18 November 2008

Thomas Glave's work inspires video

The videographer writes:
"Tribute to the gay Jamaican poet's book Words to Our Now; I showed this at a presentation I gave at a conference as a supplemental music video interlude; as an example of the beautiful and convicting form of epideictic rhetoric that Glave employs. I got wonderful feedback from Mr. Glave on the video. I am glad he felt honored. His essays inspired me, may do the same for you-- "

11 October 2008

15 August 2008

Conscious lyrics?

Conscious deejay Miguel Collins, more popularly known as Sizzla, has advocated murder in at least 35 songs, that's more than Ninja man, Mavado or Munga, yet he still considers himself righteous.
The Jamaica Observer has a revealing article on the so-called conscious lyrics of Sizzla, demonstrating that fundamentalism of whatever colour or flavour is toxic to humans. Unfortunately, it is the more visible and vocal Rastafarians like Sizzla who shape the world-view and attitudes of the idren, spreading bigotry and violence across the land. Is it any surprise then that the country finds itself in such a state of anarchy and barbarism when a supposedly conscious artiste espouses and promotes these sociopathic views? It is no small comfort that gays are not the only targets of his ethnic cleansing which would eliminate Pope John Paul II, politicians, policemen, informers, gunmen, and even an innocent taxi driver. Would this bloodlust end by turning the gun on himself as Jah's self-appointed chief gunman?

When impressionable minds of under-educated, hopeless males with low self-esteem, lack of autonomy and insecure in their sexuality are fed a constant diet of "conscious lyrics" like this, it is a form of conditioning that creates delusional power, a megalomania which manifests in the slaughter we are now suffering. Any innate feelings of love, compassion or altruism are swept away in a flood of adrenalin and testosterone triggered by fear, inadequacy and paranoia. The autotoxicity has to stop but it can only begin after we recognize that we are destroying ourselves and instead, feed our minds with enlightened, uplifting thoughts.

The gun may give marginalised males temporal power which lasts only until they are brought down by the gun. True, lasting power is derived from healthy self-image and self-esteem that gives rise to autonomy and self-actualisation. The individual grows, the society thrives.

02 August 2008

Gays, Africa, Two Spirits, and Astrologers

Many ancient and traditional cultures have had the wisdom to reserve special roles for persons who displayed other than heteronormative behavior. These gifted ones would be recognized in childhood and raised differently, often as transgendered as they were thought to have two spirits. They were regarded as "good medicine" by North American tribes and, naturally, as intermediaries between earth and heaven, this world and the next, due to their synthesis of both male and female polarities. They would become the tribes' or societies' priests, shamen or soothsayers; in some West African traditions they were known as gatekeepers who controlled the portals to the divine. Such a role is given to Elegba in the Orisha tradition where he oversees doorways, entrances and crossroads. In his Haitian manifestation as Papa Legba he is the loa of gays.

We have retained much of our African spiritual roots in the syncretic practices of Pocomania, Kumina, Myal and Revival. It would be logical to expect that an intermediary role of some description would have survived and be ascribed to two-spirits. There is a strong homosexual dynamic at play in the phenomenon of a male adherent being "ridden" by a male deity.

Unfortunately, the homophobia that prevails in Jamaica would preclude any academic study of this aspect of our heritage; scholars who happened to be homosexual would not risk being outed by association, and straight ones would not wish to become tainted, even for the sake of intellectual pursuit. By now we should have deconstructed much of our African past, our slavery experience and the effects both have had on our collective psyche. Alas, our centers of learning have not the academic and intellectual freedom to free our people from mental slavery. The majority of our people will continue to labour under the delusion that homosexuality is a latter-day phenomenon inflicted on black people by white colonials. The irony is that it is to the fundamentalist Christianity and anachronistic laws that were used by the white masters to control the natives that we now cling so defensively.

Emancipendence fartit ... er, platitudes

We must hasten to ensure that every Jamaican, while fully respecting the needs of others, will not be impeded in the enjoyment of those inalienable rights and freedoms. In order to do this, we must urgently conclude the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides a wider and more effective protection of those rights and freedoms to which every Jamaican is entitled.
- Governor-General Professor Kenneth Hall
When individuals and communities are forced to live in fear, their condition is not much different from what was experienced under the slave masters ... When we sow seeds of disunity and set one against the other, we are employing the same tactics used in slavery. When we disrespect each other, we are behaving just like the slave master who disrespected us ... Being a free people means that we must respect each other's freedom and the right of every one of us to live peacefully and seek after our well-being.
- Prime Minister Bruce Golding
Issues of rights and freedoms need constant attention ... neeed constant reviewing, fine-tuning and updating ...
- Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller

Can LGBTQ Jamaicans feel that they are full citizens when their consensual behavior is criminalized, they are attacked and assaulted at will, hounded out of home and job, set upon in the streets, victimized by the police and deprived of constitutional protection? Until the relevant sections of the Offences Against the Person Law are removed and discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation outlawed, the majority of us will continue to live in fear, stress and despair.

