10 Years of LGBT Activism in Guyana - Nhojj Joins SASOD Celebration
Award winning singer/songwriter Nhojj returned home to celebrate SASOD's decade of LGBT activism in Guyana.
(06-20-13) --The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), a human rights organization in Guyana welcomed 3x OUTMusic Award winner Nhojj to headline its 10 year anniversary concert and celebration dubbed “SASOD at 10: Nhojj & Friends on Stage” on Friday, June 7, 2013, at the Sidewalk Café & Jazz Club in Georgetown.
Over the past decade, SASOD a non-governmental organization that advocates for equal rights and justice for all, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Guyanese has had lots to celebrate. Now in its 9th year, "Painting The Spectrum" is the only LGBT film festival in the English speaking Caribbean; and for the last 4 years, SASOD has held its annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on the steps of the St. George’s Cathedral, one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world. The organization has also been actively working through the legal system to repeal discriminatory laws, and is currently waiting a judgement on a suit filed against the state for unconstitutional violations of 4 trans individuals.
Chicago based Guyanese singer/songwriter Nhojj is no stranger to advocacy and promoting human rights. His music video "Love" shows the budding romance between 2 males and he wrote the theme song for the documentary on depression in black gay men “You Are Not Alone” directed by NAACP Image Award-winning Stanley Bennett Clay. Last month he finished recording his 5th studio album tentatively titled "I Was Made To Love Him" featuring Swiss Chris on drums (John Legend), Lonnie Plaxico on bass (Cassandra Wilson), Onaje Allan Gumbs (Woody Shaw), and co-produced by John F. Adams (Taylor Dayne). He's shared stages with Nora Jones, Diana King and Regina Bell and received public congratulations from The Advocate and Centric TV's "Soul Sessions" for his work.
Nhojj arrived in Guyana on Thursday night and promotion for the celebration concert started on Friday morning with radio station interviews at NCN 98.1 Hot FM and HJ 94.1 Boom FM, and a press conference in the Bourbon Room at the Sidewalk Café to discuss SASOD’s month long anniversary celebrations, Nhojj’s career in the USA, and his connection to Guyana and SASOD. The last interview of the day was at “For a Better World" on Voice Of Guyana (VOG) 102.1FM where Nhojj, probably the first out Guyanese singer sang his OMA winning song over the airwaves - "Gay Warrior Song" a composition he dedicated to SASOD’s activism.
That night, at the Sidewalk Café & Jazz Club, Nhojj serenaded the crowd with a collection of songs celebrating same-gender love, which included “He Heals Me,” “Bromance” and "Live Your Life." A diverse array of local Guyanese artists rounded out the bill: rock duo "Keep your Day Job"; vocalists Natasha Yhap, Keimo Benjamin, Maria Rosheuvel and Anthony Stayman; poet Lloyda Nicholas accompanied by Andrew Tyndall on steel pan; dancer Isaiah Luther; and jazz saxophonist Francis Bailey. As the night drew to a close, the tables and chairs were cleared away to make room for a dancing. "What I loved most was everyone dancing together at the end of the concert" Nhojj explains, "gay, straight, trans, lesbians, and I'm sure there were some bisexuals there too - but it didn't matter, everyone was celebrating together and that's what we are working towards - a world where everyone is equal and can express who they truly are."
On Sunday, June 9, Nhojj participated in a panel discussion at “Painting the Spectrum 9” following the screening of this year’s feature film – “You Are Not Alone,” produced by Guyanese award-winning journalist Antoine Craigwell. The discussion was moderated by SASOD Co-Chair Joel Simpson with Craigwell using Skype to participate from his home in New York City. Nhojj spoke about his experience overcoming depression, and how he uses his music to inspire others to love themselves, in spite of society’s pressures. The other panelist was Bishop Francis Alleyne, Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Guyana, who explained the Church’s position on equality and their commitment to ensuring the repeal of Guyana's discriminatory laws.
The activities for SASOD’s 10th anniversary concert, celebrations and Nhojj’s visit to Guyana were supported by the Center for Black Equity, based in Washington DC, as well as the British High Commission in Georgetown and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
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