Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Apropos of nothing, Colombia's pride meets La Beyonce...

Hispanic Marine, 1st to be wounded in Iraq, Comes Out

On March 21st, 2003, Eric Alva, a Unites States Marine Staff Sgt. from San Antonio, Texas, became the first soldier to be wounded in the United States invasion of Iraq when he stepped on a land mine and lost his leg.

Today, backed by the Human Rights Campaign, Sgt. Alva publicly came out as a gay man and called for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy which only allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they don't disclose their sexual orientation or it's disclosed for them.

On July 13th, 2003, Sgt. Alva was also among those who received a Heroes and Heritage award from the National Council of La Raza honoring Hispanic veterans in the United States armed forces.

To read more about Sgt. Alva's long road to recovery after he lost his leg in Iraq and about his decision to come out, check out the following:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Update: Emanuel Xavier back from Florida

Steve Rothaus, a Miami Herald staff writer and member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), profiled Emanuel Xavier back on February 21st.

The reason? Emanuel was in Miami, Florida, as part of a week-long residency with SpeakOut which seeks to inspire gay youth.

Unfortunately, as Emanuel explains on his blog there was some drama:
The only serious incident occured yesterday after someone from Michael Krop High School complained that my work was too graphic for high school students.

Word spread quickly throughout the area and by the time I arrived at Coral Reef High School, school officials asked me to tone it down or I wouldn't be allowed to take the stage. A video clip of my first Def Poetry appearance was not approved for presentation.

The school dean even sat in the back throughout my performance to make sure I didn't cross the line and the police were on stand by.

Nonetheless, I managed to get through the presentation and the students, who were already familiar with most of my work, knew which words and sentences I was forced to leave out. They bombarded me afterwards to sign books, pieces of paper, even tee shirts and take pictures with me.

It felt very Marilyn Manson, Eminem and Madonna to walk out of there with mad props from the students after being censored by faculty. I suppose in the end, the students could go on line or buy my books or see me perform elsewhere to get the full experience. It's nothing they haven't already been exposed to before and censorship only serves to pique their interest.
All in all though, a good experience. So, congratulations Emanuel!

Argentina: GAY licence plates embarrassing for some

A few vehicle owners in Argentina are finding out that it is not so easy to change a particular licence plate number even when they deem that the message spelled out by the three letter three number system might be offensive or embarrassing to them or others.

Yesterday's La Gazeta reports that over the years a few drivers have complained about licence plates that have spelled out SEX or FEO (ugly) or ANO (anus). Others have also scoffed at plates that letters spell out the acronyms of a soccer team name or a political party not to their liking.

Now comes word that with the onset of new licences with a first letter "G," some of the new licences that have been given out spell the word GAY. Some of the recipients are not happy campers.

Though the paper doesn't mention names, it says that a man in Buenos Aires sent a letter to the National Directory of Vehicle Registrations demanding that his GAY licence plate number be changed. His argument was that the wording made him an object of ridicule and lowered the estimated value of his vehicle.

The institution turned down the request saying that the letters were randomly assigned and not to be read as a word. The agency also says that they have turned down previous requests to change other licences that might have been offensive to those who got them.

Andrés, identified only by his first name and said to be the owner of a metal industry business, has taken things in stride. He applied for licences for three new vehicles that he purchased for the use of his workers and all three plates came back with the GAY lettering.

"Yes, there were some workers that made some comments," he told La Gazeta, "but the permit has nothing to do with the life or personality of the owner of the car or whoever uses it."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

BLARG! Spot the blogger

Last night I had, like, the gayest night in eons as ventured out of my weekend Queens confines and strutted my stuff down the East Village.

Walking down St. Mark's Place I realized just how shockingly long it had been since I had done such a thing, a point which was sadly driven home by noticing that one of my favorite CD shops back in the 1990's had "Out of business!" signs all over its windows (there were also signs announcing a number of new high-scale high-rises, one advertising a sun roof pool with amenities, which shows that the East Village is the new West Village, at least in terms of the future of million dollar apartments).

The reason for the cross-borough trip was the often quoted, if little understood 2nd Annual Blarg (legend says that "blarg" comes from merging the words "blog" and "bar" but where is the "o"?). Credit Joe.My.God for coining the term and the haphazard bar-run pattern.