We are accustomed to the prevailing hypocrisy so attach no significance to the high-sounding seasonal releases from our leaders. If you thought for a minute their rhetoric included us, your delusion is forgiveable as the desire for freedom is unquenchable in the face of all hostility. None of them have lifted a finger to help us. Social attitudes are difficult to change but real leaders lead; they have an obligation to show a higher way, a broader horizon, larger possibilities. But i forget, we're still on the plantation and it's as much as the overseers can do to keep it running.

10 June 2008

Thomas Glave blasts Golding

May 27, 2008

In response to the latest episode of a Jamaican (you know who…) embarassing himself and the rest of us by confusing nationalist sentiment with informed political discourse, Thomas Glave posted his statement at Calabash on the queer Caribbean listserv:

Dear C-FLAG Listserv community,

Yesterday (May 23, 2008), in Jamaica, at the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, where I still am, I read selections from my new, just barely published edited anthology Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles; in fact, this reading opened the Calabash weekend. However, given Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s recent antigay remarks on the BBC-TV show “Hard Talk,” about which there has been much discussion in the local Jamaican press, I felt that I could not read from *this* book in particular, *in* Jamaica, without expressing my unhappiness over Mr Golding’s remarks. Because I’m not certain if the J’can press will carry any coverage of what I said, here are my remarks, addressed to the large Calabash audience, that preceded my reading. The response – at least from what I could tell – was overwhelmingly positive, even eliciting applause before I barely finished a few sentences:

“I want to say a special thanks to the Calabash organisers – Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, and Justine Henzell – for inviting me back to Calabash, this being my second reading at the festival, and for their unceasing generosity to, and support of, writers from around the world. And so, mindful of that generosity and kindness, my conscience will not permit me to begin reading from this book in particular before I say that as a gay man of Jamaican background I am appalled and outraged by the Prime Minister’s having said only three days ago on BBC-TV that homosexuals will not have any place in his Cabinet and, implicitly, by extension, in Jamaica. I guess this means that there will never be any room in Mr Golding’s Cabinet for me and for the many, many other men and women in Jamaica who are homosexual. And so I now feel moved to say directly to Mr Golding that it is exactly this kind of bigotry and narrow-mindedness that Jamaica does not need any more of, and that you, Mr Golding, should be ashamed of yourself for providing such an example of how not to lead Jamaica into the future. And so, Mr Golding, think about how much you are not helping Jamaica the next time you decide to stand up and say that only some Jamaicans – heterosexuals, in this case – have the right to live in their country as full citizens with full human rights, while others – homosexuals – do not. That is not democracy. That is not humane leadership. That is simply the stupidity and cruelty of bigotry.”

I then read excerpts from the work of 4 contributors in the book: Makeda Silvera ( Jamaica ), Reinaldo Arenas ( Cuba ), Helen Klonaris ( Bahamas ), and my own, and finished by saying, “Not just one love, Jamaica . Many loves.”

I felt terrified, to say the least, to make this statement before the reading; never have I felt so vulnerable, so exposed, and, before I walked up onto the stage, alone. But feeling embraced by the warm reception, I left the stage feeling more than ever that the title of Our Caribbean indeed speaks a truth: that this is, and will continue to be, through struggle, our Caribbean.

In solidarity, Thomas Glave

21 May 2008

Hard Talk

I'm not surprised at the PM's response in light of what he's previously said. However, on this occasion he did himself and his country a disfavor, passing up the opportunity to display the level of statesmanship and inspired leadership to which he aspires. I'll never forget how impressed i and thousands of others were when he distanced himself from old-time politics when he formed the NDM. I wonder what happened to that Bruce Golding? How progressive is it to reinforce bigotry and pander to ignorance?

13 February 2008

Kenneth Reeves speaks out

Below is a letter from the former Mayor of Cambridge, MA that will be read at tomorrow's protest.

Thanks to Rev. Nancy Wilson, Rev. Durrell Watkins, Rev. Grant Lynn Ford, Rev. Robert Griffin, and the folks at the Sunrise Cathedral MCC for offering me the opportunity to address today’s protest at the Jamaican Consulate in Miami.

My name is Kenneth Reeves. I am a Black GAY Jamaican, who served three terms as the first Black Mayor in Massachusetts. I also served as the first openly gay African American Mayor in the United States, from 1992 to 1995 and then again from 2006 to 2007.

Today, I address you as a recently reelected member of the Cambridge, MA. City Council. I will share my remarks here with the people of Cambridge as well as with all of the notable Jamaican leaders I can contact--particularly Jamaican Prime Minister, Honorable Bruce Golding, the Jamaican Ambassador to the United States Gordon Shirley, the Jamaican Counsel General in Miami Mr. Ricardo Allicock, my friend Counsel General in New York City, Dr. Basil Bryan, Her Worship Councilor Brenda Ramsay Mayor of Mandeville, and His Worship Senator Desmond McKenzie the Mayor of Kingston.

Let me be brief. As a Jamaican born of two Jamaican parents and as a Jamaican American politician, who has been noted and celebrated as a Jamaican, I cannot celebrate or sit in silence after the recent news of the homophobic acts of vicious brutality using MACHETES and gasoline burnings of at least one man in Mandeville, Jamaica a little more than a week ago. These atrocities occurred during a home invasion done to the occupants because they were thought to be homosexuals.

