a month-long (Aug-Sep ’09) experimental roundup & commentary on regional GLBT news on the web
We’re excited to learn that Erline Andrews and Cedriann Martin, two journalists who’ve shown a strong interest in covering gay, lesbian and trans issues, will both be part of the much rumoured new publication being launched by Lasana Liburd, tnttimes.com. The e-zine, set for launch on October 5, promises to “focus on features and analysis rather than news reporting” and will include some GLBT coverage in its initial stories.
To continue to follow the Kolen Salandy & Rondell Thomas story, see ongoing updates to our main blog entry. New news reports in the Tuesday papers suggest the killings may be linked to “a fracas in the Signal Hill area on Friday night, which continued into Scarborough”.
Micah Fink’s new multimedia documentary project, Glass Closet: Sex, Stigma and HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, now online, is part of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s project “HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean: A deadly cycle of stigma and secrecy”, airs on television tonight, and is the subject of panels at New York City journalism schools today. He writes an essay on homophobia, HIV and Jamaica in the Atlantic, “How AIDS Became a Caribbean Crisis”, that travels old ground with familiar emotions to keep attention on Jamaica as a Caribbean “case study in how anti-gay attitudes have helped spread and intensify the epidemic’s impact”. As ‘Caribbean masculinities’ analysts have begun to do increasingly, he too points to homophobia’s impact beyond gay men and HIV – deploying a ghetto-born UWI academic and a school principal in a narrative of how “young men from the ghettos will go to great lengths to avoid saying the number ‘two’” which has “become associated with going to the toilet…and hence, by an almost magical association, with homosexuality”, making “teaching mathematics…particularly problematic when the majority of students refuse to use one of the cardinal numbers”. Miriam Maluwa, UNAIDS country rep. offers stark truths like “[Gay men] marry fairly rapidly, they have children fairly rapidly to regularize themselves”, but then contributes to stigma by noting this “is really a ticking bomb…this targeted group, having quite high levels of infections, which is interacting sexually with the general population”. But Fink begins to open new doors of understanding with his closing words, from a gay man at JAS who lost a lover and a close friend to violence, who pans: “If it were AIDS that were killing us…I would use a condom. But it’s people, not AIDS, that is killing us.”
The Stabroek News headline says it all: “Mavado treats crowd to full range of hits”, “including those that had caused the Government of Guyana to earlier deem him a security risk at the National Park on Saturday night”. Guyanese advocates complained that “The government should not have lifted the ban on Mavado”. But, the Stabroek News previously reported, prior to the concert President Bharrat Jagdeo had told the media that “Mavado had written a letter to the Office of the President apologizing for his past performance here which included homophobic and offensive lyrics” and “the government’s chief spokesman Dr Roger Luncheon, told reporters…that the lifting of its ban against Mavado was done in the context of the artiste being given an opportunity to mend his ways in respect of social norms and as part of its commitment to encourage more public entertainment”.
A Guyanese immigrant, Satesh Shiwkaran, and the company he worked for have been ordered by a human rights tribunal in Ontario, Canada to compensate a worker Shiwkaran supervised for “continuous provocation which saw him calling his colleague ‘bati boy,’ among other things”, because the worker and his wife were having difficulty conceiving a child. The Stabroek News also reported the supervisee said Shiwkaran told him “he did not know how to have sex with his wife and even offered to sleep with the man’s wife on many occasions.” The fine was only CN$2,000, and many of the complainant’s other charges were dismissed as exaggerated or not credible, the paper said, including his claim that Shiwkaran poisoned his work environment and caused him to leave the job in 2005, which was not upheld by the tribunal.
A Latin American Herald Tribune writer covering the politically charged Juanes “Peace Without Borders” concert in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion noted that in “the vast sea of concert-goers” “estimated by organizers at 1.15 million” who waved “flags of Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Chile, as well as canvases with the portrait of the Cuban-Argentine guerrilla, Che Guevara”, “some of the youngest, who were the absolute majority at the concert, also carried flags with rainbows, representing gay liberation”.
Biggest story is the murder of Tobago teenage boys Kolen Salandy and Rondell Thomas, whose battered bodies were both found in a bushy area of Scarborough, as reported Sunday and Monday in all three dailies. A police press release indicated both boys’ underwear and pants were puleed down to their knees. Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Orville London (who told anti-Elton John pastors in 2007 Tobago wouldn’t practise discrimination) is promising justice. The mother of one young man is calling for the resumption of the death penalty. We’ll do our best to follow the story as it breaks, which is also happening in the electronic media, where we are less capable of monitoring.
Some scattered items on Buju Banton’s embattled US tour. Gargamel Music seems especially peeved at the Utah cancellation. Their angry release in response was also covered with a Gleaner report headlined “Gay groups anger Buju’s management”, noting “More trouble is on the horizon for Banton” as “promoters feel the pressure of gay groups who say his music encourages violence against homosexuals”.
In Rochester, GAGV anti-violence director Kelly Clark seems to have changed her tune, a little. At the protest outside Buju’s Water Street Music Hall concert this weekend, covered by NBC’s WHEC-TV Channel 10, she said, “The song just has no business here,” asking “Boom Bye Bye” be “dropped from the line-up”. ‘We couldn’t let the artist come to town today and sing the song….It is a personal affront to every violence victim in the city.’” Protestors included non-GLBT people like Deanna Tiefenthal who said fostering violence against “these people” was “just…sickening”, and Jamie Whitbeck supporting “friends of ours” who “don’t get the same rights as we do”. Venue owner John Chmiel said in his defence: “Most people don’t understand what it really means unless you’re from Jamaica or someone who speaks the Jamaican language…I did get assurances from his management that he’s no longer playing the song whatsoever.” But US protestors have got a bit smarter than Buju’s disingenuous management: “It’s nice that he no longer sings the song in full….We’re calling for him, as I said earlier, not to freestyle the song, not to remix the song,” Clark told WHEC. “‘The song has no place here in Rochester. We’re calling for him to be a man of his word.’ And, she said, his promise doesn’t change the song’s harmful message.” But Clark kept her focus on incremental education: “We realize that people aren’t going to change their beliefs and thoughts, you know, tomorrow…. But as long as we can call attention to and use these moments to teach people, we hope that the teaching is going to be successful.” Over 80 WHEC website readers left comments on the story.
QB has quite some catching up to do, especially in a week where John Terry and murder music reporting entangled.
Oops! There was in fact one very gay programme in the T&T Film Festival. Part of a special programme at Studiofilmclub curated by critic Hilton Als (Querribbean himself), last Thursday night four shorts by critically acclaimed Kalup Linzy aired. “Pegged as a key figure in a new generation of “queer video artists, Linzy’s shorts “satirizing the tone and narrative approach of television soap opera” (samples of which you can find online) “are tender and vulgar, hilarious and heartfelt” pieces in which he “writes, directs, and stars (wigged, heeled, and often scantily clad)”. Unfortunately, the programme doesn’t repeat. At the September 17th festival screening of his landmark film Mas Man, when asked why the film, which took risks in tackling the taboo subjects of Peter Minshall’s race and class in relationship to his art, did not also address the artist’s sexuality, filmmaker Dalton Narine responded, to considerable applause: “We didn’t want to interfere with his art.” Sigh!
· One in 8 million. Something else we missed: nytimes.com’s lush audio slideshows in the series “One in 8 million” last month featured a piece by Sarah Kramer and Todd Henler on Pepper, a 48-year-old Guyanese Trans woman, who has lived in the same Prospect Heights, Brooklyn apartment for 30 years since migrating to New York in 1974. Nicknamed by a man in a Guyana market for her filthy mouth, growing up as Orrin Harris he would go to school with his shortpants rolled up “in my croutch” to make hotpants like the girls. In New York, Trans friends began shooting her with hormones out of advice “to blend in” and not be so “obvious”. After “a life of lust just doing things to men that don’t have nothing to offer you” – “soon midnight hit, pow, you hear the doorbell ringing” – her life has changed a lot. She no longer lets people get too close to her, “because every time people get close to me they always hurt me” – though “I would love to have someone to be there with me. But I am so used to being alone now. I rather be alone.” The Times dubbed her “The Nightkeeper” – because she just couldn’t deal with people, she began to sleep all day and stay up all night looking through the apartment window. “I just sit at the window, water just run out of my eyes. I like to feel that sometimes. Because it let a lot out…” (Read the 70+ comments from readers too.)
· Congratulations, Rainbow Vibes! The GLBT Ning site made Silicon Caribe’s list of “21 Caribbean Social Networking sites you need to be aware of”.
· I need not be timid. I am the Minister of Health. In his welcoming address to participants in the 13th general meeting of the PanCaribbean Partnership on HIV/AIDS’s governing body, Guyanese health minister Leslie Moonsammy lived up to the hoodspur on these issues for which he has recently become known. In florid language, he celebrated with them PANCAP’s birth “in the rich tradition of Caribbean innovativeness and in the necessity of regional solidarity” and its growth “into a mature Regional Organization and a recognized Global Player in the fight against HIV” from the “deadly throes” of 2001 “when the HIV situation in the Caribbean was dire…clouds were ominous…the smell of death had begun to intermingle with the happy Caribbean spirit” and “stigma and discrimination together as a twin evil wrapped themselves around us and wounded [sic] us within a cocoon of fear, bewilderment and the possibility of developmental regression”. But “by no means, however, would we have gained victory. Not yet”, he cautioned, “we have a long way to travel yet”. He went on “to bemoan the poor leadership being shown by Members of Parliaments in our Region” and then “place myself in harm’s way. But I need not be timid. I am the Minister of Health and I must be driven by public health reality, not by moral judgment. We live in a world where personal freedom must be acknowledged within the realm of reasonableness and within our legislative dicta. In this regards, sex between consenting adults, even if it is adults of the same gender, in private, falls into the category of personal freedom. I believe our laws are in contradiction of this expression of personal freedom. I recognize the difficulties that government face because we must take into consideration the views of our citizens before we make adjustment to our traditional laws. PANCAP must play a role in the regional conversation to address the anomaly. There has been a silence because we are shy of offending important stakeholders. But such silence has not helped us in our fight against HIV. Far from it, such silence has been deadly and has shattered too many dreams. Such silence is simply reprehensible.”
· Fighting hate speech with speech. Kareem Ivan Lewis thought he’d start a Facebook Hate group: DON’T VOTE FOR D BULLA MAN ON BMOBILE DANCE-OFF!!!! targeting Akeem Mohammed, who some reports say has come out. “We not encouraging dat stupidness in T&T! Don’t give him any support!!!” Except that Caribbean Rainbow sent the link around and almost all of the posters to his group targeted Lewis as ignorant. To support Akeem in the contest, text 343 to MOVES (66837).
