Media catches fire and advocacy rises somewhat from rigormortis
With all the letters and responses of recent appearing in the newspapers predominantly the Jamaica Observer and to a lesser extent The Gleaner the firestorm of course came from the recent Walk for Tolerance event as organised and carried out by Jamaica AIDS Support for Life with some 13 other non governmental groups and the Ministry of Health. By now we all know the perception is that is was a gay pride march under the guise of a HIV specific activity as funded by UNAIDS, the humongous rainbow flag was enough to say just that. One wonders if proper thought was put into planning this activity and the possible fall out. There is high speculation in some circles that many international funders were and are considering moving their financial support to other places from Jamaica and by extension the Caribbean as they feel the various organisations have not been carrying out there work as they say they would have done so the groups including JFLAG and others now have to show evidenced based proposals and interventions so as to prove that they are serious about reaching their respective goals as they have set in previous proposals and in their mandates. The strong criticisms and opposition to some issues and actions from activists, bloggers and concerned persons outside the formal advocacy system that is dominated by the three main organisations namely JASL, CVC and JFLAG has helped to shake up the status quo hence a sudden jolt of activities, a raft of so called consultative meetings and other activities that should have been happening during their years of existence. The pressure needs to be stepped up or at least maintained as no longer can we ordinary GLTBQI People be quiet towards the folks who have placed themselves in positions to speak on our or a group’s behalf and then drop the ball, become lazy and unaccountable for what they commit to.
So those mitigating circumstances could be the reasons why we saw a hastily put together walk for tolerance and other activities that I guess would not have occurred anytime soon if the some of the above factors never become a reality. So we had to be forced into a position of action, what a sad state of our advocacy? Yesterday April 22, 2010 another attempt was made to “fix” the public relations mess caused by the perception of the fake gay march on a radio station Newstalk 93 FM which interviewed human rights Lawyer and one of the tolerance walk’s organisers Maurice Tomlinson. He hinted that the issue came to light from a report from a television clip on Television Jamaica TVJ focusing on the MSM participants in the walk, to think that some three or four persons in Montego Bay, Kingston and Mandeville have suffered in some way since the walk from their houses being stoned to verbal abuse and a lesbian sister has been verbally abused in her community. The complacency over the years by the groups in advocacy as they dominate the landscape has slowed for now but I wonder for how long if whatever funding that is now being aggressively sought by the same groups should come through despite the strict monitoring by the funders especially the Global Fund the complacency may very well set in again until it is time to apply for another tranche. The equation has often been played out over the years.
On the other side of the coin the homophobes including so called Christians who were waiting in the wings caught the ammunition they needed through the JASL public relations mess to re-launch their attacks after a long hiatus. Notably Ms Shirley Richards, the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship architect made her views known in a letter to the Gleaner where she always gets space, she said that she always suspected that groups were using HIV issues to hide the homophobic agenda.
Well so what? The rate of infection in the MSM and gay community is high now standing at a high of 30% and there is a bridge to the mainstream through this grouping as bisexual contact and down low activity provides fertile ground for the virus to pass on. Funny how these Christian groups are so dark in their thinking. The marriage of the Dudus extradition affair, the incarceration of Buju Banton and the visa revocation issues is now almost a belief held true by many commentators and columnists.
The Jamaica Observer of note has been airing the views of both sides specifically the letters on tolerance and human rights law from Maurice Tomlinson so much so that the homophobes themselves have been complaining of the paper allowing too much “gay material” (my words). It is good that there is ventilation of the issues in writing if that could spread to the tabloid papers such as the Jamaica Star as well. The blogosphere is not to be undone my blogs have seen their fair share of public comments mostly positive but my email inbox has the caustic negative stuff with comments ranging from we must die to the buggery law must not be repealed. I prefer to stay in the blog world though and continue as a matter of record it can always be read and reread and specific matters referred to when needed with freedoms that no newspaper editor can adjust, ignore or withdraw if one should write in for publication. Someone had suggested I also write to the newspapers but I know they are not going to publish my stuff as easily as I have submitted materials before, maybe they’re too strong.
A sea of Jamaican gay bloggers here and abroad have now appeared on the landscape since the early days of bloggers on GLBTQ issues tackling everything from personal commentary on sexuality to more political, religious and theological subjects which is really good it’s about time we raise issues outside of JFLAG as they haven’t been doing a good job in as far as internet space advocacy, poor indeed. These other conversations are healthy as they allow for venting and examination of what other persons are thinking and feeling, pity we didn’t start this ten years earlier but it’s not too late for a shower of rain.
For more socialising and sharing of other materials join my GLBTQ Jamaica Linkup NING site by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating your interest. The site is private and there are strict guidelines for members.
Peace and tolerance