This entry is long overdue. It is for the last stop on our European blitz this past summer and definitely one of the most heartwarming and almost indescribable days we have ever had.
For those of you who have been supporters of Cheril’s theatrical works, you may already know that her most recent production, Asylum, was inspired by the true story of a woman who fled Uganda to escape an honor killing by her father. That woman, Prossy Kakooza, had been a virtual friend of ours for the last seven years (since Cheril first heard about her story and wanted to learn if there were more we could do). Cheril corresponded mostly via email and social media, and even through Skype and Google+ a few times, but there was absolutely no way to tell how much meeting her (and her partner Leah) would impact us when it finally happened.
Both Prossy and Leah (who recently gained freedom after spending four years in a Ugandan prison for being lesbian [and another three in hiding]) are some of the most humble towers of strength we’ve ever met. As is their friend John, who shares a similar story.
We were exhausted when we arrived in Manchester. After a day in London, we boarded a train to Birmingham for a day with Cheril’s family and then we boarded a train again Manchester! It was the home stretch and most exhausting part of the trip, but we had a lot of people to see in a short amount of time. We found energy in our excitement to finally meet Prossy, Leah and John. It was one of those moments where you wished someone else was there to capture the initial greeting because it was nothing but enthusiastic hugs!
Prossy and John met us at the Manchester train station and it felt so good to be able to greet friends with the “at the gate” feeling that we no longer have thanks airport security. It was almost nostalgic. They wasted no time in getting us comfortable and going back to Prossy’s place.
It felt like home instantly. Like family. Cheril’s relatives had already stuffed us with British-style breakfast (and Jamaican dinner) the day before in Birmingham, but we had no idea that we would be in for a Ugandan feast at Prossy’s place!
Prossy told us ahead of time that she’d be making a nice meal, but this was much more than we expected–so thoughtful. Before we dug into this, however, we spent a lot of time sharing stories and being amazed by the three of their journeys to freedom. To sit in front of three people who were all treated brutally physically, spiritually and emotionally by their families and the legal system was sobering. It was a big reminder that while Americans are fighting for marriage equality there are so many others who are just fighting to live. To love. That is not to discount any political battles at home, but just to note that the fight is far from over, especially for people who look like us.
As the day went on we continued to talk as if we could say year’s worth of thoughts in a day. Though it was hard to digest how cruel they had been treated the day was not a painful one. It was joyful. Monica and I were struck by their strength–how they could smile after all they had been through, how they could finally live a life of peace and a chance to create the life they want. We will cherish that day and look forward to showing them parts of the east coast of America when they “cross the pond!” We even shared stories and even compared money in our curiosity. Unfortunately, even with the 8,000 Ugandan shillings we brought home we’re still not rich! lol
But back to the feast for a moment.
Prossy had told Cheril that there would be a surprise dish served and that she hoped we were adventurous. lol. We had no idea what it could be but were open to try it. What was this dish you might ask?? Cow’s feet! haha! Cheril was familiar with it but had never tried it. Monica didn’t know people ate that part of the cow at all. Being the trooper that she was, she decided she would try it (as if she hadn’t learned her lesson from trying “black pudding” in London). But we were already forgiven if we didn’t want to try cow’s feet. Prossy said had she not been raised eating it she probably wouldn’t try it either. lol We only regret not having the camera ready in the exact moments before Monica tried it!
She couldn’t do it. The texture and the knowledge of what it was made it hard to make it through more than a nibble. lol Her effort was hilarious! And that would set the tone for the rest of the evening: lighthearted, adventurous and fun.
We eventually went to drop off our things at our hotel room and then ventured out to the Gay Village. We had no idea when planning this trip that we’d arrive at the end of Pride weekend. There were still a few parties going on despite a persistent drizzle from the sky.
We hopped from bar to club and back to bar again, which was interesting in itself. Between a drug-sniffing girl hitting on Cheril (nuisance! lol) and cherubic guy singing opera-style over electronica we have to say it was quite entertaining.
We have no idea what he was going for but he was certainly a hoot!
It was really a fun night. Cheril (as usual) was tired early and found some place to sit in almost every club, but fun times were had by all. This cap to the end of the day—seeing Prossy and Leah dance together was one of the greatest gifts of the night. We both wondered, did they ever think they would see each other again, much less be able to DANCE, LOVE and LAUGH freely? What an amazing love story they have. We are truly lucky to call them, and John, friends and can’t wait to spend more time with them.
Thanks for a wonderful time, guys. Come to America!