Friday, 15 April 2011

GUEST BLOG - Musa Okwonga and "Love, Against Homophobia".

My name's Musa Okwonga, and I'm a poet, musician and football writer (and once a keen player; I played for Stonewall FC for a couple of years, as a holding midfielder who ran forward too often.) This music video, “Love, Against Homophobia”, began life as a poem that I wrote in November 2009. I had just returned from Amsterdam, which has just about the friendliest gay scene on the planet, when I read of the rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, a South African footballer and lesbian activist. I was sickened both by the story and the fact that life could be so arbitrary – that you could be subjected to such horror merely by accident of birth. And so, listening to an appropriately angry piece of music (in this case, “Beaten Metal” by Antibalas), I put the finishing touches to the poem, with Simelane’s plight firmly in mind. A year later I read of the murder of David Kato, the gay activist who hails from my parents’ homeland of Uganda, and it was around then that we set the words to music, knowing that this was a theme that deserved wider attention. (“We” were The King’s Will, a two-man outfit where I wrote the words and Giles Hayter – a multitalented schoolfriend of mine, who is a painter, producer, composer and mathematician – made the electronica that would accompany my verse.) I recorded my vocal acapella, and Giles built a beat underneath it that was subtle, stirring and choral, before surging into something upbeat and triumphal. We advertised online for an animator who could bring life to the work, and that was when we were lucky enough to find Jae Hwang, a Korean animator working in London, who created the stunning 3-D video that you can now see on YouTube. Jae’s work on this was remarkable; he completed the video in a relatively short space of time, and contacted us halfway through the process to send us some stills of the final piece, which were so beautiful that we immediately selected one of them as the cover of our debut album. We also handcuffed ourselves to him and told him never to leave us (well, that’s not true, but he’s currently making the video for the lead single of our next album).

So there you have it: “Love, Against Homophobia”. I personally felt there were too few songs of an affirming nature when it came to gay rights, and so we set about making the best one that we could. We hope that you like it.

You can watch Musa's incredible video here.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Kobe shown homophobic language not fine.

Sports stars are often held up as paragons, as inspirations to us all.

Young people copy their actions, those in adulthood rue missed opportunities oft wondering why they are not in the similar position.

All in all this makes it worrying why Kobe Bryant, one of the most recognisable sports stars in North America, if not the world, was seen apparently uttering the word "faggot" to a referee.

Such an example could very quickly be seen as being acceptable by tens of thousands of people.

English football fan's minds will immediately think of the incident involving Wayne Rooney where he uttered a number of expletives into a TV camera after scoring a goal. The result - a two game suspension.

In the Bryant case the NBA acted swiftly and fined him $100,000. For that they must be praised.

The head of NBA David Stern made the sport's position very clear in a statement.

He said: "Kobe Bryant's comment during last night's game was offensive and inexcusable. While I'm fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated.

"Accordingly, I have fined Kobe $100,000. Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society."

Bryant himself said: "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period.

"The words expressed do not reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were not meant to offend anyone."

These words and apology do not excuse Bryant from what was a clearly offensive comment, not just to the referee but to gay people across the globe.

The fine is welcomed but it needs to be put in perspective.

Bryant earns more than $30 million. A fine of $100,000 is hardly going to hurt him personally.

But what it will do is grab the headlines and make kids and adults know that such language is not acceptable, never has been and never will be.

From recent memory there have been no notable examples of football authorities taking similar stances.

Whether it is through lack of evidence - as such language does get uttered on the pitch and in the terraces - reluctance, or inability to track down the offenders, who knows.

Whatever the reason we hope the FA, Uefa and Fifa sit up and take note of the NBA's admirable lead.