· State-sponsored anti-homophobia. Last month Belize, this month Cuba. The October issue of The Advocate does an in-depth, 4,400-word story based on a private interview with Mariela Castro Espín, the 47-year-old mother of three and daughter of the President who is Cuba’s most visible fighter against homo- and transphobia, and originator of the state-sponsored celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia on the island. “While Castro Espín’s star power clearly is of great public-relations value to the Cuban regime,…‘The fight for gay rights is very much her own crusade’”, a US-based historian is quoted as saying. She talks of how she “felt like a transsexual walking down the street” with a group of Trans women being heckled, and “It hardened my resolve to change things”. “Rumors abound – is she a lesbian? No, she says…‘Being considered a lesbian would not be an insult to me,’ she scoffs. ‘Being considered corrupt would be.’” The piece also touches on Alberto Roque at Havana’s Hospital Hermanos Ameijeiras (a star of Michael Moore’s movie Sicko), who says of the criticisms of “‘many of the [gay] people who lived through that time, and now live abroad, [they] are still suffering, and cannot recover from what they suffered.’ But…‘they never talk about the people who stayed in Cuba and fought – and continue to fight – against [homophobia].’” Of Castro Espín, he says: “She’s a very, very good politician.” But, writing on the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association blog, Michael Triplett is suspicious: “It’s a terrific interview and Rowe clearly got great access to government officials and voices. … The story is well written and President Raul Castro’s daughter appears to be a strong, passionate advocate. … I kept waiting and waiting for voices of people who disagree with the government, who trumpet the concerns over political oppression in the country, or who can provide some perspective on Espín’s comments. It just wasn’t there.”
· Hate & passion. Threatening some valuable gains in policing for GLBT communities in Jamaica over the past couple years, John Terry’s murder, for many the lead story this week, has triggered a new wave of hypocrisy and cynicism on GLBT human rights by the Bruce Golding administration and the Jamaican police (JCF). JCF Head of Serious and Organised Crime, Assistant Commissioner Les Green, a British expat, is quoted in the Jamaica Observer and media around the world and the region saying, “There are openly gay people in Jamaica and they live quite openly and mingle freely”, attacks of gay men have happened mainly in greater Kingston, “but they have never ended in murder”. The Observer cites “police statistics” to claim “the vast majority of gays who die violently in Jamaica are victims of crimes of passion…almost always carried out in the same fashion”. In the narrow thinking of the JCF, like many Jamaicans, the crime was likely “the end result of a lovers’ spat”, and bias and crime of passion are “inconsistent”, so evidence suggesting there was a sexual relationship between Terry and his killer mean it was not a homophobic attack. But they didn’t stop there, and as J-FLAG quickly pointed out, “their statements about the nature of the killing” appear to be “based on attempts to protect the image of Jamaica”. Despite J-FLAG’s success in spinning the story, media coverage in Jamaica still includes such statements as “Jamaica has long been lambasted by the gay community for its perceived intolerance of the gay lifestyle, which is often exacerbated by the anti-gay lyrics of some dancehall artistes”. Rod 2.0 mocks Green’s comments by creating links to living “quite openly” and “mingling freely” on his blog; and the Pink News reminds us of comments last year in the New York Times by Mandeville police station commander Insp. Claude Smith: “Based on the response of these mobs, people get very angry when they come across [gays]. I don’t think they can survive in the open.”
· The Honorary Consul. Terry’s murder, in which his sexuality has become a key and contested detail, has focused much critical attention on Jamaica, but surprisingly little exploration beneath the surface of that sexuality, or the complicated life it was a part of. Although the 2,500-word-long Daily Mail’s tabloid exposé “How murder of our gay man in Jamaica has exposed the double standards of the paradise island” claims to focus on how the murder “has scandalised and embarrassed even unshockable” Jamaica, its webpage shows an alternative headline that reveals what it’s really aiming at: “the tangled private life of the murdered Honorary Consul”. “However we might describe” his “lifestyle in this hedonistic Caribbean playground, if truth be told it was anything but ‘simple’”, David Jones writes, mocking Terry’s wife’s description of the way her husband lived his life as “either commendably discreet or desperately naive.”. Iinvoking the Graham Greene thriller novel (“about sex and betrayal in a distant British diplomatic backwater”), he continues, “On the contrary, he led an astonishingly complex life” as “the camp, flamboyant character who, almost from the moment he arrived on the island four decades ago, was prepared to flout Jamaica’s archaic, and often brutally enforced, gay taboo to pick up youthful West Indians for casual sex. His numerous male lovers included Desmond”, a “slender, shaven-headed man, who asked not to be identified for fear that he might be targeted next” – “a 45-year-old Jamaican charity worker” who, weeping, “told me how he and ‘Mr John’ had been occasional partners for almost 30 years, having first met on a beach when Mr Terry was in his mid-30s, and Desmond was just 16.” Desmond describes Terry as “part of a group of wealthy, white expats in Montego Bay who coveted the company of so-called ‘coconut Rastas’: a crude term for handsome, young Jamaican boyfriends who, like a coconut, were deemed to be black on the outside, but white on the inside. The expats do not pay directly for the favours of these young men, whom they meet at known gay pick-up haunts, such as beaches and bars, but would buy expensive clothes, meals, and other gifts for them.”
Aiming to expose the “sexual hypocrisy that shames Jamaica”, Jones’s article describes a culture where a “grasping toyboy” “might start ringing their guy all the time, demanding more and more things, and if he refuses they will threaten to ‘out’ him. It’s like blackmail”, and where “white ‘sugar daddies’” occasionally “venture along” Montego Bay’s “Hip Strip…where some male prostitutes are willing to risk a beating, or worse, by openly soliciting” – yet at the same time Jamaica remains a “machismo society…still stuck in the Dark Ages” whose “abhorrence of homosexuality is rooted in a hotchpotch morality derived from ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ Christianity, Rastafarianism, and laws set down in colonial times”. This denial of homosexuality, Jones continues, is “taught in…schools and churches, parroted by…populist politicians, and booming out from…ubiquitous ghetto-blasters”, such that Terry’s maid “mouths in disgust” to the reporter: “Mr Terry — a Batty Boy?…Never!…Mr. Terry was a gentleman.”
Calling “former Scotland Yard detective” and senior Jamaican police official Les Green’s denial of any homophobic motive behind Terry’s murder an “apparent prevarication” and “a sop to local sensitivities”, Jones notes as he concludes that, regardless to motive, “even if the killer [who appears “to have been no more than 18 or 19 years old”] is caught, it could take an eternity to bring him to justice because, with 1,600 murders a year, Jamaica’s courts are swamped” and “the average time for completion of a murder trial, from arrest to verdict, is five years”.
· The Jamaican police probably will not come to your aid. Predictably, US sources are warning: “PLEASE TAKE NOTICE: If you are gay or if someone may mistakenly guess that you are gay, you are not safe to visit Jamaica. You may be subjected to violence – or even murdered – and the Jamaican police probably will not come to your aid. If you know of anyone who is planning on visiting this cauldron of hatred and violence, please give them warning. Jamaica is not safe for tourism.” “Jamaican government delusional”, a New York blogger writes. A 750-word op ed in the UK’s Pink News, despite its headline, is more sober: “the act has brought the issue of Jamaica’s culture of homophobic violence to the fore in the world’s media”, even understated: “Even popular music is underpinned by prejudice”, concluding “the gay population of Jamaica faces an uncertain future…John Terry’s murder has simply brought to the fore a problem which may take decades to resolve”. Others comment: “Christians are the main cause for homophobia in Jamaica”, but “it is not their fault they are like this…..the society as a whole teach the citizens to hate gays…..you are allowed to kill a gay man and disown your child and get away with it”. And even a linguistics blog jumps in, via an explanation of the plural term “battyman” in the note on Terry’s body, to comment: “Many ordinary Jamaicans actually seem proud of their attitude to gays.”
· The Economist, too, responds, in its economical style. In a piece whose point of view is not quite clear, the magazine acknowledges change on the island: “Some Jamaican gays say the police are becoming more helpful. Lyrics threatening death to gays by popular dance-hall artists have become much less common since the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, a regulator, decided in February to block all ‘lewd’ and violent content.” But it still concludes that “this does not herald a serious outbreak of tolerance”, and “for gays, Jamaica is closer to hell” than its “laid-back image of reggae and Rastas, sun and sand”. It mentions how in sexual offences legislative reform currently underway “under pressure from the churches, both government and opposition have taken pains to weed out any wording that might weaken the ban on gay sex”. But its main point is that “the violence is feeding a gay ‘brain drain’” to the US and Canada which, “even if they do not care about human rights, Jamaica’s politicians and its government might spare a thought for” in terms of “the impact of their intolerance on a chronically stagnant economy”.
· firstname.lastname@example.org. In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, however, Sunshine Cathedral, which has done groundbreaking programmatic work on the island, has launched an e-mail campaign to PM Golding through a video appeal by Rev. Durell Watkins on their website: “Tell him that as a person of faith you are calling for decisive action to change the culture of violence and intolerance in Jamaica. And join us in praying for an end to homophobic violence in Jamaica and around the world.” Rev. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Sunshine’s parent congregation, says: “There is nothing politically correct or culturally sensitive about failing to name the realities that are violently claiming the lives of LGBT people and justifying those heinous acts. ‘Murder music’ is neither artistic form nor cultural heritage. It is, along with cries from the pulpit for condemnation and execution, and proclamations from the Jamaican Parliament advocating life in prison for so-called ‘acts of gross indecency,’ the instigation behind and support for not only criminal and immoral behavior, but untold human suffering.”
MCC’s statements influence reportage on Examiner.com, the Denver-based national citizen-journalist site. After a headline and lead that have Terry “murdered…because of his blatant bisexuality” and “widespread homophobia blamed”, followed by a list of “atrocities” almost every one of which has some inaccuracy to it, bisexuality beat reporter Mike Szymanski posts a clip of the Watkins video for readers who are “Angry and want to do something about it”. And Colorado Springs Gay Issues ‘Examiner” James Keist also turns to MCC to report on what he otherwise sees as “a beautiful vacation destination”, where “the ugliness of gay hate crimes continues unchecked” “against native Jamaicans and those who have been ‘transplanted’ through employment or simply because of the draw of what appears to be a beautiful and welcoming spot”, and where “government leaders, fearful of potential reprisals, have turned and continue to turn a blind eye”.
