 1996. Back then, Colombian activist Jairo Pedraza (to whom I pretty much owe my career in LGBT activism), Puerto Rican activists Luis "Popo" Santiago and Carlos Maldonado (who remains a co-worker of mine ten years later), and I, organized what was probably the first international symposium on access to HIV treatments in Latin America, drawing some of the luminaries in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment including Clinton White House HIV Policy Director Sandra Thurman and UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot (as well as a smattering of activists from Latin America who were able to either get scholarships or pay their way to Canada).

Those were heady days and showed me the potential of activism on an international scale. I was idealistic and full of rage that people with HIV throughout Latin America would have to sit back while those in first world nations were seeing the tremendous impact of the first wave of anti-retroviral medicines in prolonging life. But what still sticks with me was the overwhelming sense of sadness that took over me at seeing so many thousands of activists from around the world congregate in one place to demand and scream for treatment for people back in their home nations while millions were obviously spent in extravagant conference pavilion set-ups by pharmaceutical companies, some to peddle pills that eventually proved too toxic or had terrible and hidden side-effects. I will never forget the seemingly insurmountable divide between pharmaceutical greed and human necessity that I saw represented in Vancouver.

For all I know, that divide is still alive at these events but, overall, it's indisputable that some things have improved in the last decade and that more people around the world have access to treatment.

Strikingly the talk of the town this year was apparently prevention after years of the focus being on treatment. After years in this field, I've come to see these shifts in focus as being cyclical when all along the focus should be on BOTH prevention and treatment (some would ad a third: Finding a cure) but talk of a new focus on prevention feels tremendously hopeful. Who knows, down the line, it might mean that we can expand on stuff like this both locally and internationally.

Another key difference ten years later is the relative lack of media attention given to this year's conference at least here in the United States. Not that there wasn't any reporting, just that what would have been in the front page ten years ago now seems to be relegated to the back-pages (a common thread for a society that seems to have bought into the false fact that AIDS is now a manageable illness).

Now, even if you missed some of the developments at this years conference, I urge you to go to TimeToDeliver.com for an "independent, uncensored" look at what took place there from the vantage-point of AIDS activist bloggers. Had I gone to Vancouver this year, I would have joined them in writing for the site but that will probably have to wait until 2008 when the next conference takes place, for the first time ever, in a Latin American country: Mexico will be the host country and I can already feel chills up my spine thinking of what it may bring to the region in terms of increased attention, resources and hope to address HIV/AIDS in the region.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation also has a fine site on this year's conference here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Queer Kid of Color

Are you a Queer Kid of Color? Well, lucky you! A brand new website has just popped up for you guys and gals! And you'll find interesting essays on everything from "The Anatomy of a Homo-Thug" to "The Down Low, Expired." If you click on the link above, you will find thoughtful commentary that doesn't speak down to you and is not built around the victimization frameline that so many HIV prevention websites that target queer youth of color employ (as a matter of fact it seems to be independent of any of the HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention organizations in the city which, in some ways, can be a good thing). Updated every Sunday, check it out sometime!

Today's Technorati Featured Members

Pretty groovy. Today Blabbeando made the Technorati "Featured Members" page. In the meantime, I think I am almost done re-tooling the lay-out of the blog. Hope readers like the new streamlined colors and the change from dark to light!

Friday, August 18, 2006

13th Annual Clubhouse Jamboree: Sept. 10th @ Prospect Park

Last year, the mighty bass from DJ Spinna's thumping DJ set made our whole body vibrate (at least 'til the power generator gave out) after we'd thrilled to a vocal set by Ms. Barbara "Most Precious Love" Tucker under a glorious Brooklyn forest sun. Think we're tripping? Proof (and photos) here.

It's baaack! The 13th Annual Clubhouse Jamboree is set to hit Prospect Park on Sunday, September 10th with another DJ set from DJ Spinna (fresh from releasing a new album), as well as DJ's Karisma and Carlos Sanchez, and the Diamond Temple & The Temple Dynasty Afro Mosaic Soul dance company to boot! Thanks lil Ray and hope for a sunny day.