The night started, innocuously enough, by eating arepas with blog roll buddy John (a/k/a Rugger Johnny D's New Gays of Our Lives a/k/a tallest guy in the room as you'll see in the pic above). How an Irish rugby player knows more about arepas joints in the East Village than I remains a mystery but I just loved the butter and guacamole filled Venezuelan arepa that I ordered at the Caracas Arepa Bar on East 7th. I am sure they were trans fat free, so yum!

From then it was on to bar-hop heaven (or hell?) as we made it to the Nowhere Bar a bit late for the first hour of blarging. So late that we were having our first drinks as everyone was making their way to the next bar, Phoenix. Somehow we caught up and by the time we got to Dick's Bar some people even caught on that we were among the participating bloggers! Yay!

John, who bounces at Big Lug on Friday nights, somehow convinced me to go follow the crew all the way to Avenue A, if only because I was a Big Lug virgin. By then I had already been privy to tales of Brokeback Mountain Ken Dolls, clothing-optional pizza parties (how come I wasn't invited?), and dildo-strapping Mexican moms.

I also met fellow blog rollers Manhattan Offender and Habitat67 (check blog links on the right).

Let's say that Dick's Bar was enough cock for me. I called it quits at Big Lug but a certain few made it to The Cock (not me and I still only made it home at 3am! Yikes!).

All in all a great night!

John has a better recap than I do - and a few more pics - here (btw - I'm no wuss, I just needed some beauty sleep).

Other partakers:
PS: Yes, I am shortie in the pic above (photo from Joe.My.God blogspot)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Musica: Dennis Ferrer's World

After more than 15 years of production work and a raft of singles that have been tearing up the dance floors over the last few months, Dennis Ferrer has finally released his first long-player, "The World as I See It" (out this week on King Street in the US and Defected in the UK).

He joins a resurgent US-based deep house roster of up and coming producers and remixers that includes Jon Cutler, Karizma, Peven Everett, DJ Spen, DJ Spinna, Ms. Patty, Mr. V, Quentin Harris and others who are building on the soulful terrain of legends like Kerri Chandler, Derrick Carter, Masters at Work, Joe Claussel, Francois Kervorkian, Thick Dick (oops, I mean E-Smoove) and Jellybean Benitez.

Now, Ferrer has known chart success in the past, particularly with his remix of Fish Go Deep's "The Cure and the Cause" (probably the biggest house track of last year along with Ame's "Rej"). But this album certainly blows all that behind and is as persuasive a case for the renewed vibrancy of house music.

Do I expect that it will change the anemic commercial reception that house music gets in the States? I doubt it despite the fact that the best in the industry, at the moment, are all US-based. But when it comes down to basics, I'm not sure that King Street records has the resources to engineer the second coming.

Still, if you want to hear something else than the latest Gwen Stefani, James Blunt or Nickleback song, do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy. The Defected release has an extra disc of alternative takes and songs that the King Street release sadly omits.

Sure, a few of the songs here have already been making the dance compilation rounds and might be familiar to some: The big room vocals of "Church Lady," "Underground is My Home," and "Change the World," as well as the techier side of instrumental house as in "P 2 Da J," "Son of Raw," and the only track in the CD I'm not too crazy about, "Destination."

Then there are the sublime "How Do I Let Go" and "Run Free" featuring K.T. Brooks and the future classic "Touched the Sky" that just blows the whole thing into the stratosphere.

Keep in mind these are club tracks and that they're presented here in their full unmixed glory (which sometimes means long beat driven intros and outros to make them mix-friendly) but if you stick through the initial beats you'll probably find that once the proper track kicks in you'll never forget them.

Considering that I still haven't heard the new releases by Mr. V and Quentin Harris and that the new 4Hero album is coming up on the 28th, Dennis Ferrer has set a pretty high standard for house music this year (and it's only February!). But it's always great to listen to a house music producer make good on his promise when so many others have failed.

The best full length house CD since, I dare say, Thick Dick's "Tribal Seduction"

Musica: Karizma at Langston's in Brooklyn this Friday

Not sure I'll make it but for those of you that can, I'm sure you'll have a blast. It's a Lil Ray joint featuring Baltimore's incomparable Karizma. A preview here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Blast from the past: Don McPherson

Back in November, I attended my 20th year high-school reunion in Syracuse, New York, which turned out to be actually kinda fun.