· On TV Tuesday. Created through the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s project HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean: A deadly cycle of stigma and secrecy, a five-part public television series, Glass Closet: Sex, Stigma and HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, directed by Micah Fink, begins airing on World Focus on PBS stations in the US next Tuesday September 22. The first part features Sunshine’s Rev. Robert Griffin talking about the nexus between homophobia and religion and Sunshine’s Jamaica work. The videos are expected to become available on the Pulitzer website (without regional restrictions) around the same time. Two panels will take place in New York the same day with the filmmaker, World Focus’s Lisa Biagiotti, Kwame Dawes, AIDS-Free World’s Julia Greenberg, MAC AIDS Fund’s Nancy Mahon, the Pulitzer Center’s John Sawyer and Immigration Equality’s Rachel Tiven. A J-FLAG representative is listed in some announcements.
· “How do you combat a culture?” J. Clarence asks on Clips N’ Chips, “The lack of an unmistakable villain in our approach to dealing with the anti-gay laws and attacks has been one of the contributing detractions to the Boycott Jamaica campaign. Simply refusing to purchase or endorse all products from somewhere does little to target the specific issue that we fundamentally take issue with. It also spreads ourselves too broadly, which ultimately diminishes our impact.” Okay so far… But then Clarence turns to Jim Padgett’s conclusion in his controversially headlined 2006 Time article, The Most Homophobic Place on Earth? (in which he attributed “the scourge of homophobia in Jamaica largely to the country’s increasingly thuggish reggae music scene. Few epitomize the melding of reggae and gangsta cultures more than [Buju] Banton”) and then ends: “exactly how we can help gay Jamaicans combat the anti-gay reggae lyrics and culture on their shores while we combat it on ours is unknown; however…doing so..could very well be the best means we have at addressing the dangerous climate gay and lesbian Jamaicans have to live in”. Hmmm???
· “They just want a reaction from the crowd,” Everton Brown nailed it, talking to the Ottawa Citizen about Beenie Man and other dancehall artists’ homophobic lyrics. Unfortunately, Brown also thinks “lyrics are nothing more than words” and “Nobody wants anyone dead”. The third Canadian stop on Beenie Man’s North American tour, his Ottawa concert came off “without a hitch”, despite efforts by GLBT group Égale to get Canadian immigration to deny him a visa. “He’s a true entertainer,” Brown thought.
· A “battle with the gay community” “Buju vows to win” is how the Jamaica Observer entertainment reporter headlines his story (which Guyana’s Stabroek News reprints) on US protests of Buju’s Rasta Got Soul concert tour. In classic Jamaican music journalism style, Basil Walters writes of “threats by strong arms thugs from the gay community”, Buju “no doubt…reaching for the Inna Heights of his Unchained Spirit…determined not to be outdone by his detractors”, and how “Gargamel and the promoters refused to buckle under the pressure of the gay lynch mobs”. The Observer prints such allegations as the Richmond, Virginia GLBT community “threatening violence”, but also describes Buju’s label, Gargamel’s response to the GLBT protests as “damage control”.
· “It seems as if the gays are definitely out to get Buju this year,” a “well informed source close to the tour” told the Observer. Indeed. The Cancel Buju Banton website is getting play on the blogs, with a number of sites sharing contact information for remaining concert producers.
· Setting the record gay. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Community Center CEO has written an open letter that takes issue with several points in Gargamel Music’s President Tracii McGregor’s release aiming to “set the record straight” on Buju. It concludes with an invitation for Buju to visit “the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center to meet with us and to sign the Reggae Compassionate Act again. While here, we’d love to talk to him about the impact of hate speech and to meet with some of the homeless LGBT youth who live in our transitional-living program…youth who are victims of a homophobic culture, fostered by songs like ‘Boom, Bye Bye.’” But McGregor’s spin is taking hold. CaribWorldNews ends its story on the uncancelled Rasta Got Soul dates with the following: “Gay activists are still upset over ‘Boom Bye Bye,’ a song Banton wrote and recorded when he was only 15 years old.”
· Utah Got No Soul. Urban Partners and Kilby Court have nixed Buju’s appearance at the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City, . “When initially scheduling the Buju Banton event, we were unaware of his hateful anti-gay message.” Co-owner Will Sartain clarified for the that the cancellation was not because “local gay activists threatened to picket the show” “in full force the night of the concert” “and boycott all future shows at the venue”, as the headline “Gay activists’ threats nix concert” implies. Gargamel Music “immediately denounced the cancellation, issuing a news release with the title ‘The Voice of Jamaica Will Not Be Silenced’” and Tracii McGregor told the Tribune, “‘The people who lose are the fans’”, that “gay activists were practicing ‘thuggery’”, “that an alternate Utah venue would be booked to replace Urban Lounge” and that she’s “received a ‘ton of other offers’ from venues in other cities that want to host” Buju. Provo, Utah activist Ash Johnsdottir’s decision to organize the protest was a spur-of-the-moment” thing.
· “We are now in the post-protest stage” , say Philadelphia activists who “will meet to discuss further actions against the Trocadero,” (which hosted the opening concert in the tour), “including a boycott from our community”. Despite corporate promoter AEG Live’s pullout, which was expected to make this one of the earliest cancellations, protestors were defeated by the Gargamel tactic to simply have another, local promoter replace the original one. And, despite protestors’ principle “that it is important to send a clear message to every venue and promoter in the city that we will neither tolerate or accepted any form of hate speech that calls for or glorifies the killing of queers”, Edge (the Boston-based GLBT news and entertainment portal which has covered the tour relentlessly) suggests “many LGBT Philadelphians appear supportive and ready to forgive the Trocadero” who “have always been supportive of all kinds of lifestyles”, according to “local promoter Andre Phillips”. Politicians are jumping on the bandwagon: State Rep. Babette Josephs and Senator Larry Farnese, who says “advocating physical harm against fellow citizens because of their sexual orientation is conduct that we will not tolerate”. Protesters say their “attorneys have suggested a clause be inserted in every contract that gives the venue the right to cancel a concert that might promote hate and violence grounds of public policy” as a way to get a “clear agreement with the owners of the Trocadero that they will never again allow any performer to use their property if that artist has used their craft/talent to advocate hate against our community”.
· Tonight’s lead story. In Richmond, Virginia, however, elected officials are hands-off. “City Council Vice President Ellen Robertson says she won’t be meeting with the mayor and police chief about stopping the show” despite initial responsiveness. Style Weekly reports she says she “has been advised by the City Attorney that the City has no jurisdiction over the National Theatre”. And another Gargamel tactic seems to be working there: The original scheduling of Buju’s appearance for next week Saturday, “on the same date the city’s 25th annual Pride Festival will be held at the Gay Community Center, a well-attended annual event that brings together thousands of gay, lesbian and transgender people”, had generated “a storm of protest”. The controversy was the lead news story on one television station. But the show was simply moved from one location and date to another. “We are trying to move it away from the gay guys,” Lion Heart Promotions’ Kid Walker told the publication. “Sometimes the truth hurt. The Bible tell you it’s wrong to be gay.” “‘Our goal really is to have the show canceled,’ says Jay Squires, president of the community center [who] “along with other regional activists…started a Facebook page protesting Banton’s appearance which had grown to [over 2,200] members. ‘If we’re not successful…’ action could take the form of a mass protest.” MCC organizers are active in the protest. “We do this for our own community, and also for our siblings in Jamaica,” says the church’s local pastor and president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline.
· We take the matter very seriously and have re-affirmed that most people agree that Buju Banton does not advocate violence of any kind. Protestors report that some venues have simply responded to their e-mails by sending back McGregor’s release verbatim. But in Solana Beach outside San Diego, North County Times reports, the Belly Up Tavern “has heard from protesters” and, says “Beth Bennett, the club’s director of marketing and special events,…is standing by” the October 17 Buju booking. “Belly Up owners prepared a statement to explain their decision not to cancel the concert…‘We have re-examined Buju Banton’s music, his statements, his Web site, and talked with many other reliable sources throughout the music community. We have come to the conclusion that this artist does not support the point-of-view that he put forward in his controversial song, and that, to the contrary, his current performances are celebrated by many because of the powerfully positive messages he puts forward at his concert….Even so, we take this matter very seriously and have discussed our decision with members of the lesbian and gay communities both locally and nationally (including members of our staff and our own families), as well as the reggae community and other people familiar with the club and/or this issue. We have re-affirmed that most people, when looking at the facts about the artist and his music over the course of his career, agree with the conclusion that Buju Banton does not advocate violence or hatred of any kind and that canceling this show based on assertions to the contrary would not be the right thing to do.’”
· Buju’s teachable moment. Some US communities continue to explore novel responses to “murder music”, which a Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reporter describes as reggae stars using their “creativity for degrading homosexuals”. Kelly Clark, who heads the anti-violence project of the “Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley says the group is taking another tactic by not trying to stop the singer’s gig” but instead want “to use his appearance here instead as a ‘teachable moment’” and “was lining up speakers for a press conference outside the [Water Street] music hall at 3 p.m….to discuss hate crimes that gays and lesbians endure still today. … Building bridges and allowing for personal growth… is what she’s looking to do” and is giving Buju “the benefit of the doubt” on the Reggae Compassionate Act. “We’re going to ask him to stand by his word…A man’s word is his bond.” The reporter himself has yet another alternative approach to the music: “Some of us will just tune him out.”
· Murder music post Prop 8. In rare reporting on the tour protests, Edge also attempts some in-depth analysis of the politics of GLBT protests of Jamaican artists in the US. A 1,100-word piece by Kilian Melloy reflects on another one of similar length by Zamna Avila two weeks before that questioned whether “systematic boycotts and pressure against promoters to cancel anti-gay reggae artists might backfire, deepening what some consider to be a schism between gays and African Americans, who are seen as voting against GLBT equality—for example, in the revocation of the rights of gay and lesbian families last year in California, which took place at the ballot box. Anti-gay advertising in California claimed that unless marriage equality were eradicated in the state, people of faith would see their freedoms or religion and free expression eroded.”
The earlier piece cited African Americans like Herndon Davis whose comments can confuse the issue: “He said Jamaican culture has a very long history of homophobia its cultural values heighten. ‘You cannot look at them from an American perspective, they are more Africanesque in culture….There are certainly more African cultures that are less homophobic than others. The cultures eminent from Jamaican and Rastafarian are more homophobic than others.’ …. ‘It is very difficult to have dialogue if you are non-Jamaican, non-Rastafarian and Americanized’” However, Jasmyne Cannick who became a target in 2006 when she suggested GLBT rights needed to be ranked ahead of those of undocumented immigrants in the United States shows surprising maturity in raising a similar concern – “LGBT groups should consider whether it is in their best interest to go after reggae artists”. “‘We can’t bully people consistently and never give them the opportunity to show they have changed….Three, four, or even five years ago, I would have been down with protesting a Buju Banton concert but today I try to be more strategic in the issues that I take on.…I’m not saying its okay to perform those songs’…If Buju Banton wasn’t going to be performing any of the songs that are considered homophobic, chances are I would have stayed focused on the more relevant issues today—including healthcare, the economy, and so forth.”
