Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

“Unfinished Lives” Book Tour Rolls Through North Carolina

 

Stephen Sprinkle signs "Unfinished Lives" book at Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina (Keith Tew photograph)

Raleigh, North Carolina – The Unfinished Lives Book Tour is visiting cities, churches, and campuses throughout the Old North State, and buzz is growing on the book wherever it goes.  Dr. Sprinkle commenced at the home of the Reverends Phil Jones and Cathy Cralle-Jones in Cary on April 9, where a packed house heard the story of how Unfinished Lives came to be. “I survived an anti-gay hate crime threat myself in 2000,” Dr. Sprinkle told the gathering of well-wishers for the book.  “That near-brush with physical violence just because I was gay set me on the journey to learn as much as I could about other stories of hate crimes victims in the United States,” he said. Representatives of St. Paul’s Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Hillyer Memorial Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Cary, Hopewell United Methodist Church in Sampson County, and the Graduate School at North Carolina State University engaged Dr. Sprinkle in a lively Q & A on hate crimes in America.  On Sunday, April 10, Dr. Sprinkle preached for the 9 and 11 a.m. services at St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church in Wilmington, an LGBTQ-predominant congregation founded after the brutal 1990 disembowelment slaying of lesbian carpenter, Talana Quay Kreeger, “Talana with the wild, blonde hair.”  No church in the city would allow Kreeger’s funeral because of the negativity toward her homosexuality, though she was the innocent victim of a horrendous hate crime.  Coastal Carolina queer folk vowed never to depend on a straight Christian congregation again to allow a funeral for one of their own. Local visionary activist, social worker Tab Ballis, introduced Dr. Lou Buttino, head of the UNC-Wilmington Film Studies Department, and announced that “The Park View Project” documenting the murder of Talana Kreeger, would be seen to completion by the eminent filmmaker. Reverend John A. McLaughlin, pastor of St. Jude’s, welcomed Dr. Sprinkle on behalf of the city of Wilmington. In the afternoon, representatives of St. Jude’s and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Wilmington, and Winterville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined Dr. Sprinkle for a book signing at Two Sisters Bookery in the historic Cape Fear Riverfront Cotton Exchange. On Monday, April 11, Dr. Sprinkle spoke at the NC State University GLBT Center “Lunch and Learn” event, and signed copies of his book. Center Director Justine Hollingshead and Emeritus Professor Bill Swallow hosted Dr. Sprinkle at State, where members of the Wolfpack Football Team were in attendance for the talk. This was Dr. Sprinkle’s second appearance at the NC State GLBT Center. In the afternoon, Dr. Sprinkle and Rev. Phil Jones went to Wilson to deliver a lecture and sign books at Barton College.  Dr. Sprinkle was hosted by Dr. Joe Jones, and greeted by members of the Religion and Philosophy, Sociology, Social Work, and English faculties of the college. He spoke on “Honor and Educate: How the Community of the Dead Shapes LGBTQ Community.”  Students, faculty, and staff asked many probing and pertinent questions about the nature of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the linkage with religious intolerance. On Tuesday, April 12, Rev. Jones and Dr. Sprinkle traveled to Duke University Divinity School in Durham for a book signing sponsored by Cokesbury Bookstore. Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, renowned theological ethicist, called “America’s best theologian” by Time Magazine, attended, and got his copy of Unfinished Lives. “These stories need to be gotten out there,” Dr. Hauerwas said. He presented Dr. Sprinkle with a signed copy of his 2005 book, Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words. Later in the afternoon, the tour went to the LGBTQ Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Dr. Sprinkle and Rev. Jones were greeted by Terry Phoenix, Center Director. A topic of discussion was the April 4 torture attack on gay UNC student Quinn Matney, who claimed he was branded by a super-hot metal instrument while being held down by his assailant. “Here is a taste of hell for you, you fucking faggot!”, the UNC student said his attacker shouted while torturing him, as reported to the Daily Tarheel. Before departing Chapel Hill, Dr. Sprinkle introduced his book to Dr. Rick Edens and Dr. Jill Edens, co-pastors at the 800-member United Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ. Dr. Sprinkle plans to contact RDU leaders on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program on Wednesday, before returning to Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.  The book tour is making friends and news everywhere it goes.  A four-session series on the book is planned for Houston during Pride Month, in June, and a six city national tour in the Fall.  Stay tuned for more on Unfinished Lives!

