Rolling Stone was a weekly tabloid newspaper published in Kampala, Uganda, that started August 2010, under the direction of 22-year-old Giles Muhame and two classmates from Kampala’s Makerere University. On 9 October 2010, the newspaper published a front-page article titled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak,” that listed the names, photographs and addresses of 100 homosexuals alongside a yellow banner that read “Hang Them”. The paper also alleged that homosexuals aimed to “recruit” Ugandan children. This publication attracted international attention and criticism from human rights organizations. It suspended publication in November 2010, after a High Court ruled that it had violated the fundamental rights of LGBT Ugandans by attempting to out them and calling for their deaths. One of those listed, David Kato, was subsequently murdered. The damage it did in one month was devastating.
Chris Urch’s The Rolling Stone, now playing at Lincoln Center tells of Dembe (Ato Blankson-Wood), who’s love for Sam, a Irish/ Ugandan doctor (Robert Gilbert) could put him in extreme danger. Dembe’s brother Joe (James Udom), is the newly elected preacher of the local church and tells him, with 1, 2 punches how to be a man. He is constantly trying to hook him up with Mama’s (Myra Lucretia Taylor) daughter Naome (Adenike Thomas), who has gone mute.
Dembe’s family is in poverty due to the death of their father. A choice has to be made between Dembe and his sister Wummie (Latoya Edwards), who can stay in school to become a doctor. Joe’s success and hiring has been because of their family friend Mama, who makes no secret of her contempt for homosexuals. “These people recruit, rape and spread disease.” Joe then gives a sermon stating “They are plaguing us with their acts of violence, their corruption. Look to our boys, and if we see a limp wrist, we crush it.”
Wummie knows her brother is gay and though she does not condone it, her love for her brother is greater than her mind set. Her speech is the strongest piece in this play.
Dembe decides to tell his family about his love for Sam, but before he does his picture is published in the paper. The family then has to decide what is more important and what family really is.
Despite its important themes, the wonderful performances by the cast and flowing direction by Saheem Ali, this play drags and never feels fully fleshed out.
It is still illegal to be gay in Uganda. 70 UN states still criminalize same-sex relations between two consenting adults. In 26 countries of those countries, the penalty varies from 10 years in prison to life. Witch hunts still happen and we need to put a stop to them.
The Rolling Stone: Lincoln Center Theater. until Aug. 25th