Friday, October 16, 2009

(Click here for info on the Buju boycott.)

Gay Jamaican: Buju Meeting Was A 'Good Step'

One of the gay Jamaicans who reached out to me after the launch of the tourism and Red Stripe boycott earlier this year, who prefers to be known by the initials H.A., has kept in touch with me. I asked him this week, as the roiling controversy over the Monday meeting between San Francisco gay leaders and Buju Banton, for his thoughts on it all. H.A. sent his comments to be shared because he wants to reach gay Americans and engage with us to help bring improvement to gay Jamaicans.

One idea of H.A.'s that is something we talked about when the Red Stripe boycott started - placing ads in Jamaican newspapers and on local TV - calling for respect of gay people. Of course, I don't have access to the kind of money it would take to begin media education campaigns in Jamaica, but if I did, I'd work with H.A. to get the ads before readers and viewers.

Thanks, H.A., for your time and thoughts. Please, give your attention to what H.A. has to say:
Hey, Michael. This is indeed interesting. I knew Mark (Buju) some time ago; in fact, I was his senior and one of his trainers when we did martial arts so many years ago. It has been a bit sad for me to see what has happened to him because of his refusal to use his influence and position to try to promote an atmosphere of tolerance towards the GLBT community here in Jamdown.

As you mentioned, he would have cited Rastafarian beliefs as his justification for not attempting to address the issue in any meaningful manner. At this point, I think he is certainly more willing to see what can be done to prevent any further tarnishing of his already riddled reputation. His pocket (and those of his managers, etc.) has certainly been hit hard more times than I'm sure he would care to count. The real challenge now, I suppose, is to not bully him too much (I'm not saying get rid of the bullying completely); just see how some kind of compromise can be reached.

Also, we don't need another case of the Reggae Compassionate Act, where artistes who signed or claimed to sign, recanted or denied that they ever did. The real problem is that Mark (Buju) stands to lose a lot of credibility and reputation both here in Jamaica and with hardcore dancehall fans abroad if he is seen to be "too friendly with the gays" (to put it nicely). There needs to be something very public, and very concrete that will be irrefutable.

Well, to be quite honest, I don't think the meeting was a waste of time. I believe that it is very good to have some kind of dialogue going, which was very evident from the robust discussion on your blog recently. :)

While it may be disheartening to the gay community here in Jamaica that the recognition of one's humanity and one's Jamaican-ness is all contingent on one being heterosexual; and also the fact that the government has not only been perpetuating, but actively participating in this bigotry and discrimination, the fact is that this meeting was a much-welcomed effort.

JFLAG's response to your initiative is unnecessary; just as much as JFLAG's existence. JFLAG, in its current state of passivity is, quite frankly, a useless entity; and not one that the Jamaican gay community should be allowing to speak on its behalf. Brian Williamson was the face of JFLAG. As much as it pains me to say it, his death and that of Steve Harvey, did more for advancing gay rights in Jamaica than anything JFLAG has done since their demise.

We are seen as a joke, because the gay community, barring a few dedicated members, is disgustingly passive. You call for a boycott, and only a very small few respond. You call for a meeting, and most will find some excuse to not be there. The majority of the gay community does not seem too concerned with their own rights and welfare, and it shows in their lack of action. The meeting was a good step.

Until we seriously galvanize the rest of the community to action, we are at a dead-end.

There is a little change going on, though. Royal Palm Estate, now The Blackburns, a local series - I don't know if you've ever heard of it - has made an effort to expose Jamaica to the notion of gays in the media (as more than just objects of ridicule) through the incorporation of characters like Jeffrey Blackburn, a few years ago and, more recently, the character of Alexi Goldberg, a gay (male) fashion designer, but played by local sportscaster and actress, Dahlia Harris. I suppose the idea of a gay man being played by a man was too much to ask. Still, it's a step in the right direction.

What is needed from JFLAG and allies of the gay community, is an alliance with local media and artists, to create more programmes aimed at promoting further objective discussion on various issues concerning gay rights, and the purchase of slots in print and electronic media, that will air or display public service announcements aimed at sensitizing the general population in Jamaica of the plight of gay citizens. Perhaps the government will get the drift that the time for change is now.

One Love,

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