Back then, my parents were students at Syracuse University which is how, even though I was in high school, I ended up living in the Syracuse University off-campus dorms.

During the summers, it felt like I had the place to myself, and I'd spend hours walking along the curved roads and gardens or suntanning on the green hills with my brothers and some friends, mostly the kids of other student families who lived in the area. You'd know that summer was over when the university's students descended on campus in a rush of vans and luggage, which also indicated the beginning of the high school year.

Still, there was a particular group of college students who always got there earlier than the rest: The university's roster of college athletes, including the football players who had to begin training early for the collegiate football season matches.

And so it was that during one one my strolls through the empty streets, I turned around a dorm building corner and ran smack into a group of huge football players that almost ran over me. It was almost comical how we all froze and stared at each other for a few seconds until Wayne, a wrestler, invited me to follow them.

Basically, they were taking advantage of some of the later student arrivals who were leaving their dorm rooms open as they moved in. They would enter the apartments as silently as they could, sneaking up behind the unsuspecting students and screaming at the top of their lungs, only to dash off running before the victim probably figured out what just had happened.

This is how I began an unlikely and long-lasting friendship with some of the players in the Syracuse University football team, including some of the guys that went on to be in the 1986 team that went 11-0 in the 1986 regular season.

That team was led by quarterback Don McPherson (pictured above) who finished second in the 1987 Heisman Trophy voting and who went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, among other teams.

At Syracuse, Don lived next door to my best friends then, Tom and John, and we'd hang out sometimes. Alas, the few times that we tossed a football on the street outside his apartment I'd always fumble. He was always friendly, just the nicest guy around.

Imagine my surprise today when I received an alert from Gender PAC, which usually addresses transgender issues, about a March 22nd event in Harlem that takes a look at a new documentary on hip-hop and homophobia, violence, sexism and violence, with a panel that includes Don.

Back in Syracuse I was still confused about my sexual identity and in no way out as a gay man. As a matter of fact part of the reason why I was scared to address my feelings was that I might be beaten to a pulp if some of my friends from back then found out. I am glad to say that eventually I did come out to some of them long after I had left Syracuse and that they were all great about it. But it still is great to see someone like Don participate in an event like this (the research I did today indicates that he has devoted his life to exploring issues relating to sexual violence, masculinity and femininity in general culture and tours the country as he addresses these issues).

The actual documentary, "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" airs TONIGHT on PBS.

I might just head to Harlem in March to see him speak up and, maybe, to say "hi" after all these years.

And, if you are wondering, no, Don wasn't among the original campus pranksters that I met that summer so many years ago.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Steven lives on!

An Associated Press reporter recently left a message on Steven Mackin's LiveJournal asking his family for permission to mention how he had used his online diary to address his struggle with cancer.

The family has said "yes" and the article will appear in the next couple of weeks on an AP ASAP, a webpage aimed at teens, which will take a look at how young people have used their online diaries to deal openly with their life-threatening illnesses.

Steven, about whom we have written in the past, would not have wanted it any other way. He always told me that the number one reason why he wrote about his struggles with cancer was to help other young people with the disease (inspired as he always was by Pedro Zamora in MTV's "The Real World" a decade ago, who was not only open about his HIV status but also his sexual orientation).

You can always look at our fotki and youtube memorials.

Hawaii's Wika Boy certainly knows how it feels not having Steven around. So do I. Long live Steven Mackin.

Two years later, another vigil in honor of Rashawn Brazell

On Friday evening it took the boyfriend and I nearly an hour and a half to make our way through the subway system, which took us from Queens through Manhattan into Brooklyn, to get to the Nostrand Avenue stop on the A train, where we finally emerged into the frigid night.

We were late and probably there for only twenty minutes, but we still caught the few words that the Reverend Zachary Jones and Desire Brazell had for the small crowd that had assembled just outside the train station. It was the 2nd year anniversary since the unsolved murder of Ms. Brazell's son, Rashawn, and his family and friends had called for a candlelight vigil in his honor, just as they did last year (Ms. Brazell spoke about her son to the New York Daily News just last week on the eve of the vigil)

Despite the Daily News article and the case having been featured in America's Most Wanted, it's safe to say that Rashawn's murder is long gone from the City's general consciousness, so it didn't surprise me that the gathering was rather small. But as I looked around I couldn't help but feel glad that a large number of those who showed up were gay and same gender loving black men standing up for one of their own. Not that they haven't been there in the past, but for some reason on Friday, I just felt in the midst of beauty.