UPDATES:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Blabbeando in beta

So without much advance notice Google-owned Blogger decides to launch a nifty beta update on Monday with lots of juicy thingies (including the ability to ad labels to posts and to easily manipulate layout color and font changes as well as the ability to ad other third-party html and Java code without having to know much about either).

It's also a beta version which means that additional thingies will be added later (and issues resolved such as the fact that it apparently doesn't work well with Macintosh's Safari system).

Catch is: You have to be invited to convert your blog to the new Blogger in Beta and - guess what! - the invite popped up on my dashboard yesterday night! In one of those 'if you click here you can never go back to your old format' I decided to save the old html template just in case I lost some of the links I've built up and went ahead and did the crazy thing and hoped for the best. The switch also involved abandoning my old username and password (in Blogger in Beta you have to assign your blog to a gmail account).

Result: Minimal disruption (links survived as well as comments to older posts, third-party codes did not survive but can be added again, and been happy checking out some of the new editing options).

So bear with me through this week as I'll be playing with new colors, fonts and layouts. Yay! Nice way to celebrate the one year anniversary since I launched the blog!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Music: Brujeria from da Bronx

La Bruja (photo by Rosalia Rivera)
Dance music bible, Mixmag Magazine from the UK, has a surprise in their current August 2006 issue: In their Urban Tunes page they single out a new release by underground Bronx poet and performer La Bruja (in collaboration with DJ Precision) and name it as their "Compilation of the Month."

From their five-headphone review:

Brujalicious mixed by DJ Precision (De La Luz records)
Former New York model strikes gold on break-out mix album
La Bruja (aka Caridad De La Lux) is pretty enough for most ladies to wonder if her talents match her looks. Well, doubt no more - having worked her socks off as a poet, activist and actress in New York, the ex-Levis model can also rhyme in both Spanish and English with sheer grace. 'Brujali­clous' beautifully infuses upfront hip hop and reggaeton with a unique blend of lyricism, all honed on the spoken word circuit. Highlights including a quirky cover of Madonna's 'La Isla Bonita' and more traditional Puerto Rican-inspired cuts like 'Boricua, Boricua'. Mixed seamlessly by DJ Precision and with guests including Jadakiss, Tony Touch and B-Real, this really shouldn't be slept on.

Pretty cool for a home-town girl! We've always had a soft heart for La Bruja's brujeria because she has done so much for the Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in New York over the years (I remember her electrifying performance at the Pa'Fuera Pa'Lante Latino LGBT Northeastern Conference and that was more than 7 years ago!).

More recently she was featured in the Bronx's own Fruta Extraña Television after performing some of the songs from the album at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance Out Like That! Festival. She also talks about the album and her community activism and work with Que Pasa online.

You can watch a video of her new single, Mi Gatita Negra, here, hear some tracks over on La Bruja's MySpace page, or, better yet, support her by buying the album here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My New York: I am gay (and this is where I stay)

So walking down the still muggy subway platform station as I made my way to work yesterday morning, I just had to stop and take the picture above: "I AM GAY, and this is where I stay."

Well, ok!

Of course I got a little bit closer and was surprised to see that the subway poster was actually part of a campaign funded by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) called "The Campaign for Black Gay Men's Lives" and developed under contracy by Better World Advertising to "respond differently to HIV."

Now, this is old news, apparently, as I see that the campaing launch actually took place back in April. Perhaps it took a few months for the posters to make it to Queens subway stations? In any case, it's refreshing to see a campaign targetting African-American communities in New York City that proactively affirms the value of black gay men's lives in this city.

Three years ago, we did a series of similar ads in Spanish-language newspapers in New York City with not nearly as much money and without access to an advertising firm. In the ads, we featured Latino gays and lesbians from all walks of life talking about their identity, their nationality and their connection to Latino communities throughout New York City (the first such ads to run in the country, I believe).

Perhaps in the future we can also get the same level of support for a wider campaign.

All in all, the ad left me feeling optimistic, for the first time in ages, that HIV prevention among people of color communities in the city might be entering a new, more effective stage. And that would be great news for all.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A difficult choice: Love or country

Back in May I briefly mentioned a documentary making the film festival rounds and still in the post-production stages called Through Thick and Thin. The film's director, Sebastian Cordoba, was being profiled in The Advocate for a series of articles on immigration and the LGBT community in the June 6th issue (co-producer Lavi Soloway's blog is on the right)

The documentary drew my attention not only because it portrays the wrenching situation faced by hundreds of gay couples around the United States when one partner is a United States citizen or resident and the other is neither, but also because one of the couples featured in the film are my friends Tom and Emilio (pictured).

