Frank Mugisha, the leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), will receive two prestigious prizes this month in recognition of his tireless advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ Ugandans. The Rafto Foundation in Norway will present Frank the 2011 Rafto Prize in honor of Frank’s and SMUG’s non-violent human rights work, and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights will present the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in Washington, D.C. in honor of the same.
Mugisha is increasingly being recognized as one of our decade’s bravest social justice leaders and freedom fighters. SMUG made international headlines in January 2011 following the violent murder of Ugandan gay activist David Kato, after his picture was placed under an anti-gay banner that read "Hang Them" on the front page of a Ugandan newspaper. The world watched and mourned Kato’s death, which motivated advocates in Africa and abroad to fight for the termination of the notorious "Anti-homosexuality Bill," which, at the time, was being pushed by the Ugandan Parliament. The bill has been temporarily stayed, but the threat of its return looms. Many in our global community have begun to recognize that the fight for social justice in Uganda is not the work of Ugandans alone. Their struggle is one that Americans, and specifically African Americans, must engage.
Conservative Christian groups from the U.S.A. have supported (financially and otherwise) the push to ratify the anti-gay bill in Uganda, yet there is a pervasive silence on the part of many LGBTQ sectarian and non-sectarian groups, politicians, and community leaders. Where are our progressive and affirming denominational churches in response to this push of ideas and propaganda? Where are the raised voices of our progressive public intellectuals, thought leaders, institution builders, and celebrity activists? Progressive leaders and institutions have an opportunity to join LGBTQ Ugandans and their allies (and others in Africa) in this struggle for human rights. We caught up with Frank to get his response to the news of the awards and to ask how Americans can get involved.
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