As 800 marchers coming from three different starting points converged on Beaverton, Oregon’s City Park for the rally portion of the Respect Humanity: Uganda March and Rally, it was hard to believe that the event was conceived by a few students only six weeks prior.

It is a testament to the shared urgency so many Americans feel about Uganda’s proposed The Anti Homosexuality Bill, 2009, and to the power of passionate young people, that the event developed into a major affair that drew 800 mostly-high-school participants, U.S. Senators and Representatives, state legislators, governors past and future, the state labor commissioner, the Mayor, statewide and local advocacy organizations and human rights commissions and clergy.  The event was organized by members of the Southridge High School Leadership, Gay-Straight Alliance and Uganda clubs.

Below the fold are pictures and transcripts of the January 23rd event.  Something I cannot convey in transcripts is crowd energy.  This was an energetic crowd that enthusiastically stayed with the program to the last moment.

The rally speakers came from widely different perspectives and backgrounds, so there were many take away messages from the day.  The major message of course was that people everywhere deserve human rights, and we must continue being allies and advocates for each other as challenges arise on other continents as well as in our own towns.  If we can export homophobia, we can surly also export respect for human rights.  Another powerful message that grew from the very fact of the event was that when students put ideas into meaningful action, they will be heard and their message will be magnified by others.  Youth in this case isn’t a barrier, but a springboard.

Follow the march and rally in pictures and transcripts below the fold!  Please note that this diary is in two parts due to length.  Part 2 is here.

Related:

* Ugandan clergy use children as hate grenades

* Box Turtle Bulletin on Uganda, ‘kill gays’ bill author, and the National Prayer Breakfast

* Video break – Transforming Uganda: exporting our bible-based homobigotry

* Congressional hearing to target Ugandan anti-gay bill

* Uganda President Museveni says foreign leaders talk to him about “gays”

* Senator Ron Wyden asks for review of Uganda’s trade status if the gay genocide bill passes

* Oregon high school with Ugandan sister school plans protest against Uganda’s gay genocide bill

* Senator Chuck Grassley finally denounces Uganda’s gay genocide bill

* White House finally weighs in and specifically condemns Uganda’s ‘execute gays’ bill

* Guest post on DKos: Uganda, The Family, Rick Warren – and homophobia as a booming export

* Truth Wins Out: Rick Warren speaks out against anti-gay Uganda bill

Have toast, will rally!
About 300 students marched from the Southridge HS starting point.  Below are pictures of just a few from this happy throng.

Southridge HS marchers entering City Park, joining hundreds of other marchers who arrived from the two other march start points.

And the rally begins…

Evy Lopez, Southridge High School senior originally from Lesotho

Hi everyone.  As Seta said, my name is Evy Lopez, and I’m a senior at Southridge High School.  I stand in front of you guys today as an African woman who is representing both my native continent and my school.

Today we are gathered here because of a common belief that the bill that the Ugandan government is trying to pass is nothing but inhumane and a complete violation of human rights.  

These basic rights are something every individual deserves to have and should never have stripped from them.  A quote from Robert Ingersol reads:

“Give to every human being rights that you claim for yourself.”

This quote encourages people to place themselves in the shoes of another individual who is facing adversity, and give them the same rights that you would request and fight for yourself.

In Uganda, the citizens’ rights have been stripped, and with no regards with respect to the damage that this law, if passed, will be inflicting.  This new law presents a question of why are some above the law and others are below it, suffering?  And, if this law passes, it will become a (ed notes the recording was partially inaudible: vessel and a justification and determination), and will exaggerate the already present issue.

Discriminating against any individual for any reason whether it be sexual orientation, race, gender, age or another reason, is unacceptable, and should not be tolerated.  

I believe by being here today, we can show lack of support in passing of this law, and exhibit zero tolerance of its content and the actions that it suggests.  

Today we are here to stand up for those who are opressed, and those without voices, because silence never won rights.  They must be fought for.

To me, to stand here before you, and being able to fight for Uganda, is like fighting for the advancement and forward progression of Africa as a whole.  It is my hope that together we can stand up in the face of injustice and take back the respect that every Ugandan citizen should be entitled to regardless of their sexual preference and affiliations.