Perhaps the tone was set by Ms. Brazell herself. At last year's vigil, she spoke in anger at the lack of media and at the absence of political leaders at the event. In contrast, this year she seemed to draw strength from the crowd and had nothing but love to express to gatherers. Rashawn's father was also present as well as some close family members and past friends, but at least for the night, everyone seemed to be family. I made sure that I made my way to Ms. Brazell and was able to give her a hug as the gathering started to go their separate ways.

One key difference was the official presence of the New York Police Department, not only to provide security detail, but as part of those paying honor to her son. It might have been a public relations move, but I saw a few of the openly gay officers who have been so helpful to me in regards to hate crimes in the community, including Officer Thomas Verni, the Department's LGBT community liaison. Members of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project were handing out "information wanted" flyers and post-cards to passers by. A few people were set to visit some Brooklyn gay bars after the vigil to spread news about the $22,000 reward for leads in the crime.

I saw a few people I knew, including Dr. Marjorie Hill, Executive Director of Gay Men's Health Crisis, and long time activist Kevin McGruder. Blogger Donald Andrew Agarrat took a few pics which you can see here (by the way, his new blog, NOW, has just been added to my personal links at the right). Larry Lyons II, who set up the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund two years ago (and whose blog is also listed in my links) was also there but I wan't able to say hi. Ocean of Brothaluva Cafe has additional photos here.

In the meantime, we are grateful to Melanie for the nice words.

Also, considering the gruesome details in Rashawn's murder, I couldn't help but think of him when this article was posted in yesterday's New York Times.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My New York: Subway Condoms - New York to the core?

So, with much fanfare, the New York City Department of Health launched a free condom initiative today which happens to be St. Valentine's Day. I'm not so sure they were inspired by this but kudos to them.

Find out where to get some

The City, it must be said, had already instituted a free condom give away program, but they say that this is the first time that a city has commissioned its own condom brand. As for their claims that the condoms are "New York to the core?" Hm...

The Gothamist already pointed out that the letter coloring does not match all the true subway line colors (they also got some YouTube action of this morning's launch).

But proof is in the packaging:
Turn the condom package around and you see that the "New York to the core" condom is actually a product of... Malaysia?

Cool thing is, I got 'til 2011 to use it! Yay!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Update: How you can help Alvaro Orozco

Thanks to my post on Wednesday, I have been contacted by the law firm working on behalf of Alvaro Orozco, the 21 year old Nicaraguan young man who is fighting deportation proceedings in Canada after the Immigration and Refugee Board refused to grant him asylum based on fear of persecution for being gay.

The reason? After a live long-distance video interview with Mr. Orozco, the court deemed that he wasn't gay enough and that it was unclear how Mr. Orozco could know he was gay at twelve years of age when he ran away from home as he wasn't sexually active during his teen years.

Today The Globe and Mail reports that Mr. Orozco's new lawyers have won a small victory: He will not be deported on Tuesday as scheduled as the Canadian Justice Department has granted a two month deferral (though they could have decided to grant him refugee status instead and did not do so).

I am working on sending published articles on the treatment of gays and lesbians in Nicaragua over the last 5 years that support Mr. Orozcos' fear of persecution should he be deported to Nicaragua.

What you can do:

A website has been set up on Alvaro's behalf at: Alvaro Orozco

Once there, you can get information on a letter writing campaign that might help to sway the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to grant asylum for Mr. Orozco (including sample letters).

To find out more about the case you can connect to video reports here and here (even if they were conducted before the two month deportation deferral).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Update: Michael J. Sandy and Edgar Garzon murder hearings underway

Today's Gay City News has articles on two ongoing hearings related to the local murders of two gay men.

As we have previously reported, Gay City News says that bail has been denied for one of the men accused of being involved in a hate crime against Michael J. Sandy last October in Brooklyn. The New York Times also had something to say.

Interestingly, Gay City News editor Duncan Osbourne also reports on a preliminary hearing for the accused murderer of a personal friend of mine, Eddie Garzon. I knew that the hearing was imminent but had not heard a word until now.

