Thursday, May 29, 2008
Highlight from Calabash: Thomas Glave on Bruce Golding
May 27, 2008
In response to the latest episode of a Jamaican (you know who…) embarassing himself and the rest of us by confusing nationalist sentiment with informed political discourse, Thomas Glave posted his statement at Calabash on the queer Caribbean listserv:
Dear C-FLAG Listserv community,
Yesterday (May 23, 2008), in Jamaica, at the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, where I still am, I read selections from my new, just barely published edited anthology
Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles;
in fact, this reading opened the Calabash weekend. However, given Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s recent antigay remarks on the BBC-TV show “Hard Talk,” about which there has been much discussion in the local Jamaican press, I felt that I could not read from *this* book in particular, *in* Jamaica, without expressing my unhappiness over Mr Golding’s remarks. Because I’m not certain if the J’can press will carry any coverage of what I said, here are my remarks, addressed to the large Calabash audience, that preceded my reading. The response – at least from what I could tell – was overwhelmingly positive, even eliciting applause before I barely finished a few sentences:
“I want to say a special thanks to the Calabash organisers – Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, and Justine Henzell – for inviting me back to Calabash, this being my second reading at the festival, and for their unceasing generosity to, and support of, writers from around the world. And so, mindful of that generosity and kindness, my conscience will not permit me to begin reading from this book in particular before I say that as a gay man of Jamaican background I am appalled and outraged by the Prime Minister’s having said only three days ago on BBC-TV that homosexuals will not have any place in his Cabinet and, implicitly, by extension, in Jamaica. I guess this means that there will never be any room in Mr Golding’s Cabinet for me and for the many, many other men and women in Jamaica who are homosexual. And so I now feel moved to say directly to Mr Golding that it is exactly this kind of bigotry and narrow-mindedness that Jamaica does not need any more of, and that you, Mr Golding, should be ashamed of yourself for providing such an example of how not to lead Jamaica into the future. And so, Mr Golding, think about how much you are not helping Jamaica the next time you decide to stand up and say that only some Jamaicans – heterosexuals, in this case – have the right to live in their country as full citizens with full human rights, while others – homosexuals – do not. That is not democracy. That is not humane leadership. That is simply the stupidity and cruelty of bigotry.”
I then read excerpts from the work of 4 contributors in the book: Makeda Silvera ( Jamaica ), Reinaldo Arenas ( Cuba ), Helen Klonaris ( Bahamas ), and my own, and finished by saying, “Not just one love, Jamaica . Many loves.”
I felt terrified, to say the least, to make this statement before the reading; never have I felt so vulnerable, so exposed, and, before I walked up onto the stage, alone. But feeling embraced by the warm reception, I left the stage feeling more than ever that the title of Our Caribbean indeed speaks a truth: that this is, and will continue to be, through struggle, our Caribbean.
In solidarity, Thomas Glave.
Associate Professor, Dept. of EnglishState
University of New York
P.O. Box 6000Binghamton,
New York 13902-6000
Tel. 607 777 2894 Fax 6077772408
New Glave books for 2008:Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles (editor; Duke University Press; spring)The Torturer's Wife (fiction; City Lights; fall)
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Laws of Jamaica Breifs
The Senate re-appointed the Committee on July 14, 2000 with the omission of Senator Harding whose name was added to the membership on January 26, 2001. When the Committee was re-appointed on April 20, 2001, Senator Lightbourne was not named to its membership. The Bill, the subject matter of the deliberations of your Committee, had been tabled in Parliament on March 31, 1999. It was meant to achieve the underlying intent and objectives of recommendations made by a Constitutional Commission in its February 1994 Final Report and approved by a Joint Select Committee on Constitutional and Electoral Reform in its Report of May 1995. Your Committee held a total of twenty-four meetings, four during the 1999/2000 session of Parliament, four during the 2000/2001 session and sixteen during the current session of Parliament. The first meeting took place on November 11, 1999. At its fourth meeting, on December 8, 1999, your Committee, after presentations by Dr. The Honourable Lloyd Barnett, O.J. (who had been the chairman of the Constitutional Commission) and Dr. The Honourable Kenneth Rattray, O.J., Q.C., invited both of them to deliberate upon certain matters that were germane to our discussions:
• Derogations from the fundamental rights and freedoms;
• The reasons for and the philosophical bases of the recommendations that had been made by the Constitutional Commission;
• Issues concerning the burden of proof of alleged contraventions of the rights and freedoms;
• The fundamental question as to whether the traditional approach should be adopted, in the Bill, in which the Constitutional rights and freedoms were binding only on the State, or whether such rights and freedoms should be binding also on private individuals.
