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Ugandan LGBTQ Refugees Seek a Better Life in Columbus

Amber Hage-Ali Amber Hage-Ali Ugandan LGBTQ Refugees Seek a Better Life in ColumbusLocal LGBT activists Roscoe Ssekabira, David Senabulya and Lori Gum. Photo via Stonewall Columbus.
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Stonewall Columbus and Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), are collaborating to create a new program for LGBT immigrants fleeing Uganda.

“We are working on a partnership with SWC (Stonewall Columbus) to help get the story of the experiences of the LGBTQ from Uganda to the public,” said Angie Plummer, executive director of CRIS.

In 2013, an anti-homosexuality act or “Kill Gays Bill” was passed by the parliament of Uganda. This aggressive bill criminalized same-sex relations sentencing LGBTQ individuals to life in prison, and because of this, many people have sought refuge in Columbus.

“Many people of the Uganda immigrant community that are already settled here have homophobic beliefs, so the LGBTQ refugees arriving really couldn’t find community with their immigrants here,” said Lori Gum, Program and Pride Coordinator of Stonewall Columbus.

CRIS and Stonewall wanted to give a platform for LGBTQ refugees to tell their stories and integrate them into the community so they created “The Love Will Win; LGBT Refugee Experience”.  The launch was held on May 14.

“I think more than anything this presentation really illustrates the diversity of Columbus itself, the progressiveness of Columbus and really Columbus being such a welcoming, progressive LGBTQ town,” said Gum. “It’s really a perfect place for LGBTQ refugees.”

The event featured two activists — Roscoe Ssekabira and David Senabulya — who were run out of Uganda.

“It’s an immensely amazingly tragic story,” said Plummer. “It’s so moving and relative to what anybody here could imagine going through… to have the opportunity for them to come over here and start over again and to give them a platform to talk about what is going on in Uganda. I think that was our objective to get folks educated about it and to give the refugees an opportunity to heal.”

The ultimate goal for the collaboration is to have a paying speakers bureau for the refugees to receive compensation for their time while spreading their stories.

“Its stories that we expect to be in World War II, but this is happening today and continues to happen today,” said Gum.  “It is very important to give [refugees] a platform for their stories and really making them a part of the community.”

For more information, visit www.stonewallcolumbus.org and www.crisohio.org.

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