The other night I went to see “Stories We Tell,” a much-praised autobiographical documentary by Canadian actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley. (Stop here if you plan to see it and haven’t already.)
Today, May 17th, is ‘International Day against Homophobia’. It is an important day, as raising awareness and stigmatizing the stigma have proven to be valuable tools for advancing gay-rights issues, as well as a number of other social issues.
‘Homophobia’… What does that word actually mean? We take it to mean ‘afraid of homosexuals’ or ‘afraid of homosexual activities’, but it can be given a literal translation of ‘afraid to be gay’. When I do stand-up, I remark that I believe that I am, in fact, literally homophobic. I then explain that I studied theater at University and thus was terrified that I was gay, but didn’t know it! Most men around me were and seemed perfectly happy! I felt like the black… I mean gay… erm, I mean straight sheep, separate from the flock. I got over my foolish fear and am happy to come out and say, I did theater, and I am straight.
It’s been six months since Hurricane Sandy. New York City and New Jersey were hit hardest and communities are still rebuilding. People are still struggling to get their lives back on track. It has been particularly difficult for small businesses. The South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, a hub for shops, restaurants, and entertainment, was under water during Sandy. Many of those businesses are still closed, or in the process of being renovated. As I recently walked through the Seaport, I felt the cold of its cobblestone walkways. Few people were out, and the few I saw were mostly tourists taking pictures of the now gated property. Doors with huge locks on them and sandbags are now the neighborhood’s main attraction. Fulton Market is completely closed.
The mall is like a ghost town. Some stores are closed, and those that are open remain empty. Booths that were once surrounded by people are gone. Of the few that remain, only one person lingers there. The food court is quiet. Some of the popular restaurants are closed, including the Harbour Lights Restaurant. People congregate outside where the Brooklyn Bridge is seen in the distance. Damage to the exterior of the pier is still evident. (more…)
After the death of her husband, writer Sonali Samarasinghe has worked to change the climate of free speech in Sri Lanka from miles away. Sampsonia Way writer Rachel Webber brings her story to The Narrator.
Sri Lankan journalist Sonali Samarasinghe has been hooked on investigative reporting ever since she experienced the frustration of working as a human rights defense lawyer. She wanted to change the Sri Lankan public’s opinion about their oppressive government, so she started writing for The Sunday Leader, a weekly publication run by Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor who years later would become her husband. But running the small, independent publication was not easy. Faced with government restrictions on advertising for their sharp content, it was difficult to know when they could print the next edition. Often, Samarasinghe and her husband didn’t take a salary in order to pay their journalists.
Besides the economic struggles, the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was threatening Wickrematunge. “I will destroy you,” he said one day over the telephone. Consequently, when Wickrematunge was killed on January 8, 2009, Samarasinghe had many reasons to blame the government. Soon new threats focused on her and she fled the country. [Read more at Sampsonia Way]
I was intrigued when I read glowing references to Heard*NY, a new performance art piece in Grand Central Terminal, sponsored by the innovative arts organization Creative Time. Artist Nick Cave designed a herd of 30 shaggy, colorful life-size horses that twice- daily prance across Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall. Periodically the herd breaks into choreographed movement performed by students from The Ailey School.
According to a curatorial statement on the Creative Time website, the horses invite us “To take a second. To look.” That, unfortunately, was impossible on the day I went to Heard*NY. Visually evocative these horses might be – in photographs they resemble Sesame Street’s Mr. Snuffleupagus costumed for Mardi Gras. But attending the actual event, not a horse could be seen. They made their “crossing” at floor level — the same level as the 10-deep crowds who had gathered to partake of the promised “festivalism” of the occasion. Anyone who failed to arrive early enough to stake out a front row position could only add to the field of iPhones waving at arms length above the heads of the crowd. Every now and then, when the choreography called for hopping, it was possible to spot a jaunty ear or two. (more…)