The following comes from HRC Greater New York Steering Committee Diversity Co-Chair Pete Webb:
I represented the Human Rights Campaign yesterday at the New York City Memorial Service to honor the Ugandan LGBT Activist, David Kato. Kato was the advocacy officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Only a few short months after his picture was published in a national magazine outing LGBT Ugandans under the headline “hang them,” someone broke into Kato’s house on January 26, 2011 and beat him to death with a hammer. Right-wing U.S. extremists have fueld a climate of hatred in Uganda. Click here to learn more and send a message to the most outspoken extremists whose words may have led to Kato’s death.
A moving memorial service, alive with soul and spirit, was held for Kato in the historic setting of Abyssinian Baptist Church. Over 225 people attended to mourn David’s murder and show their solidarity with LGBT Ugandans. Various dignitaries participated in the service including a UN Senior Adviser to the High Commissioner, New York City Councilmember, and clergy from various faith communities. Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of SMUG, also shared his testimony and friendship with David Kato.
The Rev. Joseph Tolton, who was the lead organizer of the vigil, talked about racism, homophobia, hatred and bigotry within society and the church. He passionately extolled everyone to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your god.” He challenged the church to welcome all of god’s children including the LGBT community. The Rev. Calvin Butts of Abyssinian Baptist Church continued this theme declaring that we must open our hearts and minds to erase hate and affirm human dignity.
It is my hope and prayer that David Kato’s legacy will birth a movement of understanding; empowerment and liberation.