· Catholic paedophilia, meet the abuses of development aid. A US grand jury, the Connecticut Post reports, has returned an indictment of 39-year-old Douglas Perlitz (a missionary and alumnus honoured by Catholic Fairfield University as its 2002 graduation speaker and honorary degree recipient) on “seven counts of traveling outside the United States for the purpose of engaging in sex with minors and three counts of engaging in sexual conduct in foreign places with minors”, alleging that “in establishing Project Pierre Toussaint in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti”, he “befriended boys he met on the street and recruited them to attend his mission program. Once under his care, he is accused of using food, shelter, money and gifts – including cell phones, Walkmen, clothes and other inducements – to convince disadvantaged children to engage in sexual acts with him”. The programme, which had access to over US$2 million that an attorney says has “evaporated”, “provided schooling, recreation, meals and baths to boys, as young as 6 years old, living on the streets of the impoverished nation”. The abuse spanned a decade, CNN writes, commenting that “Haiti’s abject poverty, threadbare social-service network and barely functioning legal system combine to make the country’s street kids particularly vulnerable to exploitation.” “Perlitz would take some of the minors to a restaurant, give them food and alcohol and then encourage them to spend the night with him” and “showed homosexual pornography to some of the youths as well”, CNN says the court’s indictment charges. The Hartford Courant quotes the indictment in further charging that “Perlitz told children not to be ashamed during sex acts; other times, he told them he was ‘crazy.’ When asked by volunteers why he allowed boys to sleep in his bedroom, Perlitz allegedly replied that it was common in Haiti for children and adults to sleep together and that certain of the children ‘were having a lot of difficulty.’ Children who complied were rewarded…They – and their families – sometimes received money from the contributions raised by the Haiti Fund and they were eligible for all the benefits offered by Project Pierre Toussaint. Those who refused could be denied necessities, such as bed linen, and were threatened with expulsion…”. “Haitian journalist Cyrus Sibert was the first to report about rumors of sexual abuse at the school. ‘I found many children who told me the situation at the project’”.
In a two-part piece, New York City’s Haitian Times offers backstory. “Charity has a price,” it begins. “With the Haitian government omnipotent in repression but AWOL on helping the citizenry…children are left to fend for themselves. As a result, US-based foreign missionaries, mostly church-affiliated, are filling up the void, providing the needed social services” and suggests a pattern of “some pedophiles, looking for easy preys…infiltrating these well-intentioned groups…many…well-known child molesters escaping the scrutiny of U.S authorities and relocating in Haiti where they can practice their trade with impunity. Complicating matters is the unsettling reality that foreigners (Blancs) practically enjoy de facto immunity from criminal prosecutions under an unwritten rule going back to the 18th century”. The writer, Max Joseph, assails the charity’s oversight board for its handling of the matter, which included its statement that “Haiti is a quagmire of poverty, corruption, violence and pain. Because of this, Doug’s ‘investigation’” by Haitian authorities “may never rise to our standard, America’s standard, of integrity” and its accusation that “the children were bribed into making the accusations”. (Fox News reporting suggests Rev. Paul Carrier, Fairfield University’s dismissed director of campus ministry and community service, who served as chairman of the Haiti Fund board that financed the charity, is missing; Carrier has not been charged.) Joseph points out that when “Perlitz…was fired by the organization’s board of directors following [the] allegations…in August of 2008, the funding dried up…benefactors…did not want their good names to be associated with such evil deed and the Project temporarily closed its doors during the summer of 2008. The children, facing a bleak and uncertain future, are now back on the streets.” The university is shocked and very troubled but at the press conference US attorney Nora Dannehy had the right soundbite: “Children deserve to be safe, whether they live in the United States or whether they live elsewhere.”
· Out of power. The Propaganda Press website publishes on its blog a list of Guyana’s 70 “most dangerous criminals” belonging to the ruling People’s Progressive Party’s “Crime Family Inc.”. They include “Juan Edghill – negroe frontman & homosexual maniac head of Ethnic Relations Commission & CEO of Guyana Post Office Corporation” and “Kwame McCoy – negroe front wooh!man, homo.sexual & sexual predator, Guyana’s on.again off.again first lady, presidential spokes wooh!man & mouth.piece and an incompetent jackass.”
· Items remaining on the agenda. Outed intersex South African athlete Caster Semenya’s case continues to trigger Caribbean journalism on gender, much of it both welcome and problematic at the same time. In a Jamaica Gleaner piece on butch women footballers, Mel Cooke ends with an anecdote about a teenage Jamaican footballer (whose named is changed) living in the US. Although she has faced adverse reactions to her gender presentation there, he says she “fits right in”, whereas in Jamaica she “would have a harder time” and maybe “be stereotyped as…gay”. However ,her mother refused to have her room on a school trip with a classmate going through what appears to be MTF gender reassignment, which Cooke describes as “sterilisation process on his way to becoming a woman”.
· Miscellanea. Profiles of homelessness among Puerto Rican GLBT youth. Canadian Christian Paul Kokoski, who churns out anti-gay and anti-abortion letters to the editor globally (in 2007 we found them in papers in Ireland, Jakarta, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Malta, Manila, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taipei, Tobago, Turkey and Yemen and then we got tired Googling; why do regional media still them?), gay Christian advocate “Justin Blade” and others go back and forth in the Barbados Advocate. The Queen Mother was always renowned for her alleged tolerance of homosexuals. And an interesting grassroots story on Libyan Ali Abdussalam Treki’s comments on homosexuality after being elected by the UN General Assembly as the chairman of its 64th session (Trivium: Guyana is the only Caribbean nation to have ever served in that role).
Jamaican GLBT voices launch the second media cycle on the John Terry murder, with the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays in the headline of stories both in the Gleaner: Cops rushing to judgement over Terry – J-FLAG and on RJR: J-FLAG refutes police theory behind Terry’s killing.
The programme for the September 16-29 Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival is online and, unlike recent years when it was packed with work on GLBT themes and by GLBT-identified filmmakers, neither we nor they seem able to easily identify anything on the schedule this year. The closest we found was Rain, the acclaimed coming-of-age film by Bahamian director Maria Govan. Dalton Narine’s much anticipated Mas Man, despite its plaudits, has been criticized for failing to focus sufficiently on Minshall’s sexuality.
Rasta Got…San Diego. A reader has posted in the San Diego Weekly Reader‘s comment area the full text of Tracii McGregor’s September 3 Gargamel release “The Voice of Jamaica Will Not Be Silenced. Four-time Grammy nominated reggae star Buju Banton’s US tour ts on”. Like Philadelphia and Columbus, communities are taking an interesting approach to Buju’s planned concert in San Diego, where Buju appeared successfully in 2006, despite other Southern California cancellations, and again in February as part of a Reggae Legends festival Reggae Makossa radio show host Makeda Dread helped promote. The Reader reported last week that the radio host had planned “to interview both Buju and a member of the L.A. Gay Center at the same time” on her September 8 programme on the cross-border bilingual Mexican station FM 102.5 Fusion Radio.
Rasta Got…Philadelphia. A “small but vocal rally” accompanied Philadelphia’s opening concert of Buju’s Rasta Got SoulUS tour Saturday night, the city’s main newspaper, the Inquirer reports. The concert was nearly sold out, despite almost being cancelled. Yet, “things could have been better for Buju Banton,” the writer opens the piece by lamenting, under the subhead “He might have been giant”. “The 36-year-old Jamaican roots reggae/dancehall singer and lyricist was once set to follow in Bob Marley’s giant steps…Banton should have been massive.”
The initial newscycle for coverage of UK consul John Terry’s murder in Jamaica seems to have ended. In one of the final mainstream media stories in the cycle, the Telegraph says Terry “was understood to have been bi-sexual and a young black man was seen with him shortly before his death”, but “while Mr Terry may have been a victim of Jamaica’s aggressively homophobic culture, police sources – perhaps mindful of the damaging effect on a tourism industry already suffering from the island’s high level of violent crime – are now playing down that possibility.” And in another, the New Zealand Herald, under a headline “Officers doubt gay motive in Terry murder”, quotes spokesman Karl Angell offering the JCF line that investigation so far does not suggest an anti-gay attack “and such media reporting along this line may well mislead the public and the assistance required from them by the investigators”. Up to Friday, UK sources were reporting that Jamaican “detectives are looking at possible gay relationships”.
Derivative coverage, at least one editorial and other commentary continue, notably elsewhere in the blogosphere. And the stories are being fed into the asylum archive. Calls continue as well for the UK to address “the ongoing harassment of homosexuals in one of our former colonies” because “the Queen is Jamaica’s chief of state”, even on the part of those who should know better. Some other troubling and delightful observations:
Michael-in-Norfolk concludes that “Jamaica continues to prove itself an anti-gay cesspool” and a Sunday Mail reader says “I would rather go on holiday in Afghanistan and i would feel much safer“. But, refreshingly, Richard Brennan in blogging on the Terry murder quotes “Jamaican activists” who “say that opposing homophobia ‘requires the painstaking effort of confronting the society and talking to social actors who can bring change in the way society sees LGBT people. We have been doing this through a small but growing group of increasingly aware opinion leaders who are concerned about the damage homophobia does to our society. We need those ears to continue being open to us and we need the relative safety that some of us have been given to speak to them.’” It’s sad that this is so rare, instead of being the starting point for commentary on homophobia in Jamaica, and that Brennan does so only after we hear about Time magazine, Amnesty International and “the wonderful Peter Tatchell”.
Murder music is news on multiple fronts, with ongoing stories in the US, Canada and the Caribbean. In an exchange of letters with habitual Stabroek News letter-writer Norman Browne about the Movado ban, Jason Abdulla calls for violence in music to be put in a broader context and asks if we are aiming at the right targets: “It is convenient…to lay blame at the feet of Mavado and his colleagues for highlighting conditions they have not created, whilst absolving everyone else. If a child listens to Mavado’s music and becomes violent as a result, then complicity had to be the order of the day on the part of his/her parents. How many guns did Mavado make available to his listeners? … Such music is often the only avenue of escape for folks who have to grapple with the division, misinformation, etc, thrust on them by irresponsible politicians.” He points out that while Mavado has been banned, there seems to be “acceptance of the vulgarity and paedophilic ranting of another Jamaican artiste…Vybz Kartel on our local airwaves”. He also raises races the political question of race, noting that chutney tunes that celebrate alcohol abuse are not similarly targeted based on their impact on IndoGuyanese communities.