I realize that in order to transform the world into a better place, change cannot come over night, and will take time.  It’s about time for positive changes to come, starting with Uganda.  In order for this to happen, we all must take action and believe that change cane come.  Because hope is power and power is in numbers.

Thank you for joining us today in the fight for Uganda.



Mayor Denny Doyle, Beaverton

Thank you.  You know, this is nuts, this is great!  Congratulations!  Hey I’m overwhelmed.  I think I’m back in the ’60s during Kent State.  This is fantastic.

I’d just like to welcome you all to City Park.  I’d like to thank the police officers who helped you get here safe and sound.  Thanks guys!  They’re great, they’re great.  Organizers?  Fantastic.  We need you for the next campaign.

So as you know what started as a class project turned into this.  I’ll wager there’s 800 people here today.  And I’m really proud to be the mayor of a city that this is happening in. How many in the crowd are from Beaverton?  Even more importantly, how many are not from Beaverton?  Awesome, all right.

You know, your involvement is making a difference today, and I hope you don’t let it go.  Don’t let your passion for whatever it may be disappear.  I need somebody to take care of me in 10 years when I’m too old to know how to walk.  I don’t want to know what that was.

Just keep this in mind: we’re really lucky that we live in the United States of America. Other countries, this would never happen. Right?  Right.

Just as a reminder, those of you who are old enough, I just dropped my wife’s ballot and my ballot off over at the library, so don’t forget to do that if you can.

I the past year we’ve held a couple of diversity summits.  Keep tuned in to what we’re doing in that area.  We’re actively engaging all of our community.  Everyone counts.  Our strength comes from what we have in common, our beauty comes from what we have in difference.  Think about that.  It’s really impressive for the city to be this way.

Our Human Rights Advisory Commission does a great job of respecting diversity, human rights, cultural understanding in our community.  And Esther, are you here?  Here’s the lady that makes it happen.  Have a round for Esther.  You’re getting ready to do a contest for some writing, right?

Esther: “Free expression, human rights.”

Free expression, human rights.  Check out the city website and enter it, and we’ll have fun picking a winner on that.

{Lurleen: Read up on the Human Rights Creative Expression Contest 2010 here.}

But I’d like to acknowledge City Councilor Cathy Stanton who walked with the group.  Cathy where are you?  Right there.  County Commissioner Dick Schouten.

I’ll just leave with this thought.  Those of you who have been unfortunate to hear me over the years, one of my montras is that as this world shrinks with the internet, with jets and all that good stuff, we can change it.  One person at a time, one contact at a time.  And had the Uganda students not come to Southridge, I firmly believe we wouldn’t be here today.  It works.  Reach out and talk to – I don’t care if it’s one, two or 300 people, if you can make a difference, do it.  Don’t go through life without seizing that opportunity to change the world.  We have to, so we don’t have to have meetings like this to take care of junk like what’s on your signs.  ok?  You gotta work at it.  Be passionate about it.  Thank you so much.

Loretta Smith, staff member for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, reading Senator Wyden’s letter.  “Sentor Wyden is not here today, so he’s asked me to read a letter on his behalf, and he says:”

Dear Friends, While I cannot be with you in Beaverton today, I am especially proud that the impetus for this rally didn’t come from some Washington bureaucrat, but from the grassroots efforts of the students of Southridge High School.

You all know that the Ugandan members of parliament set off a fire storm when it announced last year that it would consider legislation that would incarcerate or would impose the death penalty on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans who are engaging in private sexual acts.  More shocking, the Ugandan bill would threaten those citizens who provide emotional, financial and medical assistance for LGBT Ugandans.

Many in the international community have condemned this barbaric proposal, and rightly so.  Americans spanning the ideological spectrum have also voiced their opposition.  Throughout more than three decades of my public service, I have used my opportunity in Congress to oppose discrimination of any kind.  I have stood up against persecution based on sex, gender and gender identity, and I am proud to do so again now.

Earlier this month I sent a letter to the United States Trade representative urging him to communicate immediately to the Ugandans that their privileged status under the US trade law will be revoked should the proposed legislation be enacted.  I also informed the trade representative that I intend to introduce legislation to make it clear that failure to appropriately respect sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights will preclude a country from benefiting under any US trade preference system.

I am please to let you know that I have learned that Secretary Clinton has spoken with President Museveni of Uganda directly about this issue, and that an envoy from the trade representatives office has been dispatched and will be in Uganda next week to discuss this matter.

