Buju Banton Joins No Murder Music Pact

I just saw on Mother Jones’ blog The Riff that Buju Banton has joined the growing lists of dancehall artists who have agreed to stop performing their homophobic songs. in June, I wrote about Beenie Man, Capleton and Sizzla’s announcement to also cut the homophobia from their music. But before you get up and applaud. The Riff writes:

…Banton was considered a focus for OutRage! due to his notorious 1992 hit “Boom Boom Bye,” which called for “batty boys” (Jamaican slang for gay men) to be murdered in a variety of gruesome ways. The UK Guardian quoted a Jamaican gay rights leader as saying he hoped the singer’s actions were “genuine.”

His skepticism is understandable. In June it was reported that dancehall artists Beenie Man, Capleton and Sizzla had all signed the agreement, but on Sunday the Jamaica Observer published an interview with Beenie Man in which he denied signing the pledge. He did, however, offer the caveat of renouncing murderous violence against gays, quoted thusly: “We don’t need to kill dem. We just need fi tell the people dem the right ting because I not supporting a gay lifestyle because it’s not wholesome to me.” The Observer reported it was unable to contact Capleton and Sizzla for confirmation of their signing the agreement.

Developing…which is what i say when I don’t know how to conclude an entry. LOL!

Black Gay Trinidad Man Wins Discrimination Suit and Speaks Out

tt-guardian.jpegThis news story was sent to me by my friend and former colleague, Colin Robinson, a Black gay Trinidadian who’s been organizing here in NYC and in the Caribbean for quite some time.

Kennty Mitchell, 29, a Black gay man from Trinidad, has won a discrimination lawsuit and is speaking out about it. The local paper The Trinidad Guardian reports:

Mitchell was recently victorious in the High Court where he was awarded damages for being ridiculed by officers at the Princes Town Police Station.

He was stripped naked, laughed at and left in a filthy cell for over three hours.

Mitchell says he’s fed up with being ridiculed and discriminated against, and is calling on the Government to ensure gay people have equal rights.kennty-mitchell.jpg

“Gay people are people too, they are citizens of T&T and they make a valuable contribution to the country…They should not be treated as though they don’t belong or have no rights,” he argued.

Flavaworks Sues Black LGBT Bloggers; Loses Staff to Pneumonia

Today, Black lesbian blogger Jasmyne Cannick, announced that black gay porn company Flavaworks’ owner Phillip Bleicher is suing her and Black gay blogger Bernie Tarver for libel. To the tune of $250,000.

Without having seen the suit he filed I can only surmise he is suing them for saying that he was under investigation by the Chicago Dept of Health for running a business that encouraged unsafe sex and most likely helped to spread sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, to the models and their sexual partners outside of the business. Jasmyne breaks it down:

Fact: Bleicher is under investigation for operating an adult business in the middle of a Miami residential neighborhood.

Fact: As a result of the CDPH investigation last year, Flavaworks closed their operation in Chicago and relocated to Miami, Florida.

Fact: Phillip Bleicher had also been charged by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan with operating a fraudulent charity that bilked schools nationwide out of millions of dollars.

Libel this ain’t, but the truth it is.

The Chicago Free Press broke the story, and on top of the unsafe sex, they provided evidence that they were running a debt peonage system, where these young Black and (B)Latino models were kept in perpetual debt by having to pay for “expenses” out of their pay, and they were then forced to remain in the dorm to work another month, and the cycle goes on. The Free Press wrote:

There are also allegations that the business used unusual labor contracts with its models, which, according to one source, “at least bordered on illegal servitude.” The 30-day contracts allegedly required the models to perform a certain number of sexual acts in exchange for a stipend. But, when the models tried to collect the stipends, they were told they were being charged for such things as food and bed linens, leaving them, in some cases, in debt rather than collecting money. They were then pressured to sign new contracts.

Is he suing the Chicago Free Press? They were the ones who broke the story. But a couple bloggers make easier targets—and have fewer legal resources or protections unlike newspapers. Because of Jasmyne and Bernie’s work, the story got out to ma much larger audience (I learned about it on Bernie’s blog) and that’s what he’s pissed about, in my humble opinion.

What makes matters worse is that Bleicher’s own VP, Dekenric Wiley died a few weeks ago of pneumonia at age 32. Of course, the listservs are alive with suspicions that the pneumonia was related to additional illness, if you catch my drift.

