Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Letter of the Day | LGBT have right to sit at Emancipendence table

Published:Tuesday | July 26, 2016 | 12:08 AM


I was quite bemused with your recent reporting of Amina Blackwood Meeks' displeasure about J-FLAG's decision to celebrate Pride during the 'Emancipendence' period. Bemused because the significance of Pride during such a period - notwithstanding one's opinion of the LGBT community - seemed self-evident. In hindsight, perhaps I was being naive to expect others to instinctively connect the dots.

The commemoration of Emancipation and Independence calls on each and every one of us to reflect on our history and how far we have come as a people from centuries of servitude, degradation, and unfair treatment of the highest order. Implicit and explicit in our celebration is the extent to which we were and continue to be resilient in the face of the ugliest shades of oppression.

The LGBT community in Jamaica has taken note of this significance and has decided that they, too, have been resilient in the face of oppression. They continue to make homes and communities out of a place that would rather they exist in silence or the extreme of not existing at all. And much like slavery and colonialism, the status quo is kept through discrimination and violence. Surely, as an academic and a cultural ambassador, one must be able to discern the connections and parallels that can be drawn here.

Our inability to recognise and acknowledge the fact that there are some Jamaicans who continue to be excluded from definitions of Jamaicanhood raises the question of citizenship. That is, we must consider who can truly be Jamaican and what any deviation from these norms (of Jamaicanness) mean for the violating party.

Queen Ifrica's use of her 2013 Grand Gala performance to promote anti-gay sentiments at a national, state-funded independence event meant for all Jamaicans is indicative of the fact that not all of us are welcome to celebrate Jamaica and its triumphs. Having been relegated from the ital dish, this community is finding innovative ways to celebrate its own triumphs.

We cannot continue to operate as though only some Jamaicans have a right to freedom and self-expression, while trying to infringe the rights of those we've deemed second-class citizens to create safe spaces for themselves.

Instead of chastising the LGBT community for celebrating the period how they see fit, perhaps as a cultural ambassador, Blackwood Meeks should look into finding creative ways to get Jamaicans interested in understanding our history and how it continues to shape our lives.