The fight against persecution isn’t just an issue to me, it’s personal.  My parents fled Nazi Germany, and not all of my family made it out. Sadly, this is a story that repeats itself all to frequently.  The United States and the civilized world must do more to promote human

rights broadly, and find creative ways to compel nations to enforce their commitments.  That is why I am so pleased that so many Oregonians are supporting this cause today.  The action that you take here sends a powerful message to lawmakers and to the public about how intensely important these issues are to you.

Although I can’t march with you today, I will march with you in solidarity in the halls of Congress as I talk to my senate colleagues about this issue and generate support for our common position.  I look forward to working with all of you in the weeks and months ahead to defeat this horrific Ugandan proposal, and work together to promote human rights broadly in Africa, in China, in Burma, the Middle East and wherever ignorance and hate rears its ugly head.

Thank you for letting me stand up here today, and your voices are heard.

Bill Bradbury, former Oregon Secretary of State and current gubernatorial candidate

I want to start today by doing a real big shout out from Southridge High School.  And also, I want to say a shout out for all the other high school students that are here today.

I want to talk to you today about love.  I think all of us know that love is really something that starts between two people.  It should not matter, and it does not matter, the gender or sexual orientation between those two people.  Love – we’ve seen that love grows.  It grows into a family.  It grows into a community, and it gets bigger and bigger.  But it starts with that special bond between two people.

It’s very clear to me that we have a choice.  We can either embrace love, or we can perpetuate hate.  Now we are here today, and all of you are here today because others have chosen the lesser path of hate.  They have shamefully exported their hate across the world to Uganda, where the very lives of our brothers and our sisters are now in danger.  

And I think it’s very striking that a school, Southridge, has a sister classroom in Uganda.  So this is a very real and direct issue for you. The draconian bill now proposed in Uganda is a tragedy for us all.

When I look back at the last 20 years it strikes me that the world community has often failed to act when it was needed most.  Time and time again we’ve neglected our human responsibility.  We watched our brothers and sisters in Rwanda and Sudan become victims at the hands of the perverted henchmen of the world.  We must not watch our friends in Uganda become the victims of bigotry and hate.  We must not.

Now, here on Oregon, we face our own challenges in overcoming bigotry.  We must work to improve the quality of life for the LGBTQ community, for their businesses, their families and their loved ones, including working and working hard for marriage equality in this state.  

It really breaks my heart that people still live in fear of loving each other.  But I gotta tell ya, it is so encouraging to see all of you here today at this rally, this rally against injustice here at home, and the injustice that’s taking place around the world.

So, just in closing, last Monday we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King.  And today I was reminded of a passage from his speech called “Strength to Love”, and I’d like to just read a little piece from it.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light cannot do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.  Hate multiplies hate.  Violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.  The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

So thank you for all of you for being here today to say that we can stand together, we can have love and it’s love that doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is.

After this, MC and Southridger Seta: “We can’t have a rally without a chant, so Morgan who has helped in planning this event is going to show you how this works.

Morgan: Ok Seta, what do we want?

Seta: Human rights!

Morgan: Where do we want it?

Seta: Uganda!

[and the crowd joins in...]

Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton)

I’m really pleased to be here, and I want to start by thanking everyone who put this event together.  …But particularly I want to thank the community of Southridge, I’m especially proud to be state representative for the area that includes Southridge because of this wonderful event.

The example you’re providing by partnering with your sister school, starting this class project and bringing everyone here today is an example for all of us.  Adults included, and especially those of us who are in the legislature.  So, before we go any further let’s take one more moment and acknowledge everybody’s hard work, particularly Anna Peckinpah who invited me, for bringing everybody here today.

The down side of not being one of the first speakers is you tend to repeat some things that others have said perhaps, so with apologies to Secretary Bradbury, I want to quote Martin Luther King too.  It was only a week ago that we celebrated his birthday, but the quote that stuck with me was the one that said that

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.

You’re all proving that by adding your collective and significant voices to a growing international group that ranges from the top human rights official at the United Nations, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church, even our own Senator Wyden.  You’re all speaking out, forcefully and widely against this draconian and discriminatory proposal in Uganda, and that matters.  That’s really important.