Well, Tom has just joined the blogosphere with Canadian Hope and Emilio is running it's Spanish language companion Esperanza Canadiense (added to my links on the right).

As Tom writes "We are a bi-national couple living in New Jersey, USA. We've struggled for almost 5 years just to remain together. Earlier this year we were inspired to apply for residency in Canada because we yearn to be free, equal and safe from the tyranny of the right. This blog will be a mix of our immigration process, our daily lives and topics of interest like politics and religion."

A year ago, when I launched this blog, several friends (and bloggers) greeted me with open arms. So I say, still hoping that Tom and Emilio will somehow resolve their situation and be able to stay in the United States, welcome to the blogosphere! Love you guys!

UPDATES:

1er Cumpleaños

Hoy hace un año nació Blabbeando. Yay!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mala Fe's Pluma Gay conquers Puerto Rico


Moldovan boy-band O-Zone probably never thought their cheesy Euro-pop hit Dragosetea Din Tei would have such an after-life. Then again who would have thought that a teenager filming himself singing the - hum - lyrics, would become the precursor to viral video mania?

In the meantime, a whole other type of 'tribute' was given to the song when a pair of comedians from Spain did a video parody for their television skit and titled it "Pluma Pluma Gay" ("Feather Feather Gay") eventually making it to the radio as a single and becoming a minor hit. The lyrics:
Fag who? Fag you? Fag I? Fag ha-ha (repeated ad-nauseum)
Strength! Toward the light...
If gay you are... Think about it
It's your life
And if they talk, let them talk - Let them say whatever they want to say

Strength, strength, much strength
How dark can a closet get
Step out of it, step out of it
and come here, your destiny is to be happy


Party, party
Feather feather gay

What does it matter if the kid is gay
You were born gay
Even if it costs, you have to shout it
I AM GAAAAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!
Well, that was 2004. Jump to 2005 and find "Pluma Pluma Gay" at the top of the pop-charts in Chile and Argentina and spreading to other countries throughout South America. Ok, as gay-themed parodies go, that's pretty inoffensive despite the over-the-top stereotypes used for the video. But I though it would end there.

Well, at the end of last year I was forwarded an amateur video of Dominican group Mala Fe performing a merengue version! Soon, everyone wanted Mala Fe to perform it at every presentation which inevitably led to the official single and video (YouTube above).

