“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – “I am fasting each Thanksgiving until America is restored to its values – where we welcome, shelter and protect refugees and asylum seekers with full robust and fast flowing open routes, where immigrants are treated with the absolute dignity and care they deserve – and where we do not deny you entry based on your religion ” .. Melanie Nathan…
WE STARVE WE ARE BEATEN WE ARE JAILED WE ARE LGBTI REFUGEES
For years Kenya and Kakuma Refugee camp has proved to be hell for LGBTQI refugees. While we cannot ignore the fact that many have been resettled thorough UNHCR to obliging countries, far too many wait, without guarantee of resettlement, in a process where protection ought to prevail but where failure dominates under hostile host governments.
Countries such as Uganda and Kenya, charged with their protection pending resettlement in fact further the suffering turning out to be hostile hosts. This is because gays, lesbians and transgender people are viewed as criminals without rights. What they are escaping is not considered worthy of protection by the governments of the countries to which they exile in hope of resettlement abroad. In Kenya, and other countries, the refugee resettlement process is fraught with homophobia, torture, starvation, abandonment, and violence. Almost every aspect of an LGBTQI person’s life in their criminalizing home country that led to their exile is reset and exacerbated in hostile host countries. UNHCR has an almost impossible task given expectations, low funding and often homophobic players through the process to resettle LGBTQI refugees. Many believe much more can be done.
This is one of the very few escape routes for LGBTQI persecuted community who are forced to leave their home countries, where they can be arrested and sent to prison for lengthy periods to include life and sometimes death sentences. Just because they are gay. Refugee numbers have been dramatically cut by Trump, causing the pipeline to freedom and equality to jam up. His xenophobic policies, which has led to the insidious rule changes on the Southern Border, all detrimentally impact LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers.
And so I report in real time the following which is happening as we speak:
This speaks to why I cannot, at this time, celebrate Thanksgiving in an American traditional manner. I have chosen to starve in solidarity with the refugees with whom I collaborate and work. I cannot choose to feast. I am having a hard time with gratitude. Though I do have much to be grateful for! I have mixed emotions. I am grateful to the country that gave me a home. That took in my Jewish Pogrom relatives and my family of Holocaust survivors. Ye I can be thankful to a country which has now lost its way through divisiveness and cruel policy?
In this picture below you see people behind bars for being who they are, who have been excluded and hurt and much blame must go to America because we have reduced the refugee resettlement numbers. Now the impact is catastrophic!
KAKUMA THE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING IN AMERICA:
Refugee, T, in Kakuma: “The Reception Centre Management yesterday night called Kakuma Police to arrest LGBTI members upon hearing that we are going to peacefully march to UNHCR offices. The arrested 4 LGBTIs from inside our tents, and were brutally beaten so badly, denied food and forced to undress. We have managed to check on them this afternoon and officers have told us they want to take them to Courts of Laws.
We have asked the officers the offence they committed, but have not given us any answer… We are going back to Kakuma Police tomorrow. Meanwhile, we are camping here at UNHCR KAKUMA…but members are all hungry!!! We have no water.. We are sleeping in the cold…and some members are sick. UNHCR Officials have all bypassed us in their vehicles and went.. without any word. That’s the current situation now…..”
I have now reached the point where I refuse to savor and salivate over these ‘pat ourselves on the back’ American holidays. Not for as long as we are led by those who have defecated on and destroyed those very basic values for which we have traditionally congratulated ourselves and given thanks. Last year I refused to celebrate Thanksgiving – no turkey, just oatmeal, declining invitations to food mounded tables. Today I am fasting and will starve for a 24 hour period, no food or water. LGBTQI refugees in Kakuma did not have the choice when they only could access sorghum and water once a day for the past month! My good news and my gratitude reflected from knowing that tomorrow brings me shelter, food to eat and my starvation will not persist. Not so lucky for my LGBTQI family in Kakuma!
After fasting last year, I decided to mention it for the first time here this year! Hear my private protest and feel free to join me! There are several ways you can.
We are led by the controlling Republican Party. They hold the Senate and prop up a rogue President, Donald J. Trump, whose impeachment seems worthy of their obstruction!. His administration, staffers, and their millions of supporters are complicit in the assault on America! They continue regardless- to whack away at our American values, to the point where such destruction has served to alienate our century long allies, brought hate and division, hurt innocent children, destroyed families and robbed good Americans of their rights, while warming up to Nazis, KKK, Putin et al, as their newfound white savior allies.
Our American devalues have now turned Lady Liberty upside down, as her topple-drown words still somehow read “Give me your tired, your poor, ….Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – but barely believed, assumes a watery grave – and now the words helm – separated families, detained parents, caged children, rejected refugees and the denial of entry of immigrants, families and visitors based on religious.
Please join me- to hail the courage of those who survive the ordeal of forced migration, those who have been beaten, died, those detained while they navigate exile.
And then there is us – here in America- us- the very fabulous gays with our very fabulous holiday where we give thanks! True, many of us have faced our own challenges, yet unlike those criminalized who face life in prison for being LGBTI, we are able to come OUT into our freedoms. We too have had to leave families and choose new maters and paters who will feed us our Turkeys this weekend.
Yesterday I wrote a letter thanking all our supporters at African HRC and highlighting some of our work. Today I speak to the insidious starvation – while reflecting on our big bird eat tomorrow! I personally will not indulge. This year I will fast without food or water. I plan to starve in protest and solidarity. And so can you consider these ideas for your TG dinner:
What you can do in Protest
- Taking one delicious item off your thanksgiving table list – and send the dollar amount to http://www.AfricanHRC.org/donate/ .
- Placing an item on your table as a symbol to acknowledge LGBTQI refugees stuck in migration hell, seeking freedom, while still suffering violence and starving.
- Get people at your table to donate $3.00 each – for each $3 we can feed a refugee for an entire week. DONATE HERE.
- Talk about the suffering of LGBTI refugees to bring awareness.
- Every dollar received this Thanksgiving will will be sent to feed LGBTQI refugees in starving while they exile.
- Fast with me!
Statue of Liberty espouses America’s value – and as it topples we can still read and hope:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
BY MELANIE NATHAN