They were joined, in their deliberations by Mr. Dennis Daly, Q.C., and three attorneys-at-law from the public sector and they are referred to in this Report as the Advisory Group. The Advisory Group presented their recommendations and suggestions to the Committee on January 17, 2001, when its meetings were resumed. The length of time that the deliberations of the Advisory Group occupied, was, in the Committee’s view, clearly overshadowed by the incisiveness of the quality suggestions made by them. Your Committee also received written submissions from the following persons and organizations. Mrs. Linnette Vassel, Coalition for Community Participation in Governance –
Appendix 3 Professor H. Devonish, University of the West Indies – Appendix 4 Jamaica Forum and Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J. Flag) – Appendix 5
Senator Floyd Morris – Appendix 6 Westmoreland Parish Council –Appendix 7 Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress Church of Salvation – Appendix 8 Jamaicans for Justice – Appendix 9 Oral presentations were made by Professor Devonish, Jamaicans for Justice, J. Flag, Senator Floyd Morris and representatives of the Jamaica Teachers Association and the Ministry of Education. The challenge to your Committee on the following issues required extensive research and deep consideration of the approaches adopted in other Constitutions:
• the formulation of the preambles to the Bill and to the Charter;
• broad, fundamental issues as to the format of the Charter and who should be bound by the rights and freedoms;
• the formulation of the protection against discrimination and the question whether that protection should be extended to discrimination on additional grounds;
• the formulation of various other rights and freedoms, including the rights of the child, the right to legal aid, the protection of property rights and the protection of the environment;
• issues concerning exceptions to the right to life and to the protection against inhuman or degrading punishment in relation to the death penalty;
• the question whether a right to trial by jury should be included in the Constitution;
• the substitution of a reference to periods of public emergency or of public disaster for the existing reference to periods of public emergency and the specification of the rights and freedoms which legislation can override in periods of public emergency or periods of public disaster;
• the Commission’s proposal concerning international human rights instruments to which Jamaica is a party.
These matters were subject to vigorous discussions and careful consideration by the members of your Committee and it is expected that the analyses and the recommendations made in the Committee’s Report will assist the members of both Houses of Parliament in their deliberations on the Bill and in its smooth passage both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
Politicians will always do politics, but it irks me greatly when they regurgitate volumes of sleazy political nonsense with the hope of convincing voters to imbibe that which they spew, however unpalatable.
What is even more sordid about this practice is the uncanny manner in which some go about cavorting and shouting the virtues of the Beatitudes and condemn the vice in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (before they died) without conceding the ugly contempt inherent in their own utterances and actions toward the very people they claim to love or seek to represent.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding repeated a position he first espoused in 2006, during an interview on the BBC's HARDtalk with Stephen Sackur, that homosexuals will find no place in his Cabinet. The prime minister correctly acknowledged Jamaica's homophobic culture, but also highlighted the emerging "tolerance" towards gay and bisexual men and lesbians. While I share a convergence of views with the prime minister that outside lobby groups and international organisations should not attempt to dictate our cultural mores or impose their social values on us, I find the prime minister's insistent stance on barring people who exercise different sexual preferences from serving in the Cabinet backward and disingenuous.
This is the same prime minister, who, on more than one occasion, sanctimoniously preached the gospel of inclusiveness without ever once invoking exceptions based on the George Orwell "Animal Farm" model.
The prime minister knows that we "can't have our cake and eat it". He knows too that we cannot talk seriously about equality under the law, the charter of civil rights, or justiciability, while simultaneously and piously promoting discrimination under the law, based on sexual orientation. We cannot do these things, yet stress gender, religious, racial or political equity. One does not have to be a proponent of homosexuality, bisexuality or lesbianism to know that what the prime minister is articulating is a furtherance of intolerance and homophobic vitriol toward people with different sexual interests and inclinations.
