It seems every time we move away from JFLAG to other issues their stewardship turns up in our faces and all for the wrong reasons, a meeting at the the weekly Open Mic Open Soul dated August 3, 2011 hosted at the Couture Oasis and temporary home of their Non Governmental arm The Underlined Response where Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays, JFLAG was invited alongside AIDSFREEWORLD and the UNAIDS country Representative Pierre Somse to discuss the recent Ad campaign and the other planned activities in coming months. We certainly went with an open mind to hear all the plans as held close to the chests of the powerful but it turned out to be an abysmal show by the organizations JFLAG and AIDSFREEWORLD with its legal representative while stressing is being paid to be such spoke for much of the discussion although he stressed he would not speak on behalf of JFLAG he ended up doing so which at some points became a monologue used to throw stones at critics of the failures like myself and others present. It was a good litmus test for the younger advocates were present to know what to expect in the field especially when one is going against decades of an established dicta-tum that has gone un-critiqued, almost infallible and unfettered by the very community it says it serves.
Also See: The more things change the more they stay the same ….. JFLAG’s prescriptive culture still exists
The session started with an attempt to explain how they arrived at the series of public stands starting from the Walk for Tolerance in Montego Bay in 2010, when questioned about the belief that the LGBT agenda was slid under that activity dishonestly he stumbled in explaining the reasons for it, from the get go the descending began as the usual pontifications and prescriptions were infused every now and then. He tried to say that the MSM group was not doing self advocacy. As for the partners who were also in the stand as expected the incestuous links were included but when the moderator throw out an open question to the audience, if anyone else knew of them? there were only five hands raised out of the thirty some persons present on the outside while others not in earshot mingled in the lounge itself and by the bar clearly uninterested in the session. The snide remarks and condescending tone also did not sit well with many persons who eventually retreated to the bar to have drinks and chat with others literally left the discussions for home or elsewhere.
As for the ad campaign which we finally got to after much talk and subtle complaints that others are criticising too much (I know that one was for me) and not doing enough to their liking. He continued that the sharing of information through key people, when asked if there was any testing done or feedback process built into the advocacy? Maurice Tomlinson answered that social media was used but what he did not mention was that it was a select few who are allowed to be on that page. Also the comments not allowed on the JFLAG site he side stepped the issue, a practice used during the rest of the uneasy event.
Persons had difficulty understanding UNAIDS representative Pierre Somse’s presentation due to his deep accent but in essence he reiterated the need for groups to work together in solving some of the issues.
Question on what drivers of homophobia the tolerance walks and stands are to be addressed by them and the process thinking applied to were posed by the moderator however yet another set of skirting around the issue as the cop out was it’s another whole set of issues. The video which had been run before was rebroadcast and then came the feedback most of which echoed the original comments elsewhere and on this blog that the persons seen in the clip did not reflect the true LGBT demographic to which Mr. Tomlinson while before in his introduction said he wasn’t there to speak on JFLAG’s behalf did speak for the J all through. There was one commendation about the idea itself but the actors are another matter.
As at the creation of this post the clip on Youtube had only 2,826 hits which says something to me, the LGBT community is way bigger than that especially those who use the internet for socialization, could it be lack of interest after seeing the video?. Mr. Tomlinson continued while the Executive Director of JFLAG sat quietly that the actors who were in the clip were the only ones who agreed to come forward but seeing that the invitation was never thrown out to the LGBT body politic one wonders where did they ask for persons to come forward? Two females in the session eventually agreed to participate in the next video but after the series of discussions and an invitation to assist with the upcoming Pride Fest extended by the new President of The Underlined Response was snubbed and skirted around again much to the dismay and cynicism of persons in the audience they are having second thoughts. All the while the JFLAG Executive Director sat still quietly or whispering with the two “foreigners” obviously from some agency who were not introduced to the audience. He made only a few interjections.
When asked to suggest anyone else who could assist with the suggested project Mr. Tomlinson couldn’t name anyone and then flatly told the audience “I can’t assist” …… “The advocacy initiatives which AIDSFREEWORLD supports are generally to do with AIDS and vulnerable communities, a pride fest would be a little out of the norm, I am not saying, you know …. you caught me off guard, I am not saying it’s impossible to do but it is about but for right now the focus is challenging homophobia and any kind of initiatives we support would have to be challenging homophobia as a direct co relation to its impact on HIV/AIDS because we are AIDSFREEWORLD …… if you can craft a proposal in a way that speaks to homophobia and its impact or this event addressing homophobia and its impact on HIV/AIDS then perhaps I could be able to get my organization to come on board, it’s all about how you couch it” he continued “You said your thing was August 28th, I am out of commission for the rest of the month.”
This did not sit well with many persons in the audience as the moving bodies and puzzled faces attested to despite the continued pressing of the Underlined Response President so much so that the volunteers for the video campaign are having second thoughts but the feedback did not come until after the departure of the guests which I was not comfortable with but it shows persons are not blind and can see through the smoke. Some were caustic in their remarks and suggested that the players in the field of advocacy were all about self praise and not serious about seeing positive things happening in the community, Mr. Tomlinson’s flat out refusal to be cooperative with the UR President’s overture was what stood out in the minds of many. When I quizzed the persons on the inside as to why they did not leave the bar and participate the vast majority most of whom are young adults said they thought it was a waste of time meanwhile the feedback section of which the moderator had a hard time getting responses to ended the session. Persons seemed in a daze following the last utterances of Mr. Tomlinson and the silence of Mr. Lewis. I would have preferred persons expressed themselves more openly though, maybe it’s something we need to work on.
It seems every time JFLAG appears at the Oasis they do not come across well to the audience, one could assume that the audience maybe is too astute to be dazzled with self promotion and boasts of achievement or they the J are intimidated by the persons present knowing how critical some can become, what also was a point expressed by a member in the audience after the guests departed was why is it that its only by invitation that the J appears at the Oasis, why can’t they come on their own recognizance?
If anyone has a problem with criticism then clearly they are founded on some truth then or one would not feel repulsed by them, implicit in the criticisms themselves are the solutions one does not have to spell it out as if one is addressing kindergarten students or spoon feeding babies. One should learn from them and grow. JFLAG albeit any other group has to now know that gone are the days of the aura factor in getting the community to support the activities, accountability and listening to the community are key and the all important respectful engagement with all parties critics or not as persons are no longer sitting down and accepting what others think is good for us, persons are asking questions, persons are rethinking the wheel, persons are far more astute and critical with a dose of cynicism than before, to become testy during a forum to which an invitation was sent is not the way to go.
Peace and tolerance