Angel truly lives up to her name. When I was living in Uganda for four months, she housed me, fed me, oriented me to the city of Kampala, occasionally drove me to work, and above all, seamlessly folded me into her life in a way that made me feel not only like a friend, but like a sister to her. Mind you, Angel refused to take a single cent (or Ugandan shilling rather) for all that she gave me. I lived with Angel and her two sons for most of my time in Uganda and spent many of my waking hours with them- cooking, singing, playing soccer, or just shooting the breeze over a bowl of matoke.
In July of 2016, four months after I left Uganda, Angel was outed as gay by the father of her two children. Under the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, homosexuality is punishable by a life sentence in prison. This is a change from the prior decree, which was punishment by death. However, death is too often the fate of LGBTQ Ugandans and typically comes at the hands of their friends, family members, and/or neighbors, before the police are even involved. There is a lot that could be said regarding the origins of Uganda’s anti-Gay sentiment, but my focus here is Angel and her story.
The father of Angel’s children, who lives in Canada, outed Angel to her landlord, who in turn ousted her and her two sons from their home. Simultaneously, Angel began receiving violent threats from friends and family. She sent her two sons to live with her mother, then fled to a remote village for several months. After being on the run for 6 months, Angel arrived in Sweden, where she sought asylum.
To date, Angel resides at a refugee camp in northern Sweden. She has been there for over a year, living in a room that was originally designed to be a closet for cleaning supplies. Ever determined, Angel refused to take the monthly stipend from the Swedish government and instead found a job working as an administrative assistant. However, there are few protections for Sweden’s refugee labor force and thus she is payed a woefully small amount. What is worse, is that the person who got her the job and whom she depends upon for a ride to and from work every day, dehumanizes her regularly, saying such things as, “you are black and gay, so you deserve to die.” Yet, she is unable to leave this job, for it is nearly impossible to find work elsewhere as a refugee. If she were to accept the government stipend instead, it would be almost half of the small wages she is earning now. In short, she is stuck. The goal of this campaign is to give Angel more mobility.
It can take up to 10 years to get an interview with the Swedish government, which will determine whether or not she will be permitted citizenship. In Sweden, asylum seekers are allowed to leave the refugee camp and live elsewhere, but most do not because they do not have enough money to live anywhere else.
In my grandest dreams, this campaign will put Angel on her way to renting her own apartment, or allow her to move further south and out of the isolated, not to mention isolating, and particularly cold region she is in now. However, even if this fundraiser amounts simply to extra groceries and a warmer jacket, Angel will be so grateful. She often speaks to me about feeling voiceless and forgotten by the world, so for her to know that someone donated even just $5 to her well being, would mean so much to her.
I do not want anyone to feel pressured into donating, as I know that everyone has financial limitations and a million causes that they care about. But, if you woke up today wondering, “what can I do to help the LGBTQ community, people of color, and refugees?” well, here is start.
Lastly, if you feel inclined to share this with others-- that is great, thank you! However, due to privacy concerns, I ask that you do NOT share this on social media and instead keep it to private emails.
Thank you for reading and be well.
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