Friday, April 03, 2009

SF Chron, SoVo: Jamaican Boycott Reports

From the first word in the headline, I knew I would like the article from Marisa Lagos of the SF Chronicle's City Insider news note about the boycott. Violence, and the escalation of the brutality of it, against gay Jamaicans and our State Department's concerns about it are the key motivations driving the boycott.

This piece on San Francisco's top daily newspaper's site, along with the coverage in this week's Bay Area Reporter and Bay Times, our two gay publications, will greatly expand awareness of the boycott.

And it's totally terrific that Bevan Dufty and I have patched up our differences over the months-long inability of Prop 8 leaders to hold a town hall in San Francisco, and that he's pushing himself and his City Hall staff to affect change through diplomacy with the Jamaican government's representative here, and in getting Jamaican products out of the local gay bars.

Hey, Bevan, keep up the pressure and good work.

Excepted from the Chronicle:

Violence against gays spurs Jamaican boycott

A call by San Francisco gay activists for a boycott of travel to Jamaica, and of some of the island nation's most well known brands, is gaining some ground -- it's even received attention in Jamaica.

The boycott, initiated by advocate Michael Petrelis, stems from a recent State Department report that found high levels of violence against gays in Jamaica in 2008, including "arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals. Police often did not investigate such incidents," the report concluded. ...

Gay advocates, including Supervisor Bevan Dufty, held a kick-off event in the Castro last weekend. Dufty, who is calling local gay bars to urge them to pull Myers Rum and Red Stripe beer from their shelves, also reached out to Jamaican Consul General Newton Gordon, who agreed to come to a meeting with Dufty at others at City Hall next week.

Dufty, who has traveled to the island nation six times, said the violence against gays in Jamaica -- and the fact that authorities appear to condone it -- is "unconscionable" and that he hopes a stand in San Francisco will have an effect. ...

Down in Atlanta, the Southern Voice's editor Laura Douglas-Brown is the author of an editorial that looks at some of the downsides to our boycott launch, boycotts in general and other gay-specific consumer-led boycotts, and her very limited involvement, if you can call it that, with the boycott of Cracker Barrel restaurants.

I sure hope Douglas-Brown's well-considered think-piece is the first of a few more such essays from gay editors and bloggers. All in all, in less than a week's time since the official launch happened, the coverage has been widespread and done much to educate the public about boycott, and the antigay violence in Jamaica. Expect more of the same in the coming months.

From today's Southern Voice:

THIS WEEK, A SMALL GROUP OF ACTIVISTS launched Boycott Jamaica, an effort to bring tourist dollars to bear against the Caribbean island’s long history of virulent homophobia. While the effort is still fledgling, it has the potential to have lasting impact — if not directly on the island’s government, then on boycott participants and those they educate. ...

At press time, a list of “endorsements” on the site included only eight participating bars and restaurants (all but one in San Francisco); a dozen activists; and two relatively unknown “civic organizations,” the South African Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and the Alexander Hamilton GLBT Veteran’s Post in San Francisco.

Pictures of the March 29 “Campaign Kick Off Rum Dump in the Castro” were similarly underwhelming, showing fewer than a dozen participants. ...

Jim Burroway is editor of the Box Turtle Bulletin, a website known for exhaustively debunking anti-gay talking points. Wayne Besen, a former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, founded Truth Wins Out dedicated to countering the ex-gay movement. And Michael Petrelis is a consummate rabble-rouser with a skilled eye for uncovering scandal through public documents. ...

Most more-recent gay boycotts have been neither as quick nor as effective. Perhaps the most prominent of the 1990s was the battle against Cracker Barrel, the folksy restaurant chain that unapologetically fired gay workers.

Although sit-ins and a boycott in the months following the 1991 firings drew media headlines and helped educate the American public on the discrimination faced by gay workers, the company did not rescind its policy until 2003. The change came more from pressure from inside, as shareholders repeatedly filed resolutions forcing the company to take up the issue. ...

Yet boycotts can create lasting change in their participants, helping them “get together and feel alright,” regardless of whether they succeed in changing their targets. While for too many of us, signing an internet petition is what constitutes activism these days, boycotts require us to actually do something — even if it is as simple as not ordering our favorite beer or re-routing a vacation.

I harbor no illusions that my steadfast refusal to eat at Cracker Barrel had any impact on the company dumping its anti-gay policy. But it impacted me, and everyone who had to listen while I explained why I wouldn’t eat there and they shouldn’t either.

These small acts of refusing to comply in our own community’s oppression sow the seeds that can blossom into larger change — whether in our families, the streets, the voting booth, or even entire governments.

For the sake of the LGBT residents of Jamaica, let’s hope it works.


Steve G said...

Mike, Red Stripe (owned by Diageo) has pulled sponsorship for events in Jamaica where homophobic artists perform and they're taking a lot of heat in Jamaica. Diageo scored a perfect score in America from HRC for being a great place for gay employees to work. I don't know if it's fair for us to target Red Stripe when they seem to be an ally in Jamaica.

Unknown said...


that diageo has done some good pro-gay actions in jamaica and has a good ranking from the gay Democrats at HRC, are laudable. i hope to discuss with the company what they else they might do to combat the mounting violence against gays in jamaica. let's see how to make red stripe more of an ally, as we also continue to pressure the honorary consul here in SF and the embassy in DC.