Among the new revelations:
  • 38 year old John McGhee, the accused murderer, has a wife and son who live in London.
  • A witness identified as "Ya Ya'' seems to be the lead witness and perhaps the person who was driving the car the night that Eddie was attacked. Gay City News identifies "Ya Ya" as the lead witness even though his identity has not been revealed.
  • Police say that when they caught up to McGhee once he was deported from the UK last year after being denied citizenship in the UK, his first comments were "What am I looking at? Three, four, five years?"
Let's see what happens down the line. Hopefully justice will be served.

Update: Coverage of Colombian gay rights victory

Intrepid International News Reporter Rex Wockner, who sometimes cringes at my run-on sentences, rushed translating jobs and barely emerging journalistic skills is concerned that I might have given the wrong impression or given a bit of misleading information in yesterday's blog post regarding a ruling in Colombia granting "patrimony" rights to same-sex couples.

So, as he pointed out to me earlier today: The Colombian Constitutional Court ruled only on the issue of patrimony (or property rights) and not on civil unions or marriage, activists asked the court for a "clarification" of the law (and did not sue the court) and the court did indeed clarify the issue in favor of Colombia Diversa's arguments and same-sex couples.

Personally, I thought that I had gotten most of the info right except for the "clarification" issue. I translated "demanda" as demand or law-suit when, in fact, there was no demand, just a petition to clarify the law.

Comments about the impact on civil union legislation did not mean to imply that the ruling meant that gay couples could enter into a civil union as a result of the court decision.

Anyhoo, the best English language article on the ruling so far is from the Associated Press which reports on the semi-positive (!) reaction from the church ("Colombian court gay couples' right to shared assets"). The worst? Not surprisingly from supposedly irreverent and gossipy NYC gay blog Queerty which I really truly wanna like but... ("Colombian Faggots Can Totally Share That Bag of Coke").

Pictured above? The team that challenged the Constitutional Court. If you think they are worth supporting, please contact Colombia Diversa and make a donation.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Breaking News: "Patrimony" benefits granted to gay couples in Colombia

So all day long I kept checking the Colombian Constitutional Court's website but it's been off-line all day long.

The work day over, I took the subway home and saw a blinking light on my answering machine:
"Andres, the Constitutional Court just accepted a challenge against a law... and what it means, the admission of the challenge, it's that patrimony rights will be recognized for same sex couples in Colombia... We'll talk later, I love you lots!"

So once again leave it to my dad in Colombia to break the sweet news!

Tonight, El Tiempo says that the Constitutional Court
took pains to explain that this in no way means "marriage" and that it's still up to the legislative branch to decide on "marriage" or "civil union" rights for same-sex couples, but by acknowledging the suit the Court accepted Colombia Diversa's arguments that the language in Law 54 of 1990 that only allows patrimony rights between "a man and a woman" in a common-law relationship is unconstitutional and violates the rights of same-sex couples.

The paper says that the Court's decision means that all gay couples in Colombia who can demonstrate having lived together for more than two years will now have access to all the "patrimonial" or property rights that are available to opposite sex couples engaged in a civil union.

It is still unclear to me (as well as to
Colombia Diversa) just how big of an impact the ruling will have on future legislative discussions about granting same-sex partners the right to enter into a civil union but it is the first time that same-sex couples are being recognized as a family unit.

A historic day indeed. Kudos to the Colombia Diversa team.

UPDATE: CM& News reports that the Constitutional Court vote was 8 to 1.

ITN: Ruben Diaz irony alert, no bail in Sandy murder, a sports star comes out

And as long as we are having a case of blogorrhea today, elsewhere in the news:

The homophobic New York State Senator (and Reverend) Ruben Diaz, Sr., has some love to spare for
one particular lesbian (hat tip to Azi at The Politicker)

On Thursday, Gay City News reported that the family of Anthony Fortunato, one of the men accused of murdering Michael J. Sandy last October, was ready to post a $1.3 million bond if Fortunato was allowed to walk free on bail. This morning, after hearing arguments in favor and against setting bail for Fortunato, a Brooklyn judge decided against it.

And, if you haven't heard yet, John Amaechi (above) - a former NBA star who played for Penn State during his college years and then went on to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Orlando Magic and the Utah Jazz, will appear on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" this Sunday to discuss his new book, "Man in the Middle" and to announce that he is gay. He becomes the first NBA player to do so. A preview over at the ESPN site.

