Saturday, February 5, 2011

Memorial Vigil for David Kato in New York City

Yesterday, Feb. 3, on the same day that "The Family" was celebrating their National Prayer Breakfast with Washington's elite, a very different event was being held in New York City a few blocks away from the United Nations headquarters. A more somber gathering, organized by the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, it was a vigil to honor the memory of David Kato, the prominent Ugandan LGBT activist who was murdered one week earlier. David was brutally beaten to death with a hammer, punished for the two-fold "crime" of being gay and having the courage to be open about it.

David Kato
When a "newspaper" in Uganda ran an article calling for the death of Uganda's "100 TOP HOMOS," David's photo was on the front page. With two of his friends, he filed a lawsuit against the publisher. He won. The High Court of Uganda found that the "newspaper" had violated their privacy, ordering compensation and an injunction again future similar publication.

Now David is gone. The two other plaintiffs have also been targeted because of this case and they remain in grave danger. It was therefore appropriate that at the New York Vigil the speakers shared their memories of the David they knew as well as their thoughts on what can and must be done to prevent this tragedy from happening again.

It was an impressive array of speakers, including local politicians as well as friends and associates of David. Despite the bone-chilling cold of the day, it attracted several hundred impassioned attendees who listened attentively. After the speakers were finished, the crowd, bearing candles, walked several blocks to Uganda House, the site of Uganda's mission to the UN. Once there, we laid flowers in the doorway in front of a large photo of David bearing the words, "DEMAND JUSTICE - DAVID KATO."

letter addressed to H.E. Ambassador Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, and signed by twenty-one human rights and HIV/AIDS organizations, was also read to the crowd before being delivered to the mission. It demanded "that the Ugandan government immediately denounce David’s murder and thoroughly and impartially investigate this heinous crime. It is also imperative that the Ugandan government publicly and immediately commits itself to protecting the safety of all LGBT Ugandans... It is also urgent and long overdue that the Ugandan government express its clear opposition to the pending 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill,' condemn all forms of discrimination and incitement to violence directed at anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and speak out against the climate of hatred generated by this proposed law."

So, going forward, what should we do to honor David's memory? Here, via IGLHRC, is the press release from his organization SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) which details their suggestions for how we can best respond to this terrible crime. They recommend we:

  • Send letters urging the Government of Uganda (contact information below) to take the following steps:
    • Publicly condemn David's murder;
    • Carry out a full and fair investigation into David's murder;
    • Prosecute the perpetrator(s) to the fullest extent of the law;
    • Investigate David's hacked email account in the days preceding his death;
    • Assume that, until proven otherwise, David's death was motivated by homophobia and not routine or arbitrary violence;
    • Communicate frequently with LGBT leaders throughout the investigation into David's murder;
    • Ensure that members of Uganda's LGBT community have adequate protection from violence;
    • Take prompt action against all threats or hate speech likely to incite violence, discrimination or hostility toward LGBT Ugandans;
    • Eliminate any possibility of consideration or passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
  • Contact your own governmental authorities and urge them to communicate these concerns to the Ugandan authorities in direct and private advocacy.
  • Continue to expose and denounce U.S. conservative evangelicals spreading homophobia in Uganda.
  • Organize respectful and non-violent vigils at the Ugandan embassy or consulate in your country.

Here, for those of you who could not be with us, is a brief video synopsis of the Vigil:

For those of you who have the time to watch, I am also pleased to be able to bring you all seven speakers, presented unedited:

Rev. Pat Baumgarden, Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of NY

Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director, International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Val Kalende, Board Chair, Freedom and Roam, Uganda

Daniel Dromm, NY City Councilman

Christine Quinn, NY City Council Speaker

Dr. Cheikh Traore, Senior Advisor, UN Development Program

Rev. Kapya Kaoma, Political Research Associates


  1. As always, great job! Thank you for your work!

  2. David this is simply excellent work. You should show it at the Video Lounge at the Javits Center during the GLBT Expo. I'd be happy to participate in any way to help you! You are wonderful!

  3. It was great, and I believe we will continue this so eventually Uganda and other many outrageously trans-homophobic countries. I didn't know much about David Kato before, I only knew him through articles on internet or so, but I could "feel" how David was brave and I felt so proud that I can do something for such a courage man. I really admire David Kato and he actually showed me a hope that this, LGBT movement won't be disturbed whatever barriers are. Even though another Nazi comes out --yes it sounds VERY creepy-- and discriminate us in such a way, because there are people like David Kato, LGBTQs will fight and eventually, the day will come. People will talk about how their ancestors were ignorant as we talk about how our ancestors treated lefties with silly reasons. Thx for posting :DDDD

  4. This is a fantastic blog Dave. Well done.

  5. Part of what i read in my speech were the words of Adaora Asala who blogs as *Spectraspeaks* I should have given credit to her writing voice in my speech as someone who was touched by Kato's departure and a strong activist who cares about the African LGBT movement but i didn't. Please forgive that oversight and credit part of my speech to her. R.I.P David. Val Kalende (