This week, Mala Fe has been touring Puerto Rico and Hector Aponte Alequin of Primera Hora sat down to talk to Mala Fe singer Javier Gutierrez in an interview published yesterday:
[EXCERPT]
Primera Hora: To be openly gay in the Latino art world, is it a problem?
Javier Gutierrez: No, it's not a problem. For some persons it can be, and they hide it, but for me it is not a problem. Gays have tremendous power to pull ahead in media... I say this because I have friends and relatives who are gay.
PH: ...but "Pluma Gay" has been seen as an insult.
JG: No, never, ever. I could never wish anything bad towards gays; that's the public that I love. I consider myself a daring artist. No merengue singer has ever sang to this community. I've received massive support from them, they thank me for remembering that they exist.
PH: Within the comedic chorus, the song talks of having strength, of living a life in a sincere way. To promote such a strong message one has to live it and believe in it. Do you identify yourself with the lyrics?
JG: (laughing) That was the goal, everything is not just a party, it's liberation. As for the other thing (his identity) I don't have an opinion but let's go back to [discussing] the song, please.
PH: What did you mean to say with such an album cover?
JG: I like to work with concepts. There, I look completely gay. It goes with the song like a ring on a finger, with me. One thing goes with the other. You see it and you immediately get the concept, it draws attention, it's what grabs you.
PH: Ah, so you realized that gays are great music buyers?
JG: Yes, in part yes. Why am I going to deny it? But it's not the only thing, it's a show of support, of showing solidarity with happy music, sending a message...
PH: Of vindication? Tolerance?
JG: Yes, but more of being present. Gays are not invisible.
PH: In the Dominican Republic being gay is almost a crime from a moral point of view...
JG: (interrupts) That's why I did it, so that people see that merengue is for everyone, the gays and the straights.
PH: But it's more than that because you strongly attack the closet and you include the topic of [other] artists. You invite other merengue singers to come out of the closet such as Toño Rosario, Peña Suaso, Eddie Herrera, Sergio Vargas... Is the intention to include something else that will draw attention?
JG: I mentioned them because they're friends of mine and the merengue-loving public knows who they are. It's to motivate them and to liberate them. If they are, well come out. Some have taken it as a joke, others as an insult. It's not a dispute or anything against them. I am not affirming that they are, even if there are comments in the Dominican Republic that say that some of them are.
PH: And are you worried that there might be such rumors about you?
JG: (burst out laughing) It wouldn't matter if they think that I'm gay, independently of whether I am or not.
PH: But are you gay?
JG: I prefer to leave it a question mark.
PH: Why? If that is precisely what you attack in the lyrics to your songs, and even stronger in "Lo Digo," which is a song of yours.
JG: (silence)
PH: "Straight" (heterosexual), bisexual...?
JG: None of those.
PH: Well, and what do you think of being in the closet?
JG: Something truly sad, because when one can express what one truly is, it's a sad and dark life.
PH: Is your life sad and dark?
JG: (laughs) Never, ever; the opposite, it's a party.
PH: And if you were gay, would you come out of the closet?
JG: Of course I would, of course, definitely...
PH: So, are you confirming that you are not gay?
JG: I am not confirming a thing (laughs and winks one eye)
PH: Why do you say that you are not confirming a thing?
JG: Because if I am, I'll come out. But for now I prefer that it remain a question mark.
PH: What do you mean "for now"?
JG: Well, I don't know what could happen in the future
PH: You mean, turning gay? Since this is what you say in "Lo Digo" and "Pluma Gay." There you insist that "gays are born and not made," isn't that the case?
JG: Yes, indeed, that is very very true. I can confirm it: [You are] born gay... (silence). What happens is that sometimes you realize things later in life. If it happens to me and if I want to say so publicly, I will say it.
PH: Or is it that with this album you are preparing a way [out], in the way you do in the song where in the end you shout "I'm gayyyy!"?
(laughs, groans, lifts his eyebrows) It could be, it could be... Leave it there, please, leave it there. The record, the record...
In an interview published today by Primera Hora,Toño Rosario, one of the singers mentioned in "Pluma Gay," says it'a all a joke:
"He's my friend," he says of Javier Gutierrez, "he's just joking."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Latino gay life in Southern Florida

Window Media's Florida publication Express Gay News has an article this week on what life is like for Latino gays and lesbians living in South Florida.

In the article, Phil LaPadula interviews "more than half a dozen" Latino gays and lesbians living in the area (including Roberto Romero, pictured) and talks to them about whether they feel accepted, whether they are openly gay or not (some of the men decline to give their last names not because they are not socially out but because their families back in Latin America do not know that they are gay), the rise of Latino-themed bar and club nights in the area, and perceptions about family and love.

LaPadula also interviews the great Herb Sosa and Ron Brenesky of Miami's Unity Coalition about their work doing outreach and providing services to the community as well as about efforts to fill the void left by the closing of the only national Latino LGBT organization, LLEGO, back in 2004.

As a snap-shot of a culture, the article is extensive and provides interesting information. Unfortunately the article is marred by presenting the experiences of six people as representative of the community as a whole and, furthermore, by delving into the complex dynamics of dating between gay Latino men and white gay men by noting that a common link among the men interviewed for this article was that - while complaining that white gay men "don't show their emotions much," are "aloof," and "are cold and not family oriented" - most accepted, when asked, that they were exclusively dating or seeking to date white men.

Research has begun to explore the tricky relations between immigration, degree of acculturation, class status and racism that infuses the dynamics of dating when a Latino gay man enters what might be recognized as a larger urban gay community. It's a sometimes dangerous mixture that can lead to increased risk taking during sexual encounters, a decreasing sense of self-worth and, in some extreme cases, to rejection of one's ethnic identity for the sake of being accepted into a desired group.