Martinique: Blogger arrested for death threats against gays

The Advocate online picks up on a sketchy AP story about the arrest of a French man in the Caribbean island of Martinique on charges of "incitement of murder" for messages he posted on a blog calling for the death of gays as well as a number of local political leaders and entertainment figures who he also alleged of being gay.

The 38 year old was arrested after authorities traced back the computer's IP address to an Atlanta home according to the Caribbean Press Agency. The man acknowledged that he had posted the threats from the Atlanta location during a vacation with relatives in the United States and now faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of 45,000 Euros if found guilty. Authorities have yet to release the name of the man.

Though authorities say they are still at a loss to understand the reason behind the threats, the Caribbean Press Agency article reveals that the man always posted under the monicker of "Lieutenant Terrorist," a known local dance-hall reggeae performer. As for the actual threats, a headline above the various names and images of the local personalities read: “Mort au Batty boys, mort sans exception..." ("Death to gays, death without exception"), which certainly also betrays an affinity to slang terms used by some homophobic Jamaican dancehall reggae singers.

In an earlier article, Lieutenant Terrorist distanced himself from the blog site and expressed surprise and sorrow that he was in any way mentioned in the blog but called back moments after being first contacted to ask the reporter not to print his comments. In a YouTube interview he says that he does not even have access to the internet and accuses the blogger of defamation against his character.

The blog has since been shut down by the host company. A Google Blog and Google French Blog search failed to unearth the offending site.

All in all it seems like a man using an anonymous blog to vent the homophobic hatred and posturing he learned from dancehall reggae culture than someone intent on carrying out the death threats but you never know.

Canada: Gay Nicaraguan denied asylum because he wasn't sexually active as a teen

A 21 year old Nicaraguan man has been denied asylum in Canada because the country's Immigration and Refugee Board did not believe that he was gay, says today's Globe and Mail.

Alvaro Antonio Orozco
(pictured) who says he was 12 when he ran away from his home in Nicaragua, describes a harrowing journey through Mexico and across the Rio Grande into the United States, where he was captured by immigration authorities and spent close to a year being held in a Houston detention center. He was released after agreeing to return to Nicaragua on his own volition.

Instead he made his way to Toronto in 2005 after finding out through the internet that the country offered asylum to immigrants based on fear of persecution based on sexual orientation (he says that he never applied for asylum in the United States because a religious institution that offered him assitance as an immigrant warned him against it). It was only in Canada, he says, that he was able to finally come out and live as a gay man.

Unfortunately his previous life in the closet became an issue for the Immigration and Refugee Board as they ruled not to grant asylum "because he wasn't sexually active during his teen years, and wasn't clear about his sexual orientation when he fled Nicaragua at the age of 12."

His lawyer, El Farouk Khaki, says that the ruling exposes the Board's prejudiced view that gay teens are more sexually active than their heterosexual counterparts. He will ask the country's Immigration Minister, Diane Finely, to grant a stay of removal on humanitarian grounds. He will also seek to reopen the refugee claim "arguing there was a breach of natural justice because the member failed to consider guidelines on treatment of a vulnerable person."

If those last minute appeals fail, Mr. Orozco will be sent back to Nicaragua on Tuesday, a country which still considers sodomy a crime.

Mr. Khaki, for his part, was honored at last year's 2nd Annual Pride Toronto Gala and Awards for his work as a founder of the LGBT Muslim group
Salaam Canada.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Update: No arrests yet in Pimentel murder

On January 25th, the Queens Chronicle reported that two months after the murder of a young Latina lesbian in Queens, authorities have yet to arrest anyone in the case.

Friends and family of Priscilla Pimentel, who was just 24 when she was found stabbed to death in her apartment on November 24, 2006, have continued to leave candles and flowers outside the Richmond Hill residence where she used to rent a second-floor apartment.

There is a $2,000 reward for anyone who might provide information on the murder and New York 1 says tonight that the New York Police Department is asking the public for help in solving the crime through their confidential Crime Stoppers hotline at 1 800 577-TIPS.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Queer eye for the migrant worker

From today's New York Blade:
For the past 20 years, gay artist John Sonsini has been painting portrait after portrait of Latino men. More recently, Sonsini has become fascinated with the mostly Mexican and Central American immigrants hoping to be hired for a day’s work as they wait on street corners near his Los Angeles studio.
Sure, Blade art reviewer (and "Date Bait" co-founder) Rafael Risenberg says that these paintings are "some of the most sensuous, and sensitive, portrayals of the common man I have ever seen."

