Thursday, June 25, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson

Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)
was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. The seventh child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene at the age of 11 as a member of The Jackson 5 and began a solo career in 1971 while still a member of the group. Referred to as the "King of Pop" in subsequent years, five of his solo studio albums are among the world's best-selling records: Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory (1995).

In the early 1980s, he became a dominant figure in popular music and the first African-American entertainer to amass a strong crossover following on MTV. The popularity of his music videos airing on MTV, such as "Beat It", "Billie Jean" and Thriller—credited for transforming the music video into an art form and a promotional tool—helped bring the relatively new channel to fame. Videos such as "Black or White" and "Scream" made Jackson an enduring staple on MTV in the 1990s. With stage performances and music videos, Jackson popularized a number of physically complicated dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk. His distinctive musical sound and vocal style influenced many hip hop, pop and contemporary R&B artists.

One of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, his other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records—including one for "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time"—13 Grammy Awards, 13 number one singles in his solo career—more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era—and the sales of over 750 million albums worldwide. Cited as one of the world's most famous men, Jackson's highly publicized personal life, coupled with his successful career, made him a part of popular culture for almost four decades.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

LGBT activists 'under-resourced, isolated and vulnerable'

Activists fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans rights are under-funded, lack support and face "routine" violence, a report has said.

The Human Rights Watch report, published last week, claims that despite progress, campaigning groups are still at risk from "brutal violence", especially those in the global south.

It found that such groups do not receive the necessary funding and support, even from fellow human rights organisations.

Citing an incident in Jamaica, where an angry crowd beat mourners at a gay man's funeral, the report said campaigners "routinely face extraordinary levels of violence".

HRW also highlighted the power of religious leaders and politicians, saying that sexuality had become a "battleground" in the fight for power.

Scott Long, director of the LGBT Rights Programme at HRW and the principal author of the report, said: ""Dozens of countries have repealed sodomy laws or enshrined equality measures, and that's the good news as activists celebrate their successes during Gay Pride month.

"But visibility breeds violence, and there is a pressing need for new support and protection."

The research was based on surveys and interviews with more than 100 LGBT activists around the world.

It found differing issues depending on regions. In Latin America, most sodomy laws have been repealed and new anti-discrimination protections being debated. However, the region still has repressive laws and pervasive violence based on gender identity and expression.

Those in sub-Saharan Africa were faced with violence, while extremist religious groups in North America were said to be actively promoting hatred.

The report also detailed successful strategies used by activists, citing Brazilian trans groups which organise monthly excursions to public spaces such as shopping malls or beaches.

The US was highlighted as having fewer LGBT equality protections than Brazil or South Africa.

"As the United States prepares to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its own gay rights movement, this report points to lessons of struggles and successes in other countries that everyone can learn from," said Long.

Thursday, June 11, 2009