That would have been an interesting angle to explore but LaPadula only seems to raise the issue to prove a point that if Anglos have stereotypes of Latinos, so do Latinos of Anglos, when reality is a bit more complex than that.

By the way, I assume that the guys at Unity Coalition referred LaPadula to me and I also spoke a bit about the national picture though the interview came on deadline and I'm afraid some of the points I wanted to make got lost. For example, I spoke of the work we had done in monitoring media in the past while urging LaPadula to talk to Monica Taher at GLAAD but the article gives the appearance that there are no other projects out there monitoring Spanish-language media. I also spoke of some of the funding we have been able to provide some of the local (NY) Latino LGBT grassroots organizations and, when asked about Jovenes Latinos en Accion, I erred in saying that we had provided funding to the program in the past, confusing it with Latino Gay Men of New York's VOCES youth institute program (we have funded VOCES in the past but not Jovenes Latinos en Accion, which is a program of the Hispanic AIDS Forum).

Monday, August 07, 2006

Crimen: Cerati rocks Central Park



Gustavo Cerati made good on his promise to visit New York during his current tour by performing at Central Park's Summer Stage series which, unfortunately for Cerati fans, meant that he was sharing the bill with another two bands and could not do a full set.

Surprisingly opening band Mexican Institute of Sound were jaw-droppingly bad (I had heard good things about them, maybe the electonica heavy set wasn't necessarily best served by the outdoors venue). Things picked-up considerably when Puerto Rican reggaeton band Calle 13 came on stage and nearly blew the place up in no small thanks to their charismatic lead singer Residente and a great back-up band. Their own jaw-dropping moments came from some of the raunchy lyrics (no surprise there) and their over the top lyrics for Japon (which trades on racist stereotypes for both Asians AND Puerto Ricans).

Cerati's set launched with a series of electric guitar-heavy tracks from his most recent album, Ahi Vamos, which some are calling a return to form to his early and rockier sound as former band leader for the disbanded Soda Stereo (I was more enamored of his later trippier psychodelic electronic experiments with later Soda Stereo albums and as a solo artist). On the CD, the electronic experimentation still bubbles behind the wall of electric guitar, on stage and outdoors the guitar was God. For some of the fans that might not have been aware that there was a new album out, they were left initially in the lurch as they sought to find familiarity, and they were partially rewarded by later re-toolings of early Soda Stereo tracks "Te Para Tres," "Profugos, "Ecos" and the great "Toma la Ruta" - though there was no "Zoom" (as well as more recent songs from previous efforts as a soloist including the amazing "Paseo Inmoral").

The set, though, was definitely dominated by the new with outstanding performances of "Bomba de Tiempo" (video here) and the best track on the new album, "Crimen."

The performance had me going back to listen to "Ahi Vamos" once again the moment I got home and finding new depths to the whole piece. All in all, a great Saturday afternoon.

Other experiences (not all about Cerati perse):
Anyhoo, you get the point... MORE photos here.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Tomorrow at Central Park: Cerati

The last supper, the sacred femine, Opus Dei and liberty of expression in Colombia


AND IT'S NOT A DA VINCI CODE STORY:

Last year, Colombian monthly magazine SoHo drew particular ire from certain conservative and religious segments of the population for a series of nude photos of actress Alejandra Azcarte.

What some found offensive was not necessarily the nude photographs but their context (SoHo, a high-class Maxim-like glossy magazine, draws contributions from some of the best Colombian writers and journalists but is also known for its 'classy' or 'artsy' nude spreads featuring some of Colombia's best known actresses and models).

The images, which depicted recreations of Biblical passages such as the last supper and the crucifixion with the nude actress taking the role of Christ, were accompanied by a sarcastic and blistering essay by polemic gay writer Fernando Vallejo on President Alvaro Uribe and his government's ties to organized religion, including the Colombian arm of the right-wing Catholic group Opus Dei. Vallejo, who has made a career out of attacking religious institutions and the Colombian government, is perhaps best known in the United States as the author of "La Virgen de los Sicarios" (on which Barbet Shroder's film "Our Lady of the Assassins" was based).