Did the prime minister, in appointing his Cabinet, ask members about their sexual preferences, whether dormant or active? If the prime minister subjected his Cabinet members to his brand of the sexual "fit and proper" litmus test, did it not run counter to Mr Golding's own views and defence of an individual's right to privacy? How certain is the prime minister that he has not breached his own standards, or does he have a Peeping Tom in the Cabinet, whose sole responsibility it is to report on people's sexual activities?
Ironically, the same prime minister, who does not want homosexuals in his Cabinet, is deafeningly silent about accepting, seeking out, or working with, people who happen to be homosexuals and populate every sector of the Jamaican society. These men and women are public servants, academicians, lawyers, public policymakers, and owners of capital, and are in every industry of the private sector. Mr Golding, as you already know, leadership coined out of the principle of convenience is superficial. However, that which promotes a new direction and embarks upon a journey towards meaningful change and peaceful coexistence is truly profound.
Chicken backAs wishy-washy as the prime minister's renewed homophobic stance was, he was not alone in demonstrating a lack of visionary and progressive leadership. Like heavy thunder, Opposition leader Mrs Simpson Miller roared on at a meeting in St Elizabeth and drew parallels between the price of chicken back during her tenure as prime minister, and the current price under the present Jamaica Labour Party government. Mrs Simpson Miller was "in her ackee" and was ably assisted, on this self-defeating mission by the former general secretary, who spared no efforts in reminding voters why they should not fail to vote for the PNP.
Now, of all the problems and struggles that beset this country, the best Mrs Simpson Miller had to offer was to dwell on, and politicise the price elasticity of chicken back. Mrs Simpson Miller knows how much I admire her strength and tremendous social conscience, but I am not one for malarkey, or political puppetry. Someone had better tell her to change course, because cheaper chicken chassis and jumping-jack tactics will not cut it. And, as stubborn as she appears, one hopes Mrs Simpson Miller takes heed. Whatever the motivation to pluck the cost of chicken back and leave the feathers on the multitude of other problems that confront us, the bone truth is: this will not curry-favour votes, given consumer awareness and global realities.
Understandably, leadership requires some amount of "symphonic actions", as in understanding people's concerns and connecting with their plight, but it also relies on practical intelligence - the kind Norman Manley spoke of - and a greater degree of awareness than is now being exhibited by Mrs Simpson Miller. We need "servant leadership" in this country. Lest we forget, Robert K Greenleaf first spoke of the servant-leader - where service takes pre-eminence. "It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve - and to serve first, then makes a conscious choice to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is 'leader first'; perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive."
Finally, we owe it to ourselves to reject, outrightly, this conniving bit of political expediency and hypocrisy, and to discard leaders who continue to speak out of both sides of their mouths like "Spanish machetes", while riding the horse differently with each passing day. It is one thing to extol the intrinsic worth of one's own political efforts and perceived accomplishments, but it is rather embarrassing and condescending to impose those merits on people whose past experiences and circumstances starkly contradict the self-acclaimed achievements being bandied about, particularly when the analogies are painfully dissimilar. Skilful leaders do not engage in silly semantics, they are driven by meaningful convictions sufficient to allow them to say, "This way, follow me."
People like Opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller may not be aware that Americans, the richest constituency of people on this earth, are gearing up to pay in excess of US$7.00 ($500) per gallon for petrol when summer rolls out its merciless heat in a few months.
Mrs Simpson Miller is of course a politician, and as we all know, politicians tell the truth only when there is a political advantage to be gained. Recently, she has been chanting on the plight of the poor, a very real plight, but of course she has couched it for the ignorant, her most ardent following. She has even gone as far as to suggest that people are now buying bread "by the slice", as if this is a phenomenon which has suddenly appeared on the Jamaican socio-economic landscape.
Sad to say, in my time, people have been buying "piece a bread" from the 1950s when I was a child until the present. But as I said before, she is a politician led less by a real concern for the poor and more by the votes from them to provide her with power.
If the ignorant, the poorly educated and the diehard PNP have grown more hungry since the September 2007 general elections, then it is a fact which Prime Minister Golding needs to deal with. Chomping at the bit as she expects a snap election, the Opposition leader has been attracting sizeable crowds in the various communities she has toured. The ruling JLP administration cannot feel any ease at that fact.