I am both saddened and bothered by the fact of the Mandeville incident, but most importantly I believe that I must not be silent in the wake of this incident. Jamaica is an important country. It produced Marcus Josiah Garvey and the forbearers of Malcolm X. It cannot be that in this twenty first century it has truthfully descended to the embarrassing label given it by Time Magazine as “the most homophobic place on Earth”. The recent autocracies in Mandeville, Jamaica give credence to this title, sadly to me!

Mandeville is my mother’s ancestral birthplace and it is the home to many of my fondest memories. I have visited my family homestead in Mandeville several times. Mandeville is a City that prides itself on being “better” than most Jamaican places. These homophobic acts are not the first vicious homophobic acts in recent Jamaican memory. There have been similar incidents in Kingston and in Jamaican prisons. When similar acts occurred, particularly in Kingston, I contacted the Boston Counsel General Kenneth Guscott; subsequently Counsel General Gordon Shirley in New York, as well as Ambassador Dr. Basil Bryan. My conversations were gentlemanly and cordial, very respectful on both sides, though I was very direct in my appeals that Jamaicans must, by way of their leadership, decry brutalities that are steeped in hatred of homosexuals and lesbians.

The world wide Human Rights Community has stated that if Jamaica is to be considered among the civilized and progressive nations, it must protect the basic survival rights of all human beings in its borders. Jamaica’s national motto is “Out of many people- one.” Well, the “many people” includes many gay and lesbian people who are not protected by the local and national authorities such that they face unfettered mob attacks in their homes for even being “suspected” of being homosexuals. This is a horrendous state of affairs. As a Jamaican American, I do not expect to tell the Jamaican government how the country should be run, but because of the Jamaican blood in my veins, I must say this-- Jamaica is a better than these ugly homophobic incidents.

I must also note that in light of Jamaica’s desire to be a tourist Mecca, these constant incidents reduce the attraction of the island as a chosen destination. Unchecked mob violence is understood world wide to be the breakdown of civil society. Along with the rest of the world, Jamaican society should fast forward and join the 21st century, acknowledging that gay and lesbian people exist and along with all other citizens have the right to exist with the expected protections given to all citizens. Jamaica cannot advance in the way that Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados and have as its chief moniker that it is “the most homophobic place on Earth”, with plenty of recently incidents to prove the fact.

To the men and women of the elected government, Prime Minister Bruce Golding and other local and national representatives-- the purpose of this February 14, 2008 rally is to say we are speaking out as the first critics of the barbaric treatment of homosexuals in Jamaica, which is unchecked by the police. We are also aware of and reject the explanations offered as to how these incidents are either not what they seem (lovers quarrels, unrequited love, etc) or how quiet homosexuality has always been a part of a Jamaican life since there are prominent homosexual individuals in the Jamaican government and religious communities who are understood to be necessary and valued parts of Jamaican society.

We Protest the continuing possibility that more vicious attacks on “suspected” homosexuals in Jamaica could occur without a loud outcry by the national and municipal governments and the immediate attention from the local police and constabulary officers. Where are the arrested suspects in these cases? Do the police and city governments embrace these atrocities as “normal” human behavior? In the Christian world, and Jamaicans are very Christian, you do not invade, hatchet, and burn people because you do not accept their homosexuality. God gives and God alone takes away. We are our brothers and sisters keeper. As responsible Christians and human beings, we are raising our voices in Miami on February 14th, 2008, on Valentines Day, -- a day devoted to love and human understanding. We invite Jamaica to enforce its national motto “out of the many people- one--and to include all of its people-- African, Asian, East Indian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Arawak, young, old, tall, short, and yes, straight and GAY. Thank you for your presence today!

-- Kenneth Reeves, former Mayor of Cambridge, MA

02 February 2008

This guy needs support

Constable Michael Hayden is a very worried cop. But he is not scared of gunmen or other criminals. He is afraid of some of his colleagues. He claims they are trying to force him out of his job because of his sexual orientation.

While the 24-year-old constable admits to THE STAR that he is bi-sexual, he says some officers at the Manchester police division, where he is stationed, have been accusing him based on mere suspicion after an incident when he was almost beaten by a group of men in May Pen, Clarendon.

- The Star, 2008/2/1

This cop has no protection from the constitution of Jamaica. His superiors can fire him on any pretext and there is no one for him to appeal to. He's to be commended for coming out publicly in the way he has; such courage, some would say foolhardiness, is uncommon. Will he tough it out in Jamaica, if he's not killed, or will he escape to more accommodating parts like others who've come out or been outed like Digicel Rising Star Kyino Cunningham who i heard was shipped out to Japan by his mother?

We cannot look to the Golding administration for any relief from the obsolete laws which set the tone for the homophobia which prevails. If the Lawyers Christian Fellowship had their way, even more stringent sanctions would be written into the law and constitution. The last i heard, no one was agitating for same-sex marriage in Jamaica but i suppose they want to pre-empt any such notion.