Title of Talk: The Lion, the Waterhole and The Wallet - Understanding Africa, Colonization of SOGIESC and Migration - By Melanie Nathan: Executive Director of the African Human Rights Coalition
Apple, led by an openly Gay CEO, has a store in central Accra, while Ghana is about to legislate the harshest anti-LGBTI laws ever passed. Verizon is negotiating with Kenya’s Government to stop streaming LGBTQI content, while failing to include LGBTI stake holders in the dialogue. This talk brings crucial awareness to the conditions impacting LGBTQI+ Africans who are being criminalized and violently persecuted in over 30 African countries, purely because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics (SOGIESC). Are we in the United States participating in abhorrent conditions on foreign soil while hypocritically touting DEI at home? What is our accountability and how can we influence change in a post-Colonial era? Boycotts and chastisement are not the answer in this highly complex, volatile, and precarious environment. This discussion is about our role and the future of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers, forcibly displaced, fleeing these untenable conditions.
Short BIO: Melanie Nathan received her law degree and practiced law in South Africa before immigrating to the United States. Renowned for her human rights advocacy, she consults and speaks globally on human rights, LGBTQI equality and issues impacting LGBTQI people forcibly displaced by criminalizing laws and, demonization and persecution.
Nathan is the Executive Director of the African Human Rights Coalition, the only LGBTQI+ immigrant and refugee led organization providing advocacy and humanitarian services, for LGBTQI+ Africans in forced displacement at all phases of the displacement cycle. She is a country conditions expert witness, testifying in the U.S. and global courts for LGBTQI asylum seekers from 20 different African countries. Nathan publishes a popular advocacy BLOG, O-Blog-Dee-O-Blog-DA, winning the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association Award for Excellence in Blogging for 2019. Her career highlights include a last- minute stay of execution in a death sentence case in South Africa, the introduction by Senator Dianne Feinstein of a Private Bill into the United States Congress on behalf of a binational same-sex partner about to be deported, and testimony for U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Uniting American Families Act (2009).
Nathan led a thematic working table for UNHCR at the Geneva 2021 UNHCR-UN IESOGI Global Roundtable on Protection and Solutions for LGBTQI+ People in Forced Displacement. She was chosen to present the conclusions for all 13 thematic workshops at the closing plenary. She was the closing keynote speaker for the World Pride Summit on Refugees in Malmö, Sweden, 2021. On San Francisco Pride's main-stage 2022, Nathan orchestrated and presented the historic Pride greeting from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. Filippo Grandi. She is a former Marin County Human Rights Commissioner and past Vice President on San Francisco Pride Board. Currently she sits on the board of New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco.
Nathan is the recipient of several awards and honors to include community Grand Marshal for SF Pride 2014, Grand Marshal Cape Town Pride 2011, MLK Humanitarian Award, Marin County 2015, and City of WEHO sponsored L-Project Women's Freedom Award, 2022. She is featured in the 2019 award winning documentary UNSETTLED. Nathan lives with her partner in Philadelphia and is the mom of two daughters.