Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Walk for Tolerance was not a gay march .......... Out of the closet out of Jamaica

We need to be always careful how we use things or try to rewrite history to agitate for rights and freedoms, subtle dishonesties in the eyes of some no matter how slight we may think they are can obfuscate the struggle and reputations hence wiping out credibility and we have lost alot of that in recent times due to all kinds of skewed strategies and narratives on a shaky premise.

Gay rights campaigners from J-FLAG use the symbolic rainbow sheet in a 'walk of tolerance' on Howard Cooke Boulevard in Montego Bay on July 4, 2010. - File

Photo from the Walk for Tolerance in Montego Bay in 2010 not of JFLAG but of a US group carrying a rainbow flag.

See more scenes here: WFT Scenes & More

Ethics in advocacy is so important and we have been less than open and honest over the years on crisis issues and our own historical data, why I brought this up was that after re-reading an article from the Sunday Gleaner by Dadland Maye on being an asylee in the United States entitles Out of the Closet Out of Jamaica a photo was captioned (above) as prominent as ever to suggest that an older activity in 2010 by Jamaica Aids Support for Life known as a Walk for Tolerance was referred to as a gay march on April 15, 2010 there was a clear article with representatives from JASL as published in the Observer who went at pains to make sure to clear the air on the issue of the walk at the time that it was a pride march in disguise, even if it was it raises serious questions about strategy, programs and methods of engaging the public based on openness and honesty. 

Initial reports that the walk from Montego Bay's Howard Cooke Boulevard to the Dump Up Beach was successful turned ugly hours later with news that anti-homosexual elements were abusing and harassing the participants according to the Observer article.

"It is alleged that some houses between St Ann and St Mary where some of the persons came from, were stoned. But we are yet to get more details on that. There were persons from Mandeville and the St Ann area who were verbally abused. Some of our sex workers have been harrassed... they say people have accused them of marching in support for gays," said Devon Cammock, prevention, treatment and care co-ordinator and chapter manager for Jamaica Aids Support for Life, Montego Bay.

According to Cammock, the prevailing stigma that the JASL is a gay organisation, " is going to hurt persons especially those who need help".

"Our major focus is minority groups because they are the most vulnerable to HIV and Aids and based on the feedback we are getting from the number of persons coming in to us, it was evident we had to do something. Part of what we needed to do in our ongoing campaign about stigma and discrimination was atolerance walk". JASL works with members of the marginalised communities. We work with sex workers, we work with men who have sex with men, we work with hearing impaired, we work with we work with people in general," he said adding that the participants were 'marching for their own rights'.

Among the groups that participated in the walk were:

* The Jamaica Red Cross;

* The Sex Workers Association of Jamaica,

* The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians and Gays (JFLAG);

* Women for Women (WFW) and persons living with HIV.

Nancy Wilson, the openly gay leader of the Metropolitan Community Churches also participated.

The rest of the article by Mr Maye however was relatively OK save and except for the atheistic ambit which I have a huge issue with but for the issues that cause many Jamaicans to leave our shores.

here is an excerpt of the article:

Forgetfulness makes people lose their ability to identify with the life of others who pattern their history. They will still fight, but they might lose the activist passion of prior years. I promised myself I will always try to remember the bad. But I now appreciate that I can recall and love the beautiful memories that had taken second status to the sorrowful ones for so long. I had forgotten those things that made me love Jamaica.

Why do I look forward to Americans asking me, "Where are you from?" Why do I feel at home, even though away from my first home, when I hear our voices speaking in Brooklyn supermarkets, or see bodies wearing the black-green-gold colours of our flag in a Queen's train, or feel a hand touch my shoulder at a Manhattan event only to say, "Yuh dress like one a we. Lawd a mercy! Heh-heh-hey! Are you from Yard?"

Feeling situated in a safer physical space in America and living farther away from painful memories, I am able to reflect on Jamaica and Jamaicans. On the things that united and loved us. Our rich inquisitive culture. Our Patois semantics. Our loving and feisty body languages. Our comedic country life versus the dramatic city life. Our PNP and JLP politrics theatrics. Our privilege of knowing the name/s of every great-grandmama with herbal bushes beneath their pillows, and of the coming-to-no-good children down dat deh yard deh, and the good-brain ones who reap most community smiles.

Our care in showing up at hospitals with grater cake and cornmeal pudding, but not only for family. Our tendency to pack cemeteries to weep, to hold an experienced weeper from tumbling inside another grave, and to 'rockstone' the casket out of love, but not only for family.

Disseminating information of Jamaican pride alongside its horrors is what journalists and activists should deploy in their roles. Increasingly, it concerns me whenever I visit places to speak that audiences expect only doom-and-gloom stories about Jamaica.

"The violence there! How bad is it?

"Will I get killed there?"

"No disrespect, but I will never go to your country. Sorry!"

"They can keep their beaches and all-inclusive hotels to themselves!"

"Aren't you glad you escaped?"

After hearing these comments, I question what damage I, journalists, and other human rights activists have done in representing the Jamaican story. How might we represent it to ensure that it certainly brings attention to horrific human-rights abuses without cultivating a global impression that Jamaica is an island of savages? Activists and journalists should remain concerned about whether our roles to liberate Jamaica might be inadvertently liberating global stereotypes about Jamaicans.

also see this flashback on the controversial Walk in 2010: 


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