In the US, the Philadelphia venue for last night’s opening date of Buju’s shrunken but still scheduled tour was the site the day before of a protest by a dozen mottley demonstrators despite driving rain, says an illustrated story in the Philadelphia Weekly. After AEG/Goldenvoice pulled out of promoting the concert, Jamaican Dave Productions entered an agreement with Trocadero owner Joanne Pang for the concert to continue. Principals in the Philadelphia protest have taken more nuanced approaches to the protest than has happened elsewhere. James Duggan, a board member of the Gittings Trust (a Philadelphia GLBT political action group that played a key role in the protest) tried to negotiate different approaches to cancellation with Pang, whose responses raised that “it would cost too much” and “her relationship with Jamaican Dave”. “It just seems like a cop out to me.” Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia‘s Rev. Jeffrey Jordan described the protest’s goals: “The most wonderful thing would be to bring awareness” to Buju, “touch his conscience and let him see that what he’s doing is more than having a concert, he’s going against a whole group of people. The other wonderful thing would be to have the concert canceled…”
Speeches at the rally (from the Gittings Trust and Philadelphia Human Rights Commission) talked about “exploitation of our community in song for profit”; urged that advocacy of “the willful killing of others must be shunned by a just society and those companies who facilitate and profit from this hurtful conduct must also be boycotted, reprimanded, shunned and avoided to the fullest”; noted that “those who encourage violence…are complicit in creating a climate of fear and intimidation in which hate crimes often follow the sentiments promoted by insensitive song lyrics or prejudicial words”; and suggested that such “comments are acts of cowardice and insecurity which dehumanize all those who utter them or support them, and reveal both ignorance and immaturity on the part of such misguided individuals.” If the concert is “not canceled, we will be out here tomorrow to protest and let the public know our message, that we don’t tolerate hate.”
GLBT bloggers commemorating yesterday’s anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York drew gspottt’s attention to the story of a Caribbean gay man who died in the Towers. Wesley Mercer, a 70-year-old Bajan gay man, lived in Hamilton Heights in upper Manhattan with his partner of 26 years, Bill Randolph. They had been together since Randolph was 19. Mercer was divorced and had raised two daughters. He was the VP for corporate security at Morgan Stanley and had served 25 years in the US Army, winning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in combat. The couple, whose story was used prominently in advocacy for benefits for surviving same-sex partners of WTC victims, wore matching gold bands and took annual vacations to Barbados, where they were building a house. Mercer was believed to have been trying to rescue other Morgan Stanley employees when the South Tower collapsed. A friend of Randolph’s confirmed Mercer’s ethnicity, but the fact that he owned neither jeans nor sneakers was a clue.
The storytelling of John Terry’s murder grows curiouser and curiouser. The Jamaican Constabulary Force has issued a statement, carried by the UK Press Association: “‘The investigation into the murder of John Terry is progressing well and the police have received several important pieces of information from the public which are currently being acted upon. The investigators have not ruled out any motives at this time although they are prioritising a specific line of investigation.’ …[R]eports of a homophobic attack [are] ‘not consistent with the facts identified by investigators at this time’ and…potentially misleading.”
Beacon of accuracy in journalism, the Jamaica Star weighs in with its own investigative reporting: “When the Star spoke to Deputy Superintendent Michael Garrick of the St. James police”, a police source quoted in the UK press story with the most provocative headline on the murder, “as saying, ‘His head and upper body were repeatedly hit’”, “he denied saying that. ‘I have never mentioned anything like that. I spoke to somebody from that paper but nothing as they reported it was said.’”
“Successive Jamaican Prime Ministers have failed to challenge homophobic violence. The Police Commissioner has done nowhere near enough to crack down on the violence. The killers of gays usually get away with murder,” Peter Tatchell writes factually in The Independent. The paper opened its op ed pages to him, allowing him to quote what one unnamed “gay Jamaican told me: ‘It is like living in Afghanistan under the Taliban’”, which he follows with “The homophobic lynch mob mentality is worse in Jamaica than in Saudi Arabia or Iran. Not long ago, a homophobic crowd burst into a church and beat up mourners attending the funeral of a gay man. … The local Anglican archbishop, Drexel Gomez, is a vociferous opponent of gay human rights.” While this doesn’t approach the famous hoax when “a Jamaican newspaper falsely claimed there was going to be a Gay Pride march in Kingston” (which Tatchell opens his piece by narrating), it does reflect Tatchell’s typical casualness with Caribbean reality, which has produced conflicts with Caribbean and other GLBT organizers before.
International media attention to Buju’s 35-city US tour and corresponding GLBT-led protests have overshadowed efforts by Canadian GLBT lobby Égale to disrupt Beenie Man’s schedule of performances in eight Canadian cities, which kicked off last night despite an August 6 letter to the immigration minister invoking the singer’s “violation of the Criminal Code’s hate crime provisions” and requesting he be denied a visa. “‘Obviously, he’s in the country, so nothing has been done,’ Helen Kennedy, Egale’s executive director, said Friday. ‘We’re very upset about that.’” The Government’s policy approach to “murder music”, gleaned from reporting in the Ottawa Citizen, appears to be: make the suspect artist sign a form at the border saying I “understand that it’s a criminal offence” in Canada “to spread hate and incite violence…against an identifiable group”, and leave it up to local police to act if there is one. “He hasn’t as yet committed any crime in” Canada. “Until he does, there’s not a lot we can do,” a spokeswoman for Immigration said. However, despite her confidence that “the police will be vigilant in ensuring that appropriate action will be taken”, the city police hate crimes unit in Ottawa, where Beenie Man will sing tomorrow night, has “no plans to monitor his performance. ‘We will certainly deal with any complaints we get from the public, though.’”
Embarrassing corporate interests seems to be more successful at winning cancellations than appeals to government censorship. In the US, protests catalyzed online by Equality Ohio, Stonewall Democrats of Ohio and other GLBT groups have now triggered the cancellation of an additional date from Buju’s tour. The campaign, the Columbus Dispatch reported, appealed to “the targeted audience for his message” and the “tangible threat to the safety and well-being … particularly of the gay and lesbian community in Victorian Village”, an Ohio State University campus neighborhood near the concert venue. (Wikipedia says Victorian Village is “considered a gay village” and “many of the homes are owned by same-sex couples”. But the racial signification is also clear. A similar Columbus neighbourhood, Near East, was the subject of a 2003 public television documentary, “Flag Wars”, on GLBT gentrification of decaying Black urban neighbourhoods.) The appeal also included “the direct phone number and e-mail address for the venue’s marketing director, Amy Cooper”, which were also “posted on columbusunderground.com, an online news site and message board”. However, her company PromoWest Productions “only rented the venue to an outside agency that handles the show booking, lighting, production and other aspects (except security)”, so we may see another venue pop up for the same date. “Cooper would not provide” the press with “contact information for the outside booking agent or Banton’s managers.” TicketMaster shows both Ohio dates (October 2 in Cincinnati and October 3 in Columbus) as cancelled; half of the 18 dates for which the ticket giant was offering seats are now scrapped.
“Our man in Jamaica killed ‘by gay hater’”? In what, if it bears out, is sure to have a profound impact on both the recent UK’s recently increased focus on sexual orientation and human rights in its foreign policy, as well as ongoing Global North responses to the homophobic violence endemic in Jamaica, John Terry (a 65-year-old New Zealand-born tourist sector manager who served as the UK’s honorary consul for western Jamaica for over a decade and was awarded an MBE) is reported to have found on his bed brutally murdered in what some of the first round of British news media headlines described as a “homophobic attack” or “gay hate murder”, or as RJR put it, “suggested that Mr. Terry’s death had homophobic undertones”. If the bias motive is true, “it will be one of the most high-profile and horrific examples yet of what campaigners say”.
The murder could at the same time accelerate dismissive claims by Jamaican heterosexuals that most murders of gay men are committed by their lovers. There were no signs of forced entry and reports attributed in the British media to “detectives” say: that “a handwritten message lying beside the body described Mr Terry as a ‘batty man’” and “was signed ‘A batty man’” and promised “This is what will happen to ALL gays”; and that “There were also other things mentioned that can’t be divulged yet“. One claims that “police sources said they were also looking at the possibility he was killed by his boyfriend”.
What will also fuel both responses is reporting that “friends said he was part of a group of well-heeled older white men on the island who liked to have young black boyfriends”.
The Jamaican media, it has been noted, did not report on Terry’s sexuality in its coverage of the murder, and continue this pattern into tomorrow’s stories. But hours ago, Radio Jamaica ran a story that “investigators have have ruled out homophobia as the motive behind his killing, attributed to ‘a police source close to the investigation’”. A UK Guardian piece today also notes “the Foreign Office said it is not aware of any homophobic aspect”. If this bears, out it will give power to what some Jamaicans on all sides say is true: the country cannot get a fair shake in the foreign media.
News reports say “neighbours said Mr Terry was often seen with men”, and was last seen in the company of one who “asked where he could get transport to go to downtown Montego Bay”. A police sketch has been released.
Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish covers the incident as “A Note on A Corpse”. Various descriptions of the violence include Terry’s naked “blood-soaked body”, “a trail of bloodstains…throughout his property”, “severe head injuries” from being “hit repeatedly with a heavy object, believed to be a bedside lamp” and his “throat…tied with a cord”.
While Jamaica is described with some accuracy as having “an aggressively homophobic culture on top of its extremely high crime and murder rates” and its homophobia as “institutional”, other accounts describe a Jamaica “dominated by ultraconservative Christians and intensely anti-gay Rastafarians” whose “major political parties have passed some of the most stringent anti-sodomy laws in the world”, where “several prominent Jamaican gay activists have been murdered in the recent past” and “assaults and violence against gays in Jamaica are commonplace occurrences”. (But then the media still can’t get the facts straight on what’s been cancelled or not on Buju’s concert tour.)
“Boycott everythin Jamacain,men included”, one blog reader responds to the story. But “Boycott Jamaica”‘s Michael Petrellis is surprisingly tame.
While this is a brutal loss of life, Queerty probably gets it just about right when they say that with this case:
We enter the spin zone. Jamaican authorities won’t be volunteering to make locals appear as anti-gay vigilantes, roaming the island murdering the gays. And yet, there’s plenty of evidence showing that’s a very real problem. Meanwhile, British officials will be more concerned with maintaining healthy diplomatic ties than blaming Jamaica and its intolerance for the murder.
Is an entire country to blame for one guy’s death? Certainly not. This was a singular incident.