April 12, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Barton College, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Book Tour, Bullying in schools, Burning and branding, Cokesbury Books, Covenant Christian Church, death threats, desecration of corpses, Duke Divinity School, Evisceration, First Christian Church Wilmington, funerals, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, It Gets Better Book, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, NC State GLBT Center, NC State Graduate School, North Carolina, Park View Project, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Public Theology, Queer, Racism, rape, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, School and church shootings, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, St Jude's MCC, stabbings, stalking, Stanley Hauerwas, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Strangulation, suicide, Torture and Mutilation, transgender persons, transphobia, Two Sisters Bookery, U.S. Navy, UNC-Chapel Hill LGBTQ Center, UNC-W Film Studies Program, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, United Church of Chapel Hill, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Unfinished Lives” Book Tour Rolls Through North Carolina

How to Remember a Gay Hate Crimes Victim: 12 Years After Murder, Billy Jack Gaither’s Memory is Alive

Billy Jack Gaither

Montgomery, Alabama- Billy Jack Gaither’s memory will not die.  A determined group of family, friends, and human rights advocates see to that annually, and on Sunday, February 2o, the 13th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence will take place on the steps of the Alabama State Capital Building.  Billy Jack, 39, died February 19, 1999 on the banks of Peckerwood Creek at the hands of two local men who hate him for being gay. Steven Mullins and Charles “Charlsey” Butler had no other motive for the grisly murder. They killed Billy Jack with a pick ax handle, and then burned his body on a pyre of old tire carcasses as an expression of their disdain for him and for all LGBTQ people as human beings. “Charlsey” and the “Skinhead” wanted this gentle, loving Alabamian from Sylacauga dead, immolated, and forgotten. But Billy’s family, especially sisters Kathy Jo and Vickie, and allies such as Dr. Beverly Hawk of the University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa and David Gary of Birmingham, have doggedly refused to let the killers win. They established the Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award, to be presented annually at the Vigil to persons of outstanding social conscience and action. This year, the Vigil will commence at 3 p.m. with music by The Shouting Stones, and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Choir. Professor Gwen Thomas of Auburn University is the featured speaker. The Fourth Annual Billy Jack Humanitarian Award will be given to the Rev. and Mrs. Robert Graetz. Graetz was the white pastor of the predominantly black Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery during the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. A personal friend of Rosa Parks, the Rev. Graetz was ostracized by whites for his support of the non-violent civil rights movement.  His auto tires were slashed. The home he shared with his wife Jennie and their family was bombed three times, but thankfully the largest and last of the bombs was a dud, and did not go off. For Billy Jack to be remembered by awarding good works such as the courageous witness of the Rev. Graetz and his wife Jeanie is wonderful in itself. The award this year certainly embraces the LGBTQ and African American communities, and brings them into further dialogue as they struggle for justice together. But the planners and board members who refuse to forget Billy Jack are doing more than staging an event and presenting a named award–they are frustrating the intentions of hate crime killers like Mullins and Butler everywhere.  They are bringing good people into an educational circle of hope and justice.  They are sending a beam of light into the darkest regions of the human soul, the places where bigotry and hatred are incubated.  So, once again, Billy Jack is remembered, celebrated, and beloved. Billy Jack’s memory is evergreen in Sweet Home Alabama.  His killers languish forgotten serving life sentences in prison. Well done, Alabamians! [Billy Jack’s story, “Southern Gothic,” is told in the newly published Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims. Follow this link for more information: http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Lives-Reviving-Memories-Victims/dp/1608998118/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1298017444&sr=1-2].