Whatever the cause of Wiley’s passing, I am sorry for it. However, I feel absolutely nothing but scorn and utter disdain for Bleicher, and I hope he is run out of business and no self-respecting Black queer would be caught dead giving him a cent.

NOTE: I am not insinuating anything about the health status of any of these models in the photo above, mind you. It is merely the representation of the publication this blog is referring to.

WEEKLY AIDS REPORT: Treatment Still an Issue for HIV+ in U.S.

I wrote this article looking at the barriers to accessing treatment for AIDSMeds.com/POZ.com Special Report. The article is called “Treatment Access Isn’t Just a Global Issue

HIV experts gathering at the International AIDS Society conference in Sydney next week are sure to champion the need for greater treatment access in the developing world—and to point out that in the United States, by contrast, drugs have made HIV a manageable disease. But that is only partly true: Many HIV-positive people in this country confront financial barriers and a labyrinth of rules that keep life-saving medications beyond their reach. For them, HIV is not manageable at all.

In 2006, the U.S. government spent about $12.3 billion on HIV/AIDS treatment and care. But increased pressure on states to test and treat more people has resulted in many HIV-positive patients being turned away from services. “There are a lot of individuals in this country who don’t have access to treatments—just like in other countries,” says Murray Penner, deputy executive director of domestic programs at the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD).

The piece is not to diminish the real challenges to treatment that people in the Third World face, but to simply report on how people here in the US get access to treatment for HIV, and based on my reporting, there are still many people who don’t get treatment at all, and for many reasons.

Africans tell Bono:”Stop Sending Aid”

As I have been blogging a lot about Africa over the past few weeks, I am trying to dig behind the headlines about what is going on in Africa beyond Bono, Angelina Jolie, & Madonna. Beyond AIDS, famine, and genocide. In essence, what are Africans doing to improve the conditions in Africa for African people?

I came across this story from The American—a new magazine that brands itself “The new business magazine for people who think.” The story called “Africans tell Bono: ‘For God’s Sake, Please Stop'” details a meeting held in Tanzania recently where essentially, Africans told Bono to his face, to stop. Not only did they tell Bono to stop, but several people declared that Africa would only be saved by the ingenuity of Africans, and that they wished people would actually stop with sending aid.

The story, written by Jennifer Brea, who blogs at Africabeat, details some of the ingenious ways people are solving problems in Africa. Brea writes in The American:

Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a World Bank economist, returned to her native Ethiopia to start a commodities exchange to prevent future famines.

Daniel Annerose invented software in Senegal that allows farmers to track market prices via SMS text messaging.

Alieu Conteh built the first cellular network in the Congo.

Florence Seriki, Nigeria’s first computer manufacturing company.

Then there’s William Kamkwamba, the undisputed showstopper, a teenager from rural Malawi who, at age fourteen, built a windmill from plastic scrap and an old bicycle frame that generates enough electricity to light his family’s house.

I encourage you to READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE! It will hopefully give people a different of what is happening in Africa, and what is possible for the continent.

Brea is also writing a book on China’ trade relationship to Africa.

More on American Soldiers, Violence and Iraq

This week guest writer Tamara Nopper wrote a piece here detailing her top concerns for the anti-war’s movement’s growing focus (and deference to) veterans. The Nation has published an excerpt from an upcoming Nation Books project called Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Citizens, written by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian. The book, according to Amazon.com is due out this fall.

Many people commenting to Nopper’s piece took issue with her assertion that there are some people who go into the military because they want to inflict harm or even kill people. Well this book seems to be asking soldiers precisely what is happening in those moments when they or other soldiers inflict violence, especially on civilian populations. From The Nation:

Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported–and almost always go unpunished.

As I asserted in the comments section of Nopper’s piece, “the anti-war movement needs to really begin to take seriously the point that people get involved in the military for more than purely economic reasons.”

The photo chosen above while seemingly innocent, illustrates these issues even further. The soldier, grinning, seems to have given these two young boys this sign to hold, which reads “Lcpl. [Lance Corporal] Boudreaux killed my father and he knocked up my sister.”

Whether these things acually happened is unclear, but the outcome is: Murder and rape (even if as a supposed prank) with a photo taken as a souvenir.

Full Disclosure: My book Letters From Young Activists was also published on Nation Books. But that is not why I am writing this blog.