But the culture that pervades Jamaica is one where homophobia is celebrated, gays are marginalized at best (murdered at worst), and where there’s no mechanism in place to reverse the trend. That? That Jamaica should be blamed for.
Reports about lyrical violence pale in comparison. But…: in Canada, activists are starting to suggest protests of BeenieMan’s tour. And a leading Caribbean news site picks up both sides of the Mavado Guyana story.
Buju du jour. LGBT Liberation-Chicago announces that “San Diego gay rights activist Syd Stevens launched” a website this past weekend that “not only gives updated information about the [Rasta Got Soul US] tour and how to contact concert venues to protest” but “also aims to counter myths peddled by Banton’s business allies.” Calling the handful of cancellations of tour concerts quickly triggered by GLBT advocacy as “a short-lived victory for gay rights”, the communiqué quotes Stevens describing the new site as “a centralized information clearing house on the web”…to empower local activists to post their letters, organize protests and boycotts and remain unified nationally” –“like we did for…nationwide anti-Prop 8” protests. Steve Jankousky in Denver rises to the challenge. Buju’s “publicists are trying to resuscitate the tour by launching a disinformation campaign”, a Gay Liberation Network is quoted saying in the release, which also points out that “Buju’s MySpace Music page lists canceled shows as TBD, indicating he’s seeking out other venues.” “Many people [Americans] don’t know who Buju is”, the group cautions; also mocking that gay men he was acquitted of assaulting in Jamaica in 2004 “probably got as fair a shake as Emmett Till got in the old U.S. South”.
If it hasn’t hit your inbox yet, here’s the link to a YouTube posting of “Catch Meh Lovah”, a new chutney release attributed to KI and JMC 3 Veni that is going viral in Trinidad & Tobago’s GLBT online community. The male singer “ketch Sunita [his woman] inside mih car with Nadia from Couva”, “she longtime school pardner”. A link currently also allows downloads.
The Government should not have lifted the ban on Jamaican singer Mavado, write four Guyanese advocates working on armed violence, gender, GLBT issues and child welfare in a letter to the Stabroek News editor. They describe the performer’s lyrics as “pro-violent, sexually-degrading, anti-gay” and “lewd”, and urge President Jagdeo to maintain the ban, noting the “trend in other Caribbean countries to reject the violence which is being perpetuated in popular music in the name of Caribbean culture”. They name corporate advertisers Digicel and Courtney Benn Contracting Services, and question their “motives and corporate standards for sponsoring the culture of violence” and “whether contractual agreements or financial disincentives” have been put in place to prevent him mixing lyrics that are “off-key, off limits and they kill Caribbean peoples’ self-respect and dignity”. Finally, they call on Mavado to “consider using the stage and the power of entertainment for the greater good of society and for becoming an agent of positive change for our youth instead of a messenger of death and degradation”. Two dozen readers have responded.
The International Resource Network, a project of the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies at New York’s City University, is a partner in the creation of the newest of the centre’s “Seminars in the City”: Axes of Desire, focusing on questions of sexual human rights in regions around the world. The events will be live webcast via Ustream.com and CoveritLive.com on the IRN website; and everyone is welcome to join the seminars online. The October 5 seminar, Neither Heaven Nor Hell: The Realities of Sexual Minority Organizing in the Caribbean, is co-taught by Rosamond S. King (English Department, Brooklyn College, CUNY) and Angelique Nixon (Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University)
Buju’s October 4th “Rasta Got Soul” tour date at Minneapolis’s First Avenue appears to have been cancelled “after the Minnesota Independent inquired about the appearance”, the online newsmagazine reports, although the club “didn’t return a request for information about the cancellation”.
An articulate gay Jamaican student in the US (who began a blog, The Unspeakable Truth, eight months ago by reflecting on Jamaica’s intolerance of homosexuality, and has shared his thoughts and struggles on growing up and sexuality in 30 posts since) writes about a trip to Kingston where “I spent a few days in Kingston…and what a blast it was! I identified more gay men in Kingston in three days, than all my life in rural Jamaica.”
Some members of the Caribbean networking site IslandMix report seeing a group of identifiably gay men they believe were from Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago (“even White gay men were in the mix”) “getting down on the Parkway”, Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade route, on Monday. “The bullas made a big statement out there. They came out parading amongst over 1 million bulla-hating West Indians and no one ain’t do sh!t to them. All that talk bout what allya go do to di battyman….and no one did shyte! The bullas had a blast.” The thread, titled “I saw signs that the Caribbean gay community is getting brave”, remains relatively high-school in quality over close to 300 posts and ten hours, but some members challenged others’ homophobia and double standards, some talked about violence against gays with swagger, and some discussed the Bible.
Rawle Nelson illustrates that even before the lessons of regional coverage of Caster Semenya, we faced severe challenges achieving balanced coverage of sexuality, especially by the media houses in the Eastern Caribbean. Writing in the St. Kitts/Nevis Sun, Nelson opens his article about HIV, benefits of condom use and problems of stigma: “After contracting HIV in jail, a former convict and known gay, is of the view that despite being a homosexual, had he applied the information that was being disseminated, he may not had been infected with HIV today. The known homosexual, who prefers to be referred to as a woman, boasted that since as a young child he knew that he was a ‘woman’”.
Veteran Jamaican journalist John Maxwell uses his Observer column to offer a list of reasons why he has PJ Patterson almost tied with Edward Seaga for the worst prime minister Jamaica has ever had (Seaga’s role in promoting strife edged PJ out). Leadership on the question of homosexuality is one. He notes Seaga’s tendency to make accusations of homosexuality (which in Jamaica is “almost a death sentence”) “with gay abandon”; and Patterson and his national security Minister KD Knight’s fondness for repeating pledges “that they were not about to legalise homosexuality – apparently unaware that homosexuality is not and cannot be a crime even though some manifestations of sexual behaviour are prohibited”. “Most Jamaicans are blissfully unaware that homosexuality is not a ‘lifestyle’…if we are civilised we should know better”, he continues, also commenting that “the homosexual most men fear is the man in the mirror”.
San Francisco Weekly’s music blog writes a refreshingly accurate and intelligent piece (agree or disagree) on “murder music”, based on Buju’s San Francisco concert cancellation.
On Top magazine lists 14 of Buju’s US tour dates, noting those cancelled by US gay rights activists’ protests “represent only a fraction of the cities Banton will tour this fall”.
Peta-Ann Baker (whose colleagues in the UWI-Mona Social Work programme created a surprisingly introspective workshop on homophobia and social work practice at the Caribbean Studies Association this past June) shifts the regional media’s analysis of the controversy over South African Caster Semenya’s gender up several notches. In a column in today’s Gleaner, she lays out several complex issues surrounding intersexuality and gender identity by posing the question “Would Jamaica have added an eighth gold medal to its haul at the recently concluded World Athletics Championships if Caster Semenya had been a Jamaican?” She brings the sex and gender issues home to region by referencing the intersex community of guevedoches in Salinas in the Dominican Republic, and has words for Jamaican Senator Hyacinth Bennett, who during Parliamentary debate on a Sexual Offences Bill in June called for it to exclude from victims of rape anyone who had had reconstructive surgery on birth sexual organs (GLBTQ Jamaica followed the bill closely). “Those who occupy positions of leadership need to be careful…to ensure that we act on the basis of factual information rather than on the basis of prejudice or belief,” she warns, observing that after the challenge to her qualifications, “rather than going home in shame, as would probably have been the case were she Jamaican, Caster Semenya returned to the warm embrace of family, village and nation.”
Stories from the North
A bullying victim who’s now a mother blogs about the suicide of 11-year-old Cruzan migrant to the US Jaheem Herrera: “Homophobic bullying (with a nasty added dose of race-related anti-immigrant hate) was what killed Jaheem Herrera.”
The reappointment of embattled Guyanese immigrant Trevor Phillips as chair of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission prompted the resignations of a major gay rights charity executive and three other commissioners. He offers a mea culpa and self-defence in the UK Guardian. In it he outlines a vision that “discrimination is more subtle, inequality more deeply rooted than anyone supposed in the 1960s”, that one of the “underlying causes of most disadvantage” is “absence of aspiration” and that it “doesn’t always arise from a single prejudice”. And he pledges “new work on lesbian and gay rights”.
Some US activists like Seth Fowler, a Steering Committee member of the United States National Equality March for GLBT rights next month, suggest that global gay communities “organize solidarity marches on the same weekend…as an opportunity to focus on queer rights in their own countries, but also as a platform to put pressure on their governments to act on injustices that are happening to queer people elsewhere”, the Canadian magazine Xtra reports. “When mobs in Caribbean countries attack LGBT people, when there are violent protests at Pride celebrations in Eastern Europe, we are obligated to help them in some way,” Xtra quotes Fowler as urging.
September 4, Pt. 2
Not Even A Little Bit of Sorry. Buju’s music label, Gargamel, responds to reports in the Jamaican news media and elsewhere indicating his Rasta Got Soul US tour has been cancelled: “We are disappointed by the hasty cancellation of a few shows by Live Nation/House of Blues and Goldenvoice/AEG, but fans will be happy to know we have over 30 confirmed shows that are definitely playing and we are working to replace the cancelled dates.” They also clarify that, despite Goldenvoice/AEG’s withdrawal from all its dates, the Philadelphia concert at the Trocadero is still on. The release has prompted stories in the Caribbean-American media. And the Jamaica Star tries to set the story straight on its own coverage earlier this week (which does not seem to have appeared in the online edition), but continues to include errors and contradictions in its new reporting. Under the headline “Buju stands against gays” the Star also reports on the formation of a Facebook group “We Support Buju Banton”, currently at 750 members.
The group urges readers to “make your voices heard” (respectfully, they caution…“we want them to take us seriously”) regarding their outrage at the Live Nation and Goldenvoice cancellations. They propose appeals to corporate responsibility, the cancellations’ bad precedent for the arts and how they give “social activism a bad name”, and provide links to online petitions and contact information for a dozen “execs” “to flood…their phones, email boxes and fax machines with testimonials in support of Buju”. (Readers can, of course, send other messages using the same contact info.) ot.ni.ym.ru.ol.ra.p Their proposed messaging, that Buju is “one of the most important artists of our time”, “does not perform ‘murder music’ or promote ‘killing gays’”, that Boom Bye Bye was written two decades ago when he was 15, and references to “slanderous” misrepresentations of “the real Buju” by a “gay lobby”, echo Gargamel’s release (see below).
