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


Long said...

glad to read this!

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richard said...

wow. real talk from a man with impressive credentials! nuff respect.

i must say tho that i am wary of HRC's language as to whether we are "civilized" though, that is a statement laden with racism and the skewed lens of colonialism. non-white people are too often referred to as "savage" "barbaric" and "uncivilized" when we commit violent acts that white folks also commit. these same terms are used by (white) people in power in the US when referring to people in the Middle East... meanwhile, the US is torturing and killing people en masse.

that said, i am glad to have been pointed towards this blog! i will put you in my blogroll. aaiight? one

bless up,