For a photo spread that was bound to generate controversy, the photos weren't necessarily the epitome of artistic expression, although they weren't necessarily pornographic either. What struck me initially was seeing former Vice-Minister of Justice
Maria Margarita "La Paca" Zuleta and long-time gay-rights activist Manuel Velandia posing as apostles in the set-up for the last supper, along with other political figures (ironically Zuleta resigned from her Uribe government post under then Minister of Justice Fernando Londoño, known for his affiliation with the Opus Dei, partly in protest of his successful efforts to sink a same-sex partnership bill introduced by Senator Piedad Cordoba in 2003).

I thought the storm of indignation would pass but today I found out that it has only escalated into a major challenge to freedom of expression in Colombia:

The International Freedom of Expression (IFEX), an international organization based in Canada which monitors the world for attacks on freedom of expression, sent out an alert yesterday that summarizes how the SoHo essay and images have now been challenged in court for insult, defamation and "injuries or insults to persons or things that are the object of worship" and why there's reason to worry should a court deem that the magazine is guilty as charged.

Quoting the Colombian Foundation for Liberty of Press (FLIP), IFEX states:
FLIP is concerned not only about the immediate case at hand, but is worried also - and especially - about the broader absence of an appropriate analysis of the right of freedom of expression, its possible limits, and the context in which it is exercised. Within a constitutional framework that consecrates and protects freedom of expression, the resort to legal action in the case of "Soho" magazine seems, by all measures, to be disproportionate. In the event that the complainants are successful in their action, this will have an inhibiting or chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression, equivalent to the exercise of censorship. FLIP is also especially concerned about the invocation, in this case, of the crime of "injuries or insults to persons or things that are the object of worship" in order to place limits on freedom of expression. The published material in no way approximates religious insult, much less hate speech. The article and the photographs do not come anywhere near fitting into these categories
For their part, SoHo magazine, which had originally published an apology last year when it found itself under fire from the right-wing, has now launched a section on their website calling for freedom of expression which includes links to prominent editorials and commentary elswehere defending the magazine.

I find it difficult to believe that a Colombian court would rule in favor of such a frivolous case but we'll keep an eye on a decision once it comes.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quinceañera opens tomorrow in NYC and Los Angeles

The reviews are in for Quinceañera and they are overwhelmingly positive:

Stephen Holden at The New York Times: "As smart and warmhearted an exploration of an upwardly mobile immigrant culture as American independent cinema has produced"

John Anderson's 3 1/2 starred review at Newsday: "An ostensibly innocent act, with vibrations that travel around forever" (the lead actors are also interviewed here)

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times: "Endearing and perceptive"

Ella Taylor of the LA Weekly: A "saucy, rowdy, heartfelt and terribly sweet movie" and ads "Quinceañera neither skirts nor condescends to the difficulties faced by poor urban communities assailed by rapid change. Like Mi Vida Loca, Allison Anders’ 1993 Echo Park girl-gangbanger melodrama, it’s an act of solidarity with a threatened minority, but one that never falls into Anders’ exuberant embrace of ethnic stereotype"

Gary M. Kramer in Gay City News: "Profoundly moving"

Dissenting voices come from indieWIRE and the conservative-leaning New York Sun (who pass similar judgements as I perhaps did in my previous post, though I am willing to reconsider in light of some of the reviews and this interview from Jennifer Merin in the New York Press).

(Above photo of Quinceañera directors, writers and lovers Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival taken by Brian Brooks for indiWIRE)

Gay City News: Ongoing debate about hanging of Iranian youth

Today's issue of Gay City News continues to report on the ongoing fissures among activists regarding the hanging last year of two Iranian youths possibly for being gay. It's a fascinating if painful debate that only seems to widen as the days go by. The related articles are as follows:
We had previously written about this when an as of then internal debate on the hangings broke out publicly and after we attended an event at the LGBT Center put together by Human Rights Watch and IGLHRC, among others, on the same day that public demonstrations were happening elsewhere in New York and the world.

Last we heard about CP...

Last we heard about CP on Blabbeando, he was giving us his thoughts on "Brokeback Mountain."

This morning, when I picked up the New York Times and saw a story on married men who take years to come to terms with their sexuality and begin to make the difficult choice of staying or leaving their marriages, CP came to mind and I planned to forward it to him
when I got to the office.