One Star reader who has started a similar “Support Buju” thread on the paper’s website, writes “I use to supported the gays fight against murder music. But me had to breaks up when me hear say dem was protesting against Red Strip and Jamaica in the Village earlier this year”, referring to the discredited Besen/Burroway/Petrellis Boycott Jamaica campaign targeting Red Stripe that has since removed the call for the Red Stripe boycott and images of Myers rum dumps in New York City from its websote. Another Star reader responds: “I’m lost for words regarding gay right…It appears as if homosexuals wants to rule the universe…are they fighting for rights or supremacy?…I don’t see a solution.”
My Way. Gargamel’s release repeats old, untenable claims (in the name of “setting the record straight on the grossly inaccurate portrait of Buju being painted by certain organizations and systematically relayed to the masses and the media“) that Buju, who “was all of 15 years old when he wrote Boom Bye Bye” did so “in response to a widely publicised man/boy rape case in Jamaica” and “it is the only song he ever made on the subject – and he does not perform it today”. Interestingly, they assert that “following much public debate back then, prominent gay rights leaders…decidedly moved on”, and so did Buju, despite “a gay lobby hell bent on destroying the livelihood of a man who has spent an entire career making amends — his way” [emphasis added], a stance by gays that has “prevented them from turning this initiative into a larger, more fruitful discussion that could perhaps effect real change.”
At the same moment that Buju has reignited the “murder music” debate, the AP reports that the President of Guyana, the first Caribbean nation to ban an artist based on violence in his/her lyrics, has, after lobbying by Jamaican cultural officials, allowed Movado, who was banned a year and a half ago, to perform there on September 18 and 19.
September 4, Pt. 1
Buju’s US concert tour is not cancelled. Indeed, as has happened before with US concerts cancelled by “murder music” protests, although corporate promoter AEG Live dropped the opening Philadelphia date and two others, co-promoter Jamaican Dave Productions has taken over promotion of next week Saturday’s show at Philadelphia’s Trocadero theatre, Philadelphia Gay News reports, and TicketMaster continues to sell tickets.
University of Arizona doctoral student Erin Durban is so perplexed by “the idea that the United States has a reputation for offering ‘more liberated spaces’ to people around the world seeking asylum – whether for political, economic, religious reasons or because of sexual orientation – and yet certain populations of Haitians decide to return to a county that has offers little protection against sex-based discrimination” that she is making “‘queer-identified’ Haitians who choose to leave for the United States, but then opt to return home” the subject of her doctoral project in gender and women’s studies, “Desire to Return, Desire to Leave: Investigating Queer Haitian Migration”.
Rasta Got Hate: Buju’s concert tour continues to be the focus of much web coverage, like most reporting on the Caribbean and its sexuality of varying substance and accuracy. The Jamaica Gleaner’s Howard Campbell (“Boom Bye Bye still haunting Buju” (a reprise of a 2006 Gleaner headline): about “gay rights groups…dogged opposition to Banton performing in the US, claiming it encourages violence against homosexuals”); Celebrity Cafe’s Rachel Kolb (“A controversial reggae singer will not be touring the United States” “Buju Banton’s U.S. tour has been canceled due to protests by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center”) and Carly Milne in Digital City (“As of Friday, all of Banton’s dates were canceled”, “his road plans…stopped cold, embroiled in controversy”) have all reported the entire Rasta Got Soul tour’s cancellation. But the Gleaner article contains several inaccuracies. And both TicketMaster’s and VHI‘s sites still list 26 Rasta Got Soul concert venues other than the seven pulled by AEG Live/Goldenwire and LiveNation/House of Blues; TicketMaster even appears to be still selling tickets for the reportedly cancelled opening concert of the tour in Philadelphia.
Sam Worley in Windy City Times, the main GLBT paper in Chicago (home to one of the main tour protestors, Gay Liberation Network (GLN) (who had proposed altering the route of their annual Matthew Shepard march from the Boystown gay neighbourhood to the venue of Buju’s concert), provides thoughtful reporting and analysis on the tour protest, which has been picked up by Boston’s Edge. On the question of free speech/hate speech, while Worley leans towards mainstream reporting that the violence in Buju’s and others’ lyrics are GLBT “claims”, he does adopt language favoured by some in the region that the contested lyrics are “a fantasy of murdering LGBT people”. He also compares the current Buju concert protest to the deeply problematic Boycott Jamaica campaign launched earlier this year, despite GLBT Jamaican opposition, by three US activists, Wayne Besen, Jim Burroway and Michael Petrellis. There he turns to the Bilerico Project’s Alex Blaze (who provided US readers with very useful critical coverage of the earlier protest), who finds the current protests “far less problematic than other attempts to ‘save’ the LGBT people of Jamaica. It’s not about acting in their place, instead it’s about what rhetoric is broadcast in [US GLBT activists'] own backyard.” Still, Blaze reserves judgment as to whether the protest is “white American idea that LGBT people form a unified, global movement (which is of course led by white Americans and no one else is allowed to even speak)”. We cited LBGTQ Jamaica’s intervention earlier, but Jamaican voices do not appear to have been included in media coverage of the concert cancellations so far; though Worley says he tried to reach J-FLAG without success.
And although the “not in my backyard” approach has been the major thrust of the current anti-Buju campaign, the main protest organizers do reference Jamaican conditions in their major statements, GLN noting that: “This is particularly an issue in [Banton's] native Jamaica where gays face a living hell due, in part, to performers like Buju Banton who stoke the flames of an already dangerous situation by singing their murderous music.” And we missed it earlier, but the LA Gay & Lesbian Community Center’s “Victory!” release makes reference to: “In his home country of Jamaica, Banton and his fellow performers of ‘murder music,’ have helped to create and sustain a culture in which violence against LGBT people is not only tolerated, it’s sometimes celebrated”.
An 18-year-old student in Port of Spain blogging as “Gay Trinidad & Tobago: A place for Gay Trinidadians and Tobagonians to come together” and “Everything Gay” wants Jamaican artists banned from Trinidad & Tobago too. He boasts that Trinidadians “are well-educated and advancing…thanks to our natural resources. We are one of the few islands of the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Puerto Rico where being gay ‘not so bad!’ … People here do not have to hide the sexuality 100% like they have to do in Jamaica, where both the people and the government discriminate and murder gays. … The bad part about Trinidad is the influence of Jamaican reggae music in our culture, many of which have lyrics discriminating against homosexuals. I only dream of one day where our country puts a ban these artists from entering our nation and spoiling it with ignorance.”
In the light of the current case of an unnamed Jamaican woman who is making human rights claims to prevent her deportation from the UK after a drug trafficking conviction, the following debate about the voice of the modern British Left on immigration policy may be of interest.
Do you support St Lucia participating in a Gay pageant? St. Lucia Star website readers got to vote. Midday Sept. 1 27% of 120 voters were saying Yes. A new question is now up: “Has St. Lucia become more gay-friendly?” with responses running neck and neck.
The Barbados Advocate highlights remarks on HIV by UNIFEM Programme Associate Cherise Adjodha in which she draws attention to “increasing sexual violence against boys”, “stigma and discrimination against homosexuals”, and how “in all areas of the HIV and AIDS response, we are confronted by dominant ideologies about gender which hinder women and men, boys and girls in protecting themselves from infection and in accessing services”.
St. Kitts/Nevis residents discuss homosexuality on internet bulletin boards. IslandMix members tackle a young Kittitian after he posts his reaction to a Caribvision programme on HIV in the region that featured interviews with several Bajans, including a Transgender woman and the founder of UGLAAB: “i just turn the t.v quick!!!” And a Lesbian student at the offshore Medical University of the Americas in Nevis responds to a prospective student’s inquiry about the situation for gays and lesbians in the country.
The Caymanian financial crisis is grist for some serious political picong for Chris Bryant, “the Labour, but once Conservative, Christian but gay, responsible but irresponsible minister” “who upheld the dignity of his office by soliciting for encounters clad only in his underpants”, based on his political, financial and personal peccadilloes. The UK’s junior Foreign Office minister is a promoter of an expanded role for gay rights in UK foreign policy.
In her “30 Profiles in 30 Days from the LGBT World” in the Galveston/Houston Examiner, Tracy Kachtick-Anders reminds us that the gay relationship that may split the worldwide Anglican Church, that of Bishop Gene Robinson and his partner Mark Andrew, began in St. Croix.
The St. Lucia Star publishes its third article on the Fabulous Lucians’ upcoming Gay Caribbean/USA pageant in Brooklyn. In a piece titled “This is How God Made Me”, Toni Nicholson profiles St. Lucian contestant 6-foot, Arundel Hill, Marchand native Frantica Boujoules. The piece begins with the observation (which gspottt noted earlier) that the paper’s “online commentators have taken to the story like moths to a flame or should we say like Ellen at the sight of a gay parade” and “even…the self righteous among us and those who conveniently quote scripture seem more curious about who the Saint Lucian participant is”. In all the media coverage, the names and phone contacts for the organizers have appeared.
Buju Banton’s “Rasta Got Soul” concerts and cancellations continue to get coverage, from the New York Times, which draws attention to the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s Facebook campaign “Cancel Shows for ‘Faggots Must Die Singer’”; CaribWorld(Hardbeat)News, which describes Buju as having been “denigrated by gay activists for a song he wrote early on in his career – the 1988 ‘Boom Bye Bye’”; industry site Ticket Nation; and Chicago Now, which describes Jamaican patois as “Rastafarian dialect”. A number of articles in the current round mention the Reggae Compassionate Act, which Buju appears to have signed but his managers have said to his Jamaican base he hasn’t. Most get it right, but HipHopWired, doesn’t, asking why gay groups can’t “get over” a tune a mature, 36-year-old Buju “originally recorded…when he was 15″, instead of trying to “penalize him for the rest of his life”. “Everyone has said something in their youth that they have come to regret with age.” Don’t we wish this was in fact the case with Buju? There are calls for additional concert cancellations.
“Murder music” is back in the mainstream US press, as a major GLBT nonprofit puts its resources and leadership into what has to date been an ad hoc and local campaign. “After months of organized protest”, Entertainment Weekly reports, seven of Buju’s 35 “Rasta Got Soul” US tour dates have been cancelled. The LA Community Center, the website change.org, Gay Liberation Network (which described it “an unprecedented victory in the fight against murder music” that shows “the power of protest to deliver the goods”) and others all claim credit. While some of the reporting pays attention to violence against gays in Jamaica, the story is framed largely as a successful protest by US GLBT activists over Banton’s anti-gay lyrics. Before the cancellations, Dancehall.Mobi reported that “neither side has emerged the clear victor in this now on-going battle”. And some US blogs were abuzz with language like “The Buju bigot bites the dust again…has taken on the gay community and their straight friends. And come away with a burning sensation in his ass hole. And a bullet hole in his wallet. The idiot bigot. When will he ever learn that homophobia doesn’t pay?” The GLBTQ Jamaica blog sought to use the opportunity to issue a reminder that Buju is not the only artist singing murder music, publishing the lyrics to BeenieMan’s “That’s Right”, and calling attention to the fact that Youtube continues to host several “murder music” anthems, despite a free/hate speech policy that prohibits speech that attacks or demeans others based on sexual orientation. Part of the success of the protest is due to the corporate concentration among US concert promoters (the seven concert cancellations represent decisions by just two companies that were targeted); but some of the news coverage notes that in the past Buju concerts have been cancelled by one local venue only to be picked up by another.