I also this that it’s entirely appropriate that we’re gathered here today in the sight of the Beaverton library.  Libraries are of course where knowledge is shared, where horizons are expanded and where community is built.  And at the library, it doesn’t matter who you are.  Everyone is welcome; that’s how it should be.

I really want to encourage you to keep your momentum up.  Not just on this issue, but anywhere you see a wrong that needs to be righted.  And especially here in Oregon, at home, we have a lot of challenges here and elsewhere.  And if we’re to build the community, the state, the world that we want,  it’s going to take everyone’s full engagement, full participation, and that’s only possible when everyone is free to be who they really are.  That’s another reason that we can’t stand for laws that discriminate and single people out, exclude them.

Also, your action today speaks to one of the fundamental questions that people in a free society have to confront when they see a wrong that needs to be righted.  Which side of history do you want to be on?  Are you going to be on the side that stands up to make things right, or that turns inward and lets other people do the work?  Are you on the side that fights against prejudice and narrow-mindedness?  Do you stand up and make things right?  I think the answer is really clear by this gathering here today,  The fact that many of you have chosen to do that even before you’re allowed to vote and fully participate, is a sign of something else that gives me a lot of hope.  I think the future of Oregon is in very good hands.

So let me just salute your work, thank you for your efforts being here, and tell you that I look forward to collaborating with you as we go forward.  Thank you very much.

Meredith Wood Smith, Lupita Maurer (center) and Karen Parker, Washington Democratic Party, reading letter from Congressman David Wu.  “Hello, I’m Lupita and I originally come from Mexico, and to the people of Uganda, I want you to know that your Hispanic brothers stand with you.  I represent the Oregon DNC and the national democratic party, and standing next to me is the chair of the Democratic Party or Oregon.  And I have the honor to read to you a letter from Congressman David Wu, who is your representative in Congress from the 1st district.  And it goes:”

Dear Friends,

Nothing is more inspiring to me as a public official than to see young people drawn together by a passionate recognition of injustice in our world.  I sincerely regret that I am unable to join you in person to convey my admiration for your efforts, and my passion for the cause that unites you today.  

I share your outrage at the systematic bigotry and violence that confronts the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens of Uganda.  The Ugandan legislation that condemning homosexuality as punishable by death is incomprehensibly cruel and it is utterly unacceptable that such a barbaric proposal is even being considered.  Whether or not it becomes a Ugandan law, the mere existence of this bill will almost certainly lead to increased vigilante violence against individuals who either are gay or lesbian, or who are perceived to be gay or lesbian.

Intolerance is not created by legislation alone.  We see such a reprehensible proposal only when casual bigotry and unreasonable fear have been permitted to fester and worm their way into cultural and institutional acceptance.

You are doing your part today to stand up for basic human rights.  I have tried to do the same in Congress.  As a member of the Congressional Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality Caucus, I am working hard towards numerous efforts that would guarantee equal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

You have my utmost admiration for acting upon your social conscience, for exercising your civil duty and making your voices heard.  Know that your representatives in Washington are listening.

With warm regards,

David Wu, Member of Congress

John Valley, staff, presenting U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley‘s letter:  “Hello Beaverton.  How many Skyhawks do we have here today?  Southridge in the house.  Anyone who thinks that young people can’t make a difference and don’t care about politics obviously haven’t been to Beaverton.  You guys are represented well today.  

First of all I do want to send the regrets of Senator Merkley who can’t be here today.  He’s in Washington, D.C., and really does appreciate the invitation and all the work and effort that you all have done.  I also want to give a special thanks to Rich, the student adviser you guys have all been working with to help coordinate all this.  And all the other speakers who are here today.  It’s quite impressive that you have county commissioners, statewide elected officials, state representatives, the mayor.  You guys put a heck of an event together, and you deserve a big pat on the back.  So keep up the good work.

The letter I’m going to read on behalf of Senator Merkley today is actually something that was written earlier this week to the president of Uganda.  It’s been signed by 12 other senators of the U.S. Senate expressing their concerns of what’s happening in Uganda, and the senator wanted me to share that with you today.”

The Honorable Yoweri Museveni

President, Republic of Uganda

c/o of the Embassy of Uganda

5911 16th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20011

   Dear Mr. President:

   We write to express our deep concern regarding the anti-homosexuality bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament.