Furthermore he argues that the work is actually a collaboration between painter and subject: "In the back of the canvas, artist and subjects alike sign their names, denoting the collaborative nature of the work," adding "As humble as these men appear, there is a dignity to their countenances."

As if that wasn't enough, the Chaim & Reade gallery - where the exhibit is being held - posts a statement
online in which we are assured that "the men here are not models, nor are they objectified."

Hm, I guess we should take their word for it?

I won't speak to the artistic merit of the work because I haven't seen the exhibit but there is something that rubs me the wrong way when it takes a gallery in the heart of upscale gay Manhattan to tell me that the images of migrant workers are not objectified.

Come to think of it, even after the exhibit is gone, local art lovers are in for a treat because they can actually see some of these "humble" and "dignified" "common" people in their midst! They just have to take the #7 train to the Woodside station at 6am in the morning and walk down Roosevelt Avenue observing the young men with back-packs on their shoulders scrambling for work. Not sure how "collaborative" the experience will be but they can certainly project their desires on these men. Then again, I'm sure the gallery will have some heating which beats the 20 degree temperatures prognosticated for next week. Better yet, if you confine yourself to the gallery, you won't have to worry your pretty little heads about these men's futures. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Remember Rashawn? Perhaps you should... (and update on Michael Sandy)

Rashawn Brazell's family is organizing a 2nd anniversary vigil since the gruesome murder of the 19 year old man. His mother, Desire, is asking the community to join her in making a public statement that her son's life will not be forgotten.

"We will not allow this tragedy to be forgotten," she says in a statement, "Gather with us as we pray that this never happens to anyone else and that no more families have to suffer this kind of loss."

The Vigil will take place on Saturday, February 17, 2007 from 7pm to 8pm. The gathering spot will be just outside the Nostrand Avenue subway station on the A/C train lines in Brooklyn. Photo above from last year's vigil. Please join us!

For some background:
In a somewhat related story, today's Gay City News reports that the family of one of four defendants in the recent killing of another black gay man, Michael J. Sandy, is ready to post $1.3 million dollars in bail to free Anthony Fortunato while he goes to court.

Clarence Patton, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, says that the agency has begun a letter-writing campaign to the judge who will oversee the bail hearing on February 7th asking him not to grant bail for Fortunato.

UPDATE: According to a post on the Michael Sandy memorial MySpace board, his mother is also asking for support in opposing bail. A group calling themselves The Michael Sandy Foundation is asking those interested to rally at 11am his Wednesday, February 7th at the Brooklyn Supreme Court (320 Jay Street) which is near the Jay St/Borough Hall train station. The bail hearing will take place at 11am.

Gay City News and Bay Windows on UNID@S

Gay City News picks up on our "Exclusive" on UNID@S: The National Latino LGBT Human Rights Organization from last Friday. New England's Bay Windows also has a take.

Meanwhile, at the New York City Council...

I've certainly been staying away from city politics when it comes to this blog. Not sure if it's a reflection of having withdrawn a lot from my involvement in several political organizations to take a breather or just how jaded I have become in respect to city politics (or state and national politics for that matter).

One thing I am certain though is how much I truly like our City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Sure, I expressed some reservations back in 2006 when she was elected Speaker, but, for the most part she has proven me wrong. She is widely expected to run for Mayor after Mike Bloomberg is termed-out of office for what will probably be a wide open race with an array of candidates but if she does decide to enter the fray, she will be a force to reckon with.

In any case, the reason I mention Christine is that this morning she introduced the Domestic Partners for Full Equality bill in the City Council which would require that "any benefit or service directly provided by the City of New York to persons based on spousal relationship shall also be fully available to persons who are domestic partners."

In a press release, Speaker Quinn says "While we continue to fight for the full right to marry, the legislation proactively insures that in New York City, whatever married couples are entitled to, domestic partners will be entitled to as well."

Interestingly, among two of the three additional co-sponsors of the bill, are Latina councilmembers Rosie Mendez, who is gay, and Maria Baez, who is not.