Vancouver
2 min

The power of one

It’s almost three months since Lisa Salazar’s UgandaUrgentAction website went live — New Year’s Day 2011.

There was no strategy, no “Aha!” moment behind its creation.

Its significance and success aren’t easily measured, either, but Salazar’s intent is basic: kill the “Kill the gays” bill. Get others involved in its execution.

“I don’t have money; I can’t go there and fight a battle, but I can raise awareness,” she reasons. She’s invested $80 to host the site and another 16 to 20 hours to manage it.

UgandaUrgentAction is a model of activism made simple: you visit, find your favourite of four letter templates condemning the bill and addressed to all Ugandan MPs, cut and paste into an email, sign and send.

“If it causes one parliamentarian who has been supportive of the bill to question whether or not it’s the right thing to do, and that person is able to cast enough doubt so that others begin to question the rationale, how can you put a value on that?” Salazar asks.

Her campaign ruffled the anti-gay feathers of Uganda’s former ethics minister James Buturo, who actually replied — along the lines of, Mind your own Western business.

“What is important to us Ugandans,” he writes back, “is that we do something to stem the spread of homosexuality which to Ugandans is abnormal and an abomination… as well as an affront to our values.”

But then there was this, from Ugandan opposition leader Morris W Ogenga-Latigo:

“I must greatly thank you for taking the initiative to fight for the rights of our own in Uganda,” he writes. “There is so much moral pretension in our leaders, and they will sacrifice any life to show how good they are in the eyes of certain people.

“It is only the courage of people such as you that will humble them and shame them into not victimizing our own who never chose to be what they are.”

Another opposition MP passed Salazar’s cell number on to four gay Ugandans who fled to Boston in anticipation of state persecution, a lifeline that eventually led them to pro-bono immigration lawyers within days of their arrival.

That was the last Salazar heard, but she’s convinced they got the help they needed.

“For me to be able to let Ugandans know they have a connection, to put them in touch with people, and ultimately help them in such a horrible situation — it’s been a small investment.”

Indulging in tired “that’s appalling, that’s horrible” small talk about Uganda was never an option. Neither was the privileged ugliness of “I’m glad I don’t live there.”

And then there’s the government worker who precariously navigates a sensitive position but harbours the hope of transitioning one day — like Salazar.

“Dearest Lisa, Thank you for everything!” the worker writes. “I am happy you care about me and my safety and most of all you understand me. You are the first close confidant I have had in my whole life who touches the very central part of my being…

“Lately, I started contemplating about resigning my position… in order to concentrate my energies to a cause where I intrinsically feel that I am needed most.

“I am strongly considering that my personal input in trying to pass across the message of the GLBT in Uganda will ultimately make me free and also free those hundreds of thousands of other Ugandans boiling in the same pot with me….

 “God bless you. I send you love and hugs.”