   This troubling legislation would sanction prejudice toward people in Uganda based solely on sexual orientation, or even HIV status. This is in great contrast to trends toward greater tolerance in the global community.  By creating harsh penalties for homosexuality, this bill not only codifies prejudice, but could also foster an increase in violence towards people simply based on sexual orientation.

   The legislation also requires persons “in authority,” which could include government officials, employers, clergy, or others, to provide information about suspected violations of the Act. It further criminalizes the work done by human rights and health organizations that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, claiming those actions to be “homosexual promotion.”  Certainly these are not the types of actions to be encouraged as the world strives to reverse violence, poverty, and human suffering caused by divisiveness and repression.

   While your nation has been a leader in Africa on many fronts, including the reduction of HIV infections, this proposed legislation will be a glaring setback in Uganda’s human rights standing.  Unfortunately, even the mere threat of the new and severe penalties for homosexual behavior suggested in this bill, including life imprisonment and the death penalty, could easily add to an already intolerant atmosphere in Uganda based on sexual orientation.

   We understand you have recently raised concerns over the legislation and urge you to do to everything within your power to block its advancement. We look forward to continue the process of building a strong and long-lasting relationship between the United States of America and the Republic of Uganda.

Sincerely,

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

Senator Richard J. Durbin

Senator Daniel Akaka

Senator Christopher Dodd

Senator Joseph Lieberman

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Jeff Merkley

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Mark Udall

Senator Diane Feinstein

Senator Barbara Boxer

“Senator Merkley wants you to know that he does hear what you’re saying, and it does resonate in D.C.  Keep up the good work, keep fighting the good fight, and keep holding all of our elected officials accountable.  Thank you so much for the invitation.”

Commissioner Brad Avakian, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries

You all should know that as your state labor commissioner, one of my primary jobs is to lead the state’s civil rights division, protecting all Oregonians from discrimination.  

But there is a reason that I am especially pleased to see all of you here today.  I grew up about a half mile form here on Murray Road, and having all of you from this community and all around the state gives me so much pride, because you are showing the world that this community and all of Oregon understand the difference between civil rights and a punch in the nose.

Now, I’ve got in my hand here an article published in the BBC in the last couple of days, talking about this fella named David Bahati.  For those of you who don’t know, Bahati is the lawmaker in Uganda that is proposing this atrocious bill.  Yesterday, Bahati said that his bill to kill and imprison gays in Uganda will survive mostly intact and become law.  

Bahati thinks that he’s only speaking to his fellow Ugandans.  But he’s wrong.  What he doesn’t know is the world is listening.  Bahati, your glaring heat of injustice and bigotry cannot be hidden, even by the expanse of continents.  There is a stronger force growing in your country and in ours that will obliterate your supposedly intact bill because there’s a beaming light of justice and equality that always eventually wins the day.  

Now we’ve had our own struggles in our own country, and some of those continue today.  But we won at the lunch counter, and we won with equal rights for women 46 years ago.  We won in protecting the civil rights of gays and lesbians 2 years ago in Oregon,  And I tell you very soon, we will win the fight to provide marriage equality to everybody in this state as well.

There is no doubt we are continually tested.  And sometimes we stumble.  But we always rise.  We always prevail over those who hate instead of love, and those who oppress instead of lift.  We’ve learned that the rights of every person are diminished when the rights of any person are threatened.  And we’ve also learned that oppression and injustice don’t just attack the individual alone, but they attack all of civilized society.

So to the Ugandans: your hour has arrived, your day has come.  This is the march against the injustices we have all faced and overcome in our histories.  But you are not alone, though thousands of miles lie between us.  Our spirit of civil rights stands with you, and that will remain until your struggle is won.

Seta reads a letter from former governor and gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber:

Congratulations and thank you for your work in organizing the Respect Humanity March and Rally in Beaverton.  I’m sorry that I cannot attend the event in person but I’ll be there in spirit, and you have my strong support.

The actions of the Ugandan government are shocking and disturbing.  It is not simply an attack on gay people, it is an attack on anyone who has respect for the basic humanity of all the people.

Your response is an inspiration to me, and a reminder that for all our problems, we are very lucky to live in Oregon.  And we are very luck to have you engaged in making our world and our state a better place.

Continue reading in Part 2!