February 18, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Alabama, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, desecration of corpses, gay bashing, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Another Delay in Notorious Dallas Gay Dismemberment Trial

Seth Winder, charged with the dismemberment of gay Latino, Richard Hernandez

Dallas, Texas – The first-degree murder trial of Seth Winder, charged with the grisly dismemberment of openly gay Dallasite, Richard Hernandez, has been postponed for another four months, according to reports received from the Dallas Voice. Winder was finally to stand trial on January 24 for the September 2008 slaying of the gentle, well-liked Hernandez, a resident of North Dallas who worked as an Associate for Wal-mart. The Denton County District Attorney’s Office announced the delay of trial until May 23, in response to the petition of Winder’s defense attorney, Derek Adame. This postponement of the trial date puts the commencement of justice for Richard Hernandez to a full two-and-a-half years since the visceral organs of the victim were discovered in his apartment bathtub.  The Voice notes that the May trial date itself is considerably in doubt at this point.  The events following the arrest of Seth Winder for the murder of Hernandez are a case study in the muting of a Latino gay murder in the Southwest. The forensic details of the crime are gruesome in the extreme. Though the sensational aspects of a dismemberment seem to lend themselves to media and LGBTQ community attention, a strange pall has fallen over this story for years. Dallas-Fort Worth television and radio news are filled with regular stories of mayhem, yet this bloody, outrageous crime has received relatively little attention in local media, with the exception of coverage by the Dallas Voice. Controversy has dogged this story since its inception. Winder, arrested with blood-stained evidence in his possession, has been variously described as mentally disabled and homicidal, even by his own family. Winder’s father’s girlfriend, Karen Dilbeck, threw a spanner in the works by authoring and publishing a book-length account of the crime and a pastiche of her husband’s mental state at the time of the murder. Because of a spate of publicity that might have affected a trial, justice was postponed in the wake of the book’s publication. Psychological experts have pronounced on Winder’s capacity to understand right and wrong, and his ability to stand trial for the murder. Friends of Hernandez have repeatedly called on officials to bring the case to a speedy trial, contending that Winder knew what he was doing when he allegedly cut his victim to pieces. A&E’s The First 48 attempted to revive interest in the story, but failed. Today’s news of yet another postponement works to dampen the community awareness of the story further. Gay men who habituate the Oaklawn-Cedar Springs entertainment district where the gay community of Dallas congregates seem to have no recognition of the name of Richard Hernandez or the heinous murder that has been likened to Richard Harris’s “Hannibal the Cannibal” best-seller and major motion picture, The Silence of the Lambs. Why such little interest or knowledge of the crime exists in Dallas in 2011 is cause for major concern. This is the hallmark of a gay hate crime being covered over by community neglect and denial, especially when the victim is non-White and past the Twink stage. In the end, the LGBTQ community has the responsibility for keeping the memory of Richard Hernandez alive both so that justice may be finally rendered in this terrible case, and also for the sake of the Dallas LGBTQ community’s social identity.  It is sadly no surprise that major media such as Belo Corporation’s newspaper and television station de-emphasize the plight of gay and lesbian Texans due to hate crimes.  They have been doing so for generations. But the local queer community, with the happy exception of the Dallas Voice, has dropped the ball for a series of reasons community leaders would do well to understand and counteract, if the LGBTQ voices in Dallas and North Texas are ever to be taken seriously by a neglectful heterosexist majority in this city and county.  Meanwhile, the justice Richard Hernandez’s friends seek is deferred.  And justice deferred is justice denied.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, desecration of corpses, Evisceration, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Puerto Rican Teen Killer Pleads Guilty, Gets 99 Years for Hate Murder