On a parallel note, Bob Marley biographer Englishman Garry Steckles, who has been “intimately involved with reggae for more than three decades as a writer, concert promoter, broadcaster and fan”, and Jamaican writer and blogger Geoffrey Philp weigh in on “murder music” and free speech in the current issue of Caribbean Beat. “Like many music fans, I’ve got little time for censorship,” Steckles says. “If I went on a talk show and told listeners that it would be a good idea if they beat to death a neighbour who happened to have a sexual orientation they didn’t share, I’d be breaking the law in most countries. And I hope I’d be held accountable for what I’d done. So why should a musician be able to express those same sentiments with the addition of a dancehall or ragga rhythm track?” Philp’s views are more complicated: “I am firmly against any system that demeans and advocates violence against anyone because of gender, race, or any other mental construct that we invent. … That said, I do have a problem with government censorship – especially in Jamaica – because it becomes a political tool. I guess what I’m saying is the ideal situation would be an audience that is sophisticated enough to recognise work that demeans others and propagates violence, because most singers only produce songs that they think will sell.”
It’s a good moment in the media for Belize’s UNIBAM and Caleb Orozco, who were recently profiled in the US GLBT magazine The Advocate. “Did you know that there is an active organization supporting homsexual rights in Belize?” asks Belize Reporter writer Albert Ciego at the start of a 375-word profile of the group in the local paper.
More positive coverage for the upcoming St. Lucian-organized Caribbean drag pageant in New York City. The island’s Star newspaper has reprinted the GBMNews story. But what’s most interesting are the many positive reader comments on both this and the Star’s earlier, staff-reported piece.
Marshallene Trott and Alesha de la Chevotiere may have a new church to hold their wedding. After three years in Atlanta, Pastor Sylvia Hayward-Harris is trying to start a congregation of The Vision Church on the island. The four-year-old, 750 plus-member African-American Atlanta church, founded by Pastor OC Allen III, is an affiliate of the fellowship of United Progressive Pentecostal Churches and welcomes “people of every race, gender, culture, affectional and/or sexual orientation, family configuration, physical or mental condition, and all other distinctions”. “Our church is not about homosexuals, it is about humankind,” says the 57-year-old preacher, who is not a Lesbian, has a master’s degree in counselling and plans to use it in pastoral care. “I just want people to feel free to worship, to have a church family where you’re not judged and condemned. Our church is for those who are not comfortable in their current church.” Shunning gay people is not Christian and those who preach it is wrong are hypocritical.
Courts have given a new chance to prove her case to the unnamed 24-year-old Jamaican convicted of drug dealing in the UK mentioned by Diane Abbott in her recent Observer column. Like scores of Jamaicans, the young woman has claimed she is Lesbian and would suffer violence if deported to Jamaica. The UK Home Office and an earlier tribunal had dismissed her claim and her current relationship (which some reports say is with another Jamaican) as fraudulent, noting prisoners have no choice for sexual activity other than Lesbianism. A judicial panel ordered a fresh consideration of her true sexual identity, a process some news reports say could cost tens of thousands of pounds.
The just concluded Latin American Dialogue on Sexuality and Geopolitics in Rio brought together scholars and others to discuss the region’s assets and challenges in shaping the creation of sexual policy and sexual politics and how it engages with political change, sex and the marketplace, conservative religion, state secularity and science.
And more news on Crucian immigrant and US gay bullying victim Jaheem Herrera; a Jamaican letterwriter supports the Spanish protest; and Bahamian UBP finance minister Stafford Sands, widely dismissed as a racist, in his own law firm may have hired and partied with Blacks, gays, lesbians, foreigners.
Protests of Buju’s three-week, 35-city US tour are heating up. The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center is asserting a leadership role in national protests of the concerts, and has created a webpage “to make it clear that there is no place in America where such abhorrent messages are permissible”. Readers can enter their names and contact information in a petition database. One promoter, the site announces, has cancelled Buju appearances in four cities; and the current focus of the Center’s advocacy is AEG Live, the promoter of the LA concert and two others.
And a Spanish group called the Gay Evangelical Group is calling on its government to lead a European boycott of Jamaica when it assumes the EU presidency next month, report both the BBC Caribbean News in Brief (Aug. 26) and the Gleaner’s Go-Jamaica service (“Gay group in Spain wants boycott of Jamaica” (Aug. 27)), where the 70-word story had garnered 80 comments in the first seven hours.
Week of August 20-26
Belize and UNIBAM activist Caleb Orozco are the subject of a positive feature in the Advocate’s travel section. The piece begins citing the story 11 years ago of the first Caribbean gay cruise controversy, when the Cayman Islands refused to allow a boat to dock and the Government of Belize welcomed it (Dan Allen: “Gay Watch Belize” Aug. 3). On the other hand a Belize paper, Amandala, famous for its anti-gay coverage, reports sympathetically of a man stabbing another man, who had routinely taunted him, with a pocket knife, after the taunter accused him of having sex with men and attempted to hit him with a bottle. After he discovered the man he stabbed had died, the stabber turned himself in. (Roland A Parks: “Walter Beaton, 35, charged with the murder of Leroy Rhaburn, 28″. Aug. 25)
Some GLBT Caribbean stories are perpetual news: Buju Banton’s new US tour is the subject of a new wave of protests in the ongoing “murder music” campaign. Buju’s failure to honour his signature of the Reggae Compassionate Act means a new round of American anger at letting a homophobic foreigner perform in their cities: Jim Burroway blogs on Box Turtle Bulletin: Live Nation, Ticketmaster Promote Murder Music Concert Tour (Aug. 25); and a letter from Gay Liberation Network appears in the Windy City Times (Aug. 26) and several other places. And gay cruises are the subject of ongoing letterwriting in the Cayman press (Pete Smith, Caymanian Compass: “Watch Out for Hidden Agendas” (Aug. 19); Twyla Mae Vargas, Cayman Net News: “Anyone afraid of gays is afraid of themselves” (Aug. 20); Velma Herod, Cayman Net News: “Get to the real root of the problem” (Aug. 27)).
A group of New York City-based St. Lucians are getting some nice press for a Caribbean drag pageant they have organized that’s almost sold out. On Sept. 19, Jamaican Mimi Mancini, St. Lucian Frantica Boujoules, Barbadian Rehanna B, Martiniquan Mme. Fleur de Fleur and Guyanese Vanessa Flowers will model couture swimwear, evening wear, show their talents, be interviewed on current affairs and gay issues, and pay tribute to someone or something from their respective countries: St. Lucia Star: “Island represented at gay pageant” (Aug. 21); Antoine Craigwell, GBM News: “NYC Caribbean Gay Pageant promotes tolerance and acceptance” (Aug. 18); CaribWorldNews.com (Hardbeat News): “Gay Caribbean Talent Pageant” (Aug. 13); SKNVibes: Gay Caribbean Pageant Set for New York (Aug. 13); and the Jamaica Star, which headlined the story “Jamaican Man in Dress-Wearing Pageant” (Aug. 27), while acknowledging that Mimi is the only contestant who lives as a woman.
When British MP Diane Abbott describes “Gay rights [as] a delicate issue” in a column in the Jamaica Observer (Aug. 23), calls for “more dialgoue”, and suggests the UK Foreign Office “get a more nuanced view of attitudes to gay men and women in Jamaica”, she’s arguing like many heterosexual opinionmakers in Jamaica that conditions for GLBT people there aren’t really as bad as those gay lobbyists and asylumseekers in foreign say. Abbott, whose parents were Jamaican immigrants, was the first Black woman elected to the UK Parliament two decades ago and the only one for a decade. Why the concern with nuance? “Apparently there will be money made available” she stresses, as “Gay Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant…is championing a controversial drive to fund equal-rights activists in homophobic regimes” for such activities as “gay pride marches or financing legal challenges by local campaigners”. Though the UK policy is not fresh news (gspottt covered it in “Emancipation Time” and Bryant’s new campaign was covered in the British press seven weeks ago), details of it are evolving and Abbott’s column is responding to a new story in the London Times which highlights Jamaica as one of the special targets of the policy.
Earlier this year, the US news media paid much attention to two young victims of gay bullying at school who took their own lives. One of them, Jaheem Herrera, had recently moved to the US from St. Croix. His family, Rev. Al Sharpton, gay rights groups and others gathered at a town hall meeting to launch the Jaheem Herrera Coalition to End Bullying to push for stronger anti-bullying laws. “I saw and heard when they bullied my brother. When they called him gay, virgin and ugly,” Herrera’s sister told the audience. (Southern Voice: “Town hall meeting seeks ‘justice’ for Jaheem Herrera. Late DeKalb student’s family hopes to change Ga. anti-bullying laws” (Aug. 21))
Just when the American psychological establishment is rejecting restorative religious counselling as a way to “cure” sexual feelings and recommending that clinicians help those conflicted by their sexual desires find new ways to worship, we in the Caribbean are now touting pastoral cures for homosexuality in the press. Joining the ex-gay ministries in Guyana and Jamaica, an unidentified group paid to run a rambling article on the topic in the Trinidad & Tobago Express recently. Now the “Tell Me Pastor” advice columnist in the Jamaica Star (somewhere between the Mirror and the Bomb) suggests a Lesbian of seven years try one of these ministries to change her “homo ways” because “God can deliver”, (Aug. 25).
And Marshallene Trott and Alesha de la Chevotiere will have a “Lesbian Wedding in Bermuda” with over 100 guests. They met four years ago and proposed at midnight on Old Year’s Night. (Daily Nation, Aug. 20). The Bermuda event will follow a legal ceremony in Canada. Supporting the couple are “some well-known prominent Bermudians” who will be in attendance, many others “coming out of the woodwork” to do so, and Marshallene’s four children, ages 7 to 14. “If anybody teases me I don’t care as long as my mom and Alesha love me. Mommy’s happier now she’s with Alesha,” says her 10-year-old. The couple overcame fears of coming out and being shunned by family and church messages that “God is going to condemn you”. But, Marshallene confesses, “It’s hard…There are no discrimination laws to stop your from losing your job.” (Bermuda Sun, Aug. 19).
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