124 & 127 “Call me Kuchu”

Thursday night we had our orientation for the Triadventure, and I was the rep for Nikibasika, helping newbies to the TriAd understand more about our cause, how to fundraise for it. We had little passports that people stamped as they went from station to station.

(124 – 05.03.12)

We have a lot of repeat participants, so there weren’t a ton of people there, but those who were got a good earful about everything. I always find it difficult to coalesce the meaning of the project down to a few thoughts — what makes it different from the millions of other projects? what might woo a donor? why is it special? where can I tap into the “heart” side of it for myself instead of reciting the facts in a way that feels inspirational?

My friend L recently told me that she thought what we were doing was so inspiring she wanted to find a way to make it seem possible for “everyone” who wants to to affect the lives of 50 people so significantly. It was a noble thought, but then I started thinking about how on earth I would talk about the project in a way that makes taking on something long-term, unknowable, with a 15 year huge personal commitment, with people you don’t know and have to trust quickly, doing something you have never done before, and involving funds of about $125,000 per year — in addition to your regular job — seem doable.

I’m pretty good at distilling out the core elements of any plan or program, and I was stumped. And then I also started thinking about how emergent change — which is what we’re doing here, figuring out what’s needed as we go — makes it difficult to write out a plan, and doesn’t really bear the scrutiny of unengaged eyes. So much seems… accidental, the happy result of flailing in the right direction long enough.

Thursday night inspired me — so much community, so much gratitude — and made me anxious, as always. Will we really raise the money we need? How do I do my pieces in a meaningful way? How do Steph and I get the right crew so the whole thing is seamless? The movement forward can sometimes make me feel paralysed with worry.

Holding that, I recruited one of the newbies to come with me to a documentary on Saturday night about gay activism in Uganda, Call me Kuchu..

I took a photo of the tickets Sunday morning, and only then realized that they’d handed me tickets for the wrong Katherine, for the wrong film, at the wrong time. But no one had noticed when I’d used them for admission. Somehow that seems fitting.

(127, 05.06.12)

It’s a stunning film, tracing the experience of the first out gay activist in Uganda, David Kato, who was killed last year during the making of the film.

I watched it with my hand over my mouth most of the time, the accents slipping familiar into my ears, the acrid smell of Kampala in the white heat tactile for me. Recognizing similar features to each of our kids in the key characters — Robinah in the very butch young woman, Saphra in the confident stronger lesbian working for human rights. Hearing the echo of what we’d heard at the Bah’ai temple last year — that in Uganda, human rights do not include homosexuals. The tabloid outing all “homos,” and the glee of the editor. Recognized the Ugandan way of laughing nervously when worried or on the spot that can look like a chortle — but feeling its menace.

Three profoundly frightening moments for me. The comparison of ‘homos’ to “cockroaches,” the same metaphor used to incite the genocide in Rwanda. (A point the film doesn’t leave vague). The vitriolic, angry presence of the US White Christian Right declaring Uganda a battle zone for godliness, and the hysterical uptake. And the rhetoric that ties White westerners together with re-colonization and an assault on Africa and the repeated accusation that the homos are out for the children.

I watched, none of it unexpected or unpredictable to me, but somehow, frozen and paralysed. A forking path for the country I’ve chosen to stick my tiny stake of difference into, a Schrodinger’s cat simultaneous moment of “yes this is why we’re doing this, to make a change,” and “jesus I’m naive and this is a dangerous pursuit to be undertaking.”

There’s no meaning to this, but just antenna. As always, awareness of our privilege as white people in Uganda, awed by the bravery of this handful of gay people embodying “A luta continua” (The struggle continues), their drag shows in the makeshift back yard, a first foray onto high heels, and featuring the rural, modest Ugandan dresses with the pointy puffed sleeves as much as any Beyoncé inspired mini. Not deterred, anxious and worried about this country, its potential for veering wildly into something far different and more frightening. What that means to try to help our kids with a more global perspective, what that means for us.

A luta continua indeed.

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