Jorge Steven López Mercado

Caguas, Puerto Rico – In a stunning development, Juan José Martínez Matos, sole suspect in the “Silence of the Lambs style” butchery of gay teenager, Jorge Steven López Mercado, pled guilty to murder during a hearing today. Michael Lavers, news editor of EDGE Boston broke the story in the U.S. blogosphere.  Though Martínez Matos was to stand trial for the grisly November 2009 murder on May 17, he entered the guilty plea to bring judicial proceedings to an end.  Lavers reports, “Martínez told the court he understood the consequences of his actions, and Judge Miriam Camila Jusino immediately sentenced him to 99 years in prison.” Investigators believe that Martínez Matos stabbed the gender-non-conforming López Mercado to death before decapitating and dismembering the body which he then attempted to immolate on a lonely roadside near the mountain village of Cayey on November 12, 2009.  News of the horrible murder swept the island, and shocked thousands on the U.S. mainland.  Scores of vigils and demonstrations called upon Puerto Rican authorities to invoke a hate crimes statute never used to protect LGBT people, though it was written for that purpose in 2002.  The blatant homophobia of the crime was confirmed by Martínez Matos when he confessed today that he hated gay people, but had offered to exchange cocaine for sex with the gay youth. According to the Associated Press, Attorney Celimar Gracia, representing Martínez Matos, told Primera Hora newspaper that prosecutors dropped several weapons-violation charges in exchange for the plea.  In the best interests of his client, he said, this was the best way to bring this case to a close. LGBT human rights advocates feared that the religiously conservative Puerto Rican public would be swayed by the introduction of the “homosexual panic” defense by Martínez Matos.  The suspect contended that he was “cruising for sex” in an area known for prostitution when he met the gay teen, whom Martínez Matos claimed he thought was a woman.  365gay reported in November that when López Mercado’s murderer learned the youth was actually gay, he “flashed back” to a homosexual rape he had reportedly suffered while in prison on an earlier charge, and killed the boy out of uncontrolled rage.  When the “homosexual panic” strategy seemed not to catch hold sufficiently in the media, Martínez Matos’ defense team requested and got a psychological evaluation of their client to determine if he was mentally fit to stand trial. It was determined that he was indeed sane and able to stand trial for the slaying.  The López Mercado murder is easily the most notorious anti-LGBT hate crime killing in Puerto Rico’s history, and supporters of the youth’s family did not want the murderer to escape justice by putting the blame upon Jorge Steven for his own death.  The dramatic confession in Caguas today removed that possibility. Pedro Julio Serrano, representing the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, a leading LGBT rights advocate, told the AP that there was not a dry eye in the courtroom when the guilty plea was entered. “Nothing is going to bring Jorge Steven back, but today, a bit of justice was done,” Serrano said.  Primera Hora, according to Lavers of the EDGE, reported that the slain gay teen’s parents, Miriam Mercado and Juan López, reached out to their son’s murder with words of faith.  Full of emotion, López Mercado said, “I want to send a message to Juan (Casper) and tell him there is hope in Christ. The Lord has forgiveness for him, irregardless of what has happened. God has a plan for him if he opens his heart to Christ. God will forgive him also.” Speaking to the EDGE, Pedro Julio Serrano commented  on the confession today, saying, “The [López Mercado] family is sending a powerful message to the world of the love that conquers hate. It was very emotional and it brings some closure, but those wounds will never heal.” In his official statement as spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Founder of the human rights organization Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Serrano summed up the importance of the Martínez Matos confession, its impact on the family and friends of the slain gay youth, and the task remaining for people who struggle against homophobia and transphobia in the U.S. Territory: “This was a brutal crime, and today’s developments have been very emotional for Jorge Steven’s family and friends, as well as to the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Puerto Rico. While the guilty plea and sentencing bring some closure, these wounds will never heal for those who knew and loved Jorge Steven. Yet, despite how heart-wrenching this has all been, Jorge Steven’s family has been so loving and strong; they have been and continue to be a symbol of love conquering hate. This has inspired me and so many others in our work to keep this from happening again.”

