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Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs: 'Spirit of Uganda' group pledges to 'not conflict' with gay-rights ordinance

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

On Monday, Miami-Dade County announced that Spirit of Uganda, which "celebrates the cultural roots and newer offshoots of this lush and diverse nation," would be performed Saturday night at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Spirit of Uganda SmallerThe announcement came the same day Uganda's president signed an anti-gay bill that punishes gay sex with up to life in prison. President Yoweri Museveni said the bill, which went into effect immediately, was needed because the West is promoting homosexuality in Africa.

Tony Lima, executive director of  SAVE, Miami-Dade County's leading gay-rights group, immediately spoke with county officials about Spirit of Uganda.

"We want to make sure that everyone in Florida is sensitive to what is happening in  the world from an LGBT perspective," Lima said late Tuesday.

Lima said SAVE helped facilitate a joint statement from the county's Cultural Affairs department, the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, www.Cultureshockmiami.com (the county's cultural consortium funded with a grant from The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation) and Empower African Children, the Texas-based nonprofit that tours the Uganda production.

From the statement:

Empowerment Africa receives no funding from the government of Uganda and like all of the artists engaged by the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, has signed an agreement which states they will not “conflict with any policies, rules or regulations of Miami-Dade County” which includes the Human Rights policy of Miami-Dade County.

Here's the complete joint statement:

Please accept this joint statement on behalf of Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, Cultureshockmiami.com and Empower African Children.

The Spirit of Uganda is a production of Empower African Children, a Dallas-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission “to create transformative and globally connected learning experiences, preparing orphaned and vulnerable children for a lifetime of influence.” Alexis Hefley, Founder and President of Empower African Children, stated "Empower African Children, producer of Spirit of Uganda, is a United States-based 501 (c) 3 non-profit and a Kampala-based NGO and does not participate in political activities. We are focused on the unique needs and opportunities facing the orphaned and vulnerable children we serve. That said, we believe in the rights of humanity, the dignity of individuals, and we support the UN resolution on Human Rights."

Empowerment Africa receives no funding from the government of Uganda and like all of the artists engaged by the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, has signed an agreement which states they will not “conflict with any policies, rules or regulations of Miami-Dade County” which includes the Human Rights policy of Miami-Dade County. The Center, along with its presenting partner, Cultureshockmiami.com, is honored to have these young ambassadors for Uganda’s 2.7 million orphans, celebrate the spirit and positive rich history of this culture.

The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center continues to actively explore and pursue our connection and existing partnerships with the LGBT community through engagements, activities and collaborations with the artists who perform at the Center and look forward to continuing and building on these existing relationships.

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