That is, before I read the last few paragraphs which actually mention his blog, Coming Out at 48, and quotes him on his experience. Not sure that CP was looking for quite that amount of attention when he began his blog but it felt like seeing a friend after a while of not hearing from him.

It's a truly amazing blog even if CP has indicated in the past that there is the possibility that there won't be any additional postings.


You should check it out sometime.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hot Hot Heat

Summer in the city!

Of heretical reverends, NYS Senator Ruben Diaz and a cure for AIDS

Reading Hoy newspaper last Friday, something caught my attention:

On the eve of "a historic Christianca community gathering" humbly titled "The Last Crusade" which took place at the Madison Square Garden this past weekend, Pastor Ricardo Reyes of the Queens-based El Elyon Church told reporter Tommy Calle:
[Translated by yours truly] In this 'crusade' at the Madison Square Garden' we hope to count with the presence of people who are sick with AIDS, cancer and all types of incurable illnesses so that they will be healed through their faith and the power of God
The event not only counted with performers such as the Pastor's wife, Lucy Reyes, but Christian reggaeton 'sensations' The Reyes Queenz (daughters of the Reyeses).

Now, many a congregation nowadays promises to 'cure' people of everything and, though the quote stuck in my head, the whole article just struck me as a puff piece on the Reyes clan.

Then I caught this WNYC radio report and transcript and realized it was more than that.
REPORTER: Most of the crowd is Latino, though there are many blacks, Asians and some whites. Yirzavit Castillo, whose father runs a church in the Bronx, is here, because he saw one of the many Spanish-language TV ads, complete with celebrity endorsements
The event was actually a revival by controversial South Korean preacher Jae-Rock Lee and the WNYC reporter mentions other supporters:
REPORTER: At the Garden, [Lee] was joined on stage by New York State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz and by the head of the National Religious Broadcasters, one of the country’s most influential evangelical groups
Outside the Garden, there were protests by South Koreans, who claimed that Lee was setting himself up to be the next Reverend Myung-Sun Moon, by seeking to align himself with foreign religious leaders to gain respectability when in South Korea, some see him as being a heretical preacher. WNYC says:
REPORTER: Like Reverend Moon, Jae-Rock Lee has been disowned by the Korean evangelical establishment. He was kicked out of his denomination for teachings his critics say are heresy. One website says he has claimed to sit at the throne of God, command angels and performed every miracle in the Bible except walking on water... In 1999, Jae-Rock Lee made headlines when his followers stormed a television station in Seoul and took over the control room, as it was preparing to broadcast a documentary about him. But at the Garden, few of those attending knew or cared about Lee’s clashes back home or his alleged blasphemy. They came because they had seen the ads, or because their preachers had told them to come witness Lee’s teaching
A 'healing session' closed the opening day ceremony with people "limping up to the stage" on crutches and screaming in joy after being 'healed.' WNYC says:
REPORTER: Little noticed by the crowd were those who were turned away – those who couldn’t get out of their wheelchairs, including one man wearing a yarmulke. In the meantime, Jaerock Lee kept chanting, while on the stage below him Juan Sanchez kept tossing his cane in the air and catching it. The semi-paralyzed gunshot victim was one of more than a dozen people exuberantly shuffling back and forth, smiling, shouting and blowing kisses to the crowd. Afterward, Sanchez explained what happened.

SANCHEZ: Today, when the pastor prayed, I felt my leg becoming straight. And my lower back – the pain is gone. I can walk normally. Now I’ve got more faith in my heart and my body and my soul, too.

REPORTER: Sanchez said that he trusts God will help him continue to improve, and he’ll pray every day, just like he always does. Then he leaned on his wife, limped toward the subway and returned to Queens.

This level of cross-pollination between conservative minority religious denominations and leaders makes me a bit queasy and not in small part because it's happening under the radar.

Richard Bartholomew at Salon blogs does and deconstructs the event press release here. Money quote (on an announced 'medical table' at the event were American and Korean doctors were supposed to pray for healing and assess afterwards if the person had indeed been cured thru prayer):

How exactly doctors will be able to make medically-valid diagnoses from a swift once-over at a “medical table” is not explained. However, one New York senator is not bothered by such a detail. ASSIST’s Dan Wooding spoke to Johnny Kim, who liases with mere mortals on behalf of Lee.