As much as Opposition leader Simpson Miller is blooded in the distributionist policies of the 1970s, the present world scenario of exorbitant prices for grain crops may force upon the world stage a whole host of countries making crash programme-like policies and subsidies not just as emergency stop-gap measures but as a part of regular government policy for at least the next five years. In this regard, Portia's backward socialist policy may just be what is needed in these times of global socio-economic turmoil.
Let me now turn to the prime minister and his "Not in my Cabinet" response to a sharp if somewhat socially myopic question from the BBC's HARDtalk host Stephen Sackur. First, most of these First-World journalists assume that we in the Caribbean are basically savages, especially where it relates to homosexuality. Sackur saw it as nothing dramatic for a male homosexual to be a part of any Cabinet in any democracy in any part of the world. And he may well have been right.
Instead of Golding answering, "Not in my Cabinet", I would have preferred him to say, "Not openly in my Cabinet", or "No homosexual activists in my Cabinet".
Knowing that his real constituency was not in London, England, but at home in Jamaica, Golding was forced to play to his Jamaican audience, most of whom find male homosexuality nasty, sick and repugnant.
Recently, Dr Orville Taylor, appearing on TVJ's All Angles, echoed the exact sentiments in an article I sent to the Observer's evening paper Chat! where I write a regular Friday column. Essentially, I said that powerful countries like the US and other European economic giants know whom to push and prod. The US is forced to do business with, say, China, while ignoring its abysmal human rights record, including homosexual issues.
Jamaica has distinguished itself over the years by walking the world with a begging bowl. By virtue of that, we are fair game for First-World countries, which seem all too eager to ram their homosexual agenda down our throats.
That said, we need to change the archaic buggery laws if even to placate these powerful international associations and countries. If two men choose to retire to the confines of a closed room and even take along two ducks and a rabbit, what business of mine should it be what they do to each other? Of course, the animal rights activists might have something to say about the poor, defenceless rabbit and duck.
Seriously though, Golding cannot say with certainty that there are no homosexuals in his Cabinet.
It is rumoured that the last PNP government had at very least two men who were homosexuals. Golding may have been hurling barbs at the PNP from across the seas with his "Not in my Cabinet". Because I still have friends in the JLP Cabinet, I can say with certainty that too many of the key men there are burdened with an excess of testosterone. Now, if only they could channel that hormone, that energy into good, hard work not of the nocturnal type...
MacMillan's baptism of fire
Is Colonel Trevor MacMillan the right man for the job of minister of national security? And is anyone the right one? I am certain that he never thought that violent crime would pause and stare at him as he took the oath of office. Not only has it not sought a recess, but with two policemen recently cut down in the heart of one of the most violent communities in Jamaica - Trench Town - which encompasses Arnett Gardens and Rema, it seems to be saying to him, "MacMillan bwoy, a wi run dis."
In the heat of the April 1999 riots, I was out on the streets linking with the lumpen elements who were bent on destruction. A number of things struck me then. The riot began in JLP pockets and as it spread, the JLP attempted to claim authorship by providing the mob with food, drinks and other support. The riot was about gas price increases, but most of those burning, looting and blocking roads were idlers and the plainly criminal.
To these people, the riot was one big party and a three-day festival of sorts. The point I am making is that we Jamaicans have never become sufficiently angry about any national matter to take to the streets in droves. The worst has happened in that we have become inured to the excessively high murder rate and the ferocity of the crimes. As the rate increases, we lock down our ability and will to respond beyond wide-eyed talk on steel-grilled verandahs.
Ten MacMillans and a few dozen more imports from England will not solve our runaway crime problem. Our people will have to become mad as hell to respond in a great uprising. That I am not expecting anytime soon because too many Jamaicans are "surface thinkers", that is, we are really a nation of pretty dull-witted people. We endorse poor leadership, and in September 2007 we came pretty close to rejecting good leadership. We have no idea what we are about.
2).30 year old male accused of being a cross-dresser and too effeminate. Set upon by family members and citizens in St. Mary, relocated to Montego Bay without basic necessities
3).Lesbian roommates (not intimately involved) picketed at their home in St Catherine by neighbours and threatened, forced to leave by tenants of the address.
