Some Ugandan refugees who have settled in Columbus, primarily in the Northland area, are hoping "Love Will Win" in their new country, because it's been fighting a losing battle back home.

Some Ugandan refugees who have settled in Columbus, primarily in the Northland area, are hoping "Love Will Win" in their new country, because it's been fighting a losing battle back home.

"Love Will Win: The LGBTQ Refugee Experience" is the name of a new speakers bureau program being launched by Stonewall Columbus in collaboration with Community Refugee and Immigration Services, the first joint venture between the two organizations.

The purpose, according to Angela K. Plummer of CRIS and Lori Gum of Stonewall, is to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees in central Ohio find the acceptance they never had in the countries where they were born or among the others from their homeland who have also settled in Columbus.

The collaboration will launch with an event, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 14 at Stonewall Columbus, 1160 N. High St.

Authentic treats of Uganda will be served during a reception, followed by presentations from LGBTQ refugees "of their remark journey to Columbus in the hopes of finding compassion and acceptance," according to the announcement from Stonewall, the only organization serving that community in central Ohio.

The program is expected to expand to include refugees from other countries, according to Gum, program coordinator for Stonewall. Initially, however, Love Will Win is to focus on a few from ultra-homophobic Uganda, where homosexual acts are punishable by life in prison.

"We reached out to Stonewall when we learned we would be getting some LBGT refugees," said Plummer, executive director of the Northland-based independent nonprofit Community Refugee and Immigration Services. "We wanted to find some community support for them. We have certain roles to get them going, but truly for long-term integration, you can't understate the importance of finding friends and support in the community."

Plummer first contacted Stonewall Columbus in November to say her organization was "seeing rather extraordinary number of refugees who were self-identifying L, G, B, T or Q," Gum recalled.

"They were having problems integrating into the Uganda community because the immigrant community brings their homophobia with them," she said.

"They (Stonewall officials) hope to be able to provide some hope for them that they can live openly and not in fear, just like any refugee group, whatever their reason for fleeing," Plummer said.

"The idea is just to give them a safe space and give them a community where they didn't have one," Gum said. "These are amazing people who have gone through horrifically traumatic experiences, but their first thought is how they can help other refugees."

Stonewall Columbus officials decided to create the Love Will Win speakers bureau, a name the refugees themselves put forward, Gum added. Appearances would be for a fee, with the money going to the refugees offering their stories.

"It really does empower them to get a chance to immediately tell their stories," Gum said.

"There's a lot of healing that needs to happen and we're hoping that Columbus, being the welcoming and largely open community that it is, can help them on their journey," Plummer said.

More information is available at stonewallcolumbus.org/event/love-will-win-lgbtq-refugee-experience.


@KevinParksTW1