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