The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, October 2
October 2nd, 2013
Other Events This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Key West Bear Fest, Key West, FL; AIDS Walk, New Hope, PA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Baltimore Police Arrest 162 in Bar Raid: 1955. At 200 N. Gay Street — an appropriate address if there ever was one — stood the Pepper Hill Club, a nightclub popular with gay people. Because of its reputation, the Pepper Hill Club quickly became a target for the city’s vice squad. At 11:00 p.m., Lt.Byrne and officer Edgar Kirby stopped in to check on the club, looked around, then left. Less than an hour later, police descended on the club and arrested all 162 patrons, employees and owners for “lewd behavior,” which consisted of male couples hugging, dancing and kissing. “We were met by a human wall,” Sgt. Hyman Goldstein later testified. “We found complete disorder, and in the rear of the place there was no light at all. Back there we found several couples.” He also testified that most of those arrested were from Washington. “We have received word that Washington police are conducting a drive on homosexuals; apparently some of them are coming to Baltimore for their entertainment.”
The raid, which was billed as “the largest night club raid ever conducted in Baltimore,” took place in direct contravention of police policy. Just a few weeks earlier, police had conducted a mass raid at a straight nightclub, and outrage over that raid led police commissioner James Hepbron to ban mass raids. And so when the courts acquitted nearly everyone in the Pepper Hill case — only five were convicted of disorderly conduct — Circuit Judge James K. Cullen sharply reprimanded the police department for the mass arrests. Commissioner Hepbron agreed with the judge and promised that it wouldn’t happen again, saying that the department’s policy against wholesale arrests would be “reiterated, re-emphasized and, if necessary, re-enforced.” The following year, the state legislature passed what became known as the “Pepper Hill Law” which formally outlawed mass arrests during bar raids.
Ugandan Tabloid Outs LGBT People Under the Headline, “Hang Them!”: 2010. Seemingly out of nowhere, an obscure Ugandan tabloid, Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication with the same name) published what they said would be the first part of a four part series exposing one hundred LGBT citizens in Uganda. The first installment included the call to “hang them” on the front cover and over the article itself, and featured the faces, addresses and employers of a number of LGBT Ugandans, including LGBT rights activist David Kato and retired Anglican bishop Christopher Senyonjo on the front cover.
This latest development occurred just as it seemed that the tempest over Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill (also known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, thanks to its death penalty provision) was starting to quieten down. In the face of international outcry, the Ugandan government had been trying to figure out a way out of the mess, and by late 2010, it seemed that the bill had been safely sidelined in a Parliamentary committee until the Rolling Stone cover story threatened the uneasy peace. Uganda’s Media Council moved swiftly to order Rolling Stone to shut down after discovering that the tabloid had not properly registered with the authorities.
The tabloid complied, but resumed publishing again on November 1 with a second installment of its outing series. This time, the publication was much more sinister, with reporters apparently obtaining photos and other information from profiles of LGBT Ugandans posted on dating web sites. With each publication, more evidence emerged that the tabloid, which carried virtually no advertising, was receiving support from anti-gay sources. Strong circumstantial evidence suggests that anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa was a driving force behind Rolling Stone’s activities. Sexual Minorities Uganda quickly obtained a temporary court order barring Rolling Stone from outing individual private persons in Uganda. Two months later, the court made that injunction permanent, and awarded each of the plaintiffs 1,500,000 Uganda Shillings (US$650) for damages, plus court costs.
But by then the damage was done. David Kato, the attorney and LGBT-rights activist whose image appeared on the front cover of that first Rolling Stone “Hang Them” issue and who led the court case against Rolling Stone, was found bludgeoned to death in his home in Kampala.
Annie Leibovitz: 1949. “My mother and father took photographs and made eight-millimeter home movies when I was growing up, but I didn’t start taking pictures myself until the late Sixties when I was studying at the San Francisco Art Institute,” she explained in her 2006 monograph, A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005. She further developed her photography skills while on a kibbutz in Israel in 1969, When she returned to the U.S. in 1970, she became staff photographer for Rolling Stone, quickly rising to chief photographer from 1973 to 1983. While she is known as a portraiture artist, she took her favorite photos while doing reportage, particularly when she was concert-tour photographer for the Rolling Stones in 1975.
While she liked that work, her personal style of reportage was distinct from photo-journalism. “I’m not a journalist,” she wrote. “A journalist doesn’t take sides, and I don’t want to go through life like that.” Her point of view took her all over the world, including the Sarajevo siege in 1993 and the world’s capitals to photograph kings, queens and celebrities. It’s hard to pick one photo as a perfect example of her intimate style — the touching photos that she took of her lover Susan Sontag on her death bed are particularly poignant — but the most iconic photo perhaps is the 1980 portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. It turned out that Leibovitz would be the last person to professionally photograph John Lennon on that fateful December day: Lennon was murdered five hours later outside his apartment building in New York City.
In 2001, Leibovitz became a mother for the first time at the age of 52, but the years following would prove to be difficult for her. She spent most of 2004 taking care of Sontag, who was dying of myelodysplastic syndrome which evolved into leukemia. Sontag died the following December. Leibovitz’s father died six weeks later. Editing the photos for A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005 was an important part of her grieving process. “I would go into (her workshop) every morning and cry for ten minutes or so and then start working, editing the pictures. I cried for a month. I didn’t realize until later how far the work on the book had taken me through the grieving process.”
Her grieving wasn’t over: her mother died in 2008, and in 2009 Leibovitz fell into serious financial difficulties. She borrowed $15.5 million, using the rights to all of her photographs as collateral. The New York Times tried to figure out how an artist of such renown could be in such financial trouble. It cited several personal issues, including the recent loss of her father, mother, and Sontag, who died in 2004, and a costly renovation of her townhouses in Greenwich Village. Eventually she was able to negotiate her way through her financial problems and retain control of her work.
In 2011, she published her latest book Pilgrimage, which probably represents her most personal work to date, even though there are no people in the book. She began photographing the pictures for it while dealing with her financial struggles in 2009. She decided to go to places where she had no agenda, no assignment, no requirements from clients. Instead, she chose locations and subjects that meant something to her: Emily Dickinson’s house, Niagara Falls, Sigmund Freud’s couch. “I have a bit of a feeling that I’ve had it with people,” she told The New York Times. “But you don’t ever get away from people, really. And these are pictures of people to me. It’s all we have left to represent them. I’m dealing with things that are going away, disappearing, crumbling. How do we hold on to stuff?”
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?