May 12, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, Decapitation and dismemberment, desecration of corpses, gay panic defense, gay teens, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Media Issues, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transphobia, Uncategorized, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Puerto Rican Teen Killer Pleads Guilty, Gets 99 Years for Hate Murder

Desecration of Gay Corpses in Senegal; Gay Men Hunted Like Animals

Madieye Diallo, picture held by his grieving father; AP photo by Ricci Shryock

Thies, Senegal – Madieye Diallo was a young gay man.  He died due to unconfirmed causes, and was buried in on 2 May 2009.  His sorrowing father, Ousmane Diallo, a shop owner in Thies, returned home to grieve.  In a matter of just a few hours, according to AP International, a gang of  homophobes dug up Madieye’s freshly buried body, pulled it out of the grave, spit on it, and dumped the desecrated body on the doorstep of his aging father and mother.  Proud of their work, the perpetrators used a cell phone to record their revenge on young Diallo for being gay, made a video out of it, and sold it in markets across Africa.  The heinous video has gone viral, spreading horror among African gay men in Senegal, Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Uganda.  In South Africa, the only African nation to tolerate LGBT citizens, the outbreak of desecration and violence against gay people has ignited a series of “corrective actions” against suspected lesbians, rapes intended to straighten them out once and for all.  Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, is leading the fight against a groundswell of homophobic violence on the African continent, but his is a lonely voice.  thirty-seven countries in Africa outlaw homosexuality, and as has widely been reported, Uganda is officially considering law that would carry the death penalty for homosexual behavior.  “Across many parts of Africa, we’ve seen a rise in homophobic violence,” London-based gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell said to Rukmini Callimachi, reporter for the AP.  Tatchell’s organization records and monitors abuses against lesbians and gay men throughout the continent. “It’s been steadily building for the last 10 years but has got markedly worse in the last year,” he said.  Many suggest that a clandestine gay wedding in suburban Dakar, the capital of Senegal, sparked the current wave of anti-gay violence.  A Senegalese tabloid obtained photos of the wedding, splashing it across its front page in February 2008.  On the heels of this yellow journalism, in March 2008 a major international conference of Muslim clerics and the faithful was held in Senegal, and officials began oppressing any forms of behavior deemed “un-Muslim,” such as prostitution and homosexuality.  Police began rounding up men suspected of being gay.  Muslim preachers,Imams, have started denouncing homosexuality from their pulpits, egging the persecution further, as reported by the AP.  Massamba Diop, a militantly anti-gay imam and head of Jamra, a powerful political group linked to Senegal’s parliament, preached in one of his Friday sermons, “During the time of the Prophet, anytime two men were found together, they were taken to the top of a mountain and thrown off.”  Diop continued for his rapt congregation, “If they didn’t die when they hit the ground, then rocks would be thrown on them until they were killed.”  Callimachi, the AP reporter, noted that Diop’s homophobic sermons and others like it were broadcast by loudspeakers to mobs of worshipers who could not get into his crowded mosque in Pikine, and and have been covered in Senegal’s over 30 magazines and newspapers.  Scholars of anthropology have indicated that Muslim faithful are now blaming prostitutes and gay people for high inflation, bad weather, and poor harvests, as the outbreak of homophobia continues unabated.  Ironically, Senegal has been viewed as a paradigm of tolerant Islam, but this outbreak of repression and violence is putting an end to that opinion.  The tabloid hysteria and the religious crackdown drove gay men into exile in neighboring countries, but they failed to find sanctuary even there.  Gambia’s president published an edict warning Senegalese gays that they had a day to leave his country or face decapitation.  As early as mid-2008, deceased men suspected of being gay were refused religious burials in Senegal, and a wave of ghoulish desecrations of their bodies began to sweep the nation.  In Madieye Diallo’s province alone, just before he died, four other gay corpses were exhumed and abused.  A 31-year-old gay friend of Diallo’s, struggling with HIV, told Callimachi that after learning about the mob’s treatment of Diallo’s corpse, “I locked myself inside my room and didn’t come out for days. I’m afraid of what will happen to me after I die. Will my parents be able to bury me?”  Now, gay men are being hunted like animals…even after their deaths.

April 11, 2010 Posted by | "Kill the Gays Bill", Africa, Decapitation and dismemberment, desecration of corpses, funerals, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, mob-violence and lynching, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, rape, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Senegal, Uganda | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Desecration of Gay Corpses in Senegal; Gay Men Hunted Like Animals

   

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