UU-UNO Director’s Letter: November 2012
50th Anniversary Celebration and Hurricane Sandy
Our November 3rd , the UU-UNO’s 50th anniversary celebration almost didn’t happen. Just days before, New York City and the surrounding area was hit by Hurricane Sandy. We had worked on this event for over a year. Scott Seale and Marilyn Mehr headed a 50th anniversary celebration committee that worked tirelessly for months to prepare for a New York City Gala event to celebrate the UU-UNO’s 50 years of service at the United Nations. We debuted a wonderful documentary film of our 50 years at the UN.
The film, like the event itself, was the product of a lot of volunteer help. Emmy Award winning actor Andre Braugher volunteered his exceptional narration skills for the film. Gavin Grace, who is not a UU, volunteered his talent as a videographer because he so admires the work the UU-UNO does for international LGBT rights. All our speakers on the video also volunteered their talent and time, as did All Souls NYC Archivist, Lorraine Allen. We benefited from a grant from the UU Funding Program to allow us to put the video together. LDJ Productions, volunteered their exceptional production skills to give us a flawless evening at the NY Times Center.
So with all this preparation and the volunteer support of so many wonderful people, we are more than prepared for biggest bash in the 50 year history of the UU-UNO.
People were flying in from all over the USA and Canada for the event; and then America’s most destructive storm hit New York and New Jersey doing some $70 billion worth of damage. While hurricane Katrina cost more lives, because of the built-up nature of the New York Metropolitan area, hurricane Sandy did far more damage. My husband and I hunkered down in our powerless apartment and wondered if all our planning would be destroyed along with so much else in New York City.
We worried that the NY Times Center might not have power. Senator Stevenson might not be able to fly in from Chicago. The catering firm might not be able to fulfill our food order. As New York City quickly began to restore infrastructure to many parts of Manhattan, we also picked up the pieces of our event and pulled it off in grand style. Some of our out-of-town friends decided not to brave post hurricane Sandy New York. However, all our speakers arrived from near and far. We had guests fly in from California, Canada, Texas and elsewhere to attend our event. Some of our staff had serious transportation problems and some volunteers left powerless or damaged residences to carry off a grand evening. Given the havoc of just days before, our grand gala was all the more special signaling the courage and persistence of the UU-UNO determined to weather all storms to, in the words of Rev. Peter Morales, “not just to survive, but to prevail.”
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
The Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament announced to cheers from parliamentarians that she would allow the infamous anti-homosexuality bill to come up for a vote before Christmas as her Christmas gift to the country. The international community with the UU-UNO playing a leading role has kept this bill at bay since 2009. It seems at long last, after so much effort, the Ugandan Parliament will ignore the best advice of human rights advocates from around the world and pass the bill. It is yet unclear what the bill will entail. In its original form, it called for the death penalty for homosexuality and for prison sentences for anyone who fails to report a homosexual to the police within three days. There are some rumors that some of these more egregious provisions will be modified. The death penalty might be reduced to life in a Ugandan prison at hard labor. It will likely remain impossible for health care workers to provide care to those who have same-gender relationships, thus eviscerating Uganda’s national HIV/AIDs strategy. With passage of the bill seemingly an inevitability, the only hope is that the Ugandan President may veto the bill. He has said that Uganda already has still laws which criminalize both homosexuality and the promotion of homosexuality. The latter law has been used recently to end any discussion of LGBT rights. Most societies, including our own, find it a long and difficult process to accept sexuality different from the majority. However, such change is possible in a society which guarantees the right of free speech. Laws in Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, Iran and elsewhere make it difficult or impossible even to discuss such matters making change that much more difficult. We are calling on people to pray for all those oppressed by all those regimes which oppress individual expression and speech. There are many petitions that we urge people to sign to convince the Ugandan President to veto the bill should it pass. My personal favorite is on AllOut.org. As it happens, Andre Banks, Executive Director and co-founder of AllOut.org will be one of our two keynote speakers at our April 4-6, 2013 Spring Seminar. Register online for the spring seminar using “trip code” HIP7061.
UU-UNO Spring Seminar
As you’ve just read, violence and oppression against the LGBT population in Uganda is getting worse. It’s also getting worse in Nigeria which also about to pass legislation against same-sex marriage, which is already illegal in Nigeria, but the new legislation will also include prison terms for anyone who performs a same-sex union, witnesses one, or advocates for one, whether this is done in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world. This and other global events will be discussed on our upcoming April 4-6 Intergenerational Spring Seminar entitled Sex, Love, and Violence: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in a Globalized World. Youth arrive at the host congregation on the evening of April 3rd. Our keynote speakers are: Charles Radcliffe: Chief, Global Issues Section of The Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights Andre Banks: Co-Founder and Executive Director of AllOut, “Adding people power to the historic fight for LGBT issues”.
Early Bird Rates (until March 1st)
- Senior (65+) $295
- Adult $340
- Young Adult $225
- Youth/Seminary $140
- Day Rate $160
Rates after March 1st until March 15th Deadline
- Senior (65+) $355
- Adult $395
- Young Adult $285
- Youth/Seminary $175
- Day Rate $160
Online registration is now open. When you are asked for a “trip code”, please enter HIP7061. The UU College of Social Justice is collaborating with us and we are using their website, which is usually used for UU service learning trips, to register people for the seminar. They will pass your name on to us and we’ll send you registration materials. You can also send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) after you register and we’ll send you materials about our exciting seminar. Remember registration includes the cost of most of your meals at the seminar and also accommodations at 4thUniversalist Church NYC for youth.
If you have questions or concerns, please write us at unitednations [at] uua [dot] org.