4).Lesbian couple threatened and stoned in St. Catherine, daughter of one of the clients abused at school, suffered emotional trauma. Alleged “don” from outside the area set to be leading the charge against the victims.
5).22 year old male accused of being gay chased from rented premises, St Ann. The Police were contacted with no response, it was said that they the police knew that “Batty boys were living there,” the landlord was uncooperative.
6).Male in St. Mary chased out of his Family home, told not to return
7).Male allegedly caught in bushes with other male, lost his job as boss heard the story, beaten and abused by mob who attacked them
8).Police Officer suffering discrimination on the job and threats to his life, face to face and by phone from other officers in the force
9).Male tricked by another male pretending to be gay, upon being discovered threats to his life from community residents and other males in the area
10).3 males attacked in their home in Manchester, 2 escaped one still missing, presumed dead, had to relocate, severe injuries to arms, back and face, chops to several parts of the body of one member
11).Male couple’s home in St. Ann gasoline poured in preparation for house to be lit, threatened by landlord and residents in the area, given ultimatum to leave
12).Male chased on streets and attacked by a group of males known for terrorizing alleged gay men, chopped on the left buttocks, police refuse to take report, tried to find refuge in a hotel complex but was thrown onto the streets to a mob, he escaped
14).Male couple in Manchester forced to move as male residents invade their property demanding of female partners, asking why they don’t have any girls around. Ultimatum served on them to leave the area
15).Male forced to remove from family home as he is believed to be gay, even though he has been living there all his life, the residents were tolerant at first but since the public debate has been raging they have become tense.
16) Female couple held at gunpoint and their car taken and raped by four men who took turns on the femme of the couple, the butch partner escaped as she told her would be rapists she was infected with an STD
17) Another female couple attacked at home by 2 gunmen and raped.
The report has recorded high incidents of police brutality, violence against women and a failing justice system.
Of Jamaica, Amnesty writes that murder rates and police killings in socially excluded inner city communities remain at a high level with another record high for murders during 2007 of more than 1,500 people.
There are also reports of increased police brutality with reports of 203 people killed by the police between January and September.
The report also says violence and discrimination against women and gay men was widespread.
Amnesty also spoke of police excesses and reports that several persons were killed by the police.
It also reported on Trinidad's witness protection programme saying the programme was constantly being criticised.
Bahamas was bashed in the report for cases of violence against women.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
What are your thoughts???
Monday, May 26, 2008
Hon O. Bruce Golding
Office of the Prime Minister
1 Devon Road
Dear Mr. Golding:
Recently a number of international human rights organisations have called for a boycott of Jamaica over concerns about how gays and lesbians and those perceived to be so are treated in the country. For our part, we at J-FLAG, while disagreeing with the strategy of a tourist boycott, have stated our concern about violence against persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. We note your intervention in the matter in both the local and international media, where you have suggested that the right to privacy is guaranteed and ought not to be violated by the state. Yet, you have confirmed, in a very public way and in a global arena, the view that Jamaica is a repressively homophobic society. Your interview on the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’, for instance, presented the country as one where open discrimination against gays and lesbians is not only commonplace but sanctioned by a long-standing cultural history, ostensibly enshrined in law, and now condoned by the country’s political leadership.
perception that homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica, based on the provision in the Offences Against the Person Act criminalising buggery. While the law relates to all persons engaged in anal sex, it is to be underscored that the offence, driven by a religio-cultural sense of what is biblically appropriate behaviour, is used symbolically and disproportionately against men engaging in consensual sex. This kind of legislating on the basis of religion is problematic because it lacks consistent application; it is not used against heterosexual persons. Further, no other contravention of biblical sexual values—for example, adultery or fornication—is criminalised in Jamaica. We contend that the continued existence of this law is a violation of our right to privacy and makes many consenting adults into unapprehended criminals simply for having sex.
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays
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Recent Homophobic Incidents
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Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police
b) Only give name and address and no other information until a lawyer is present to assist
c) Try to be polite even if the scenario is tensed) Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation
e) Every complaint lodged at a police station should be filed and a receipt produced, this is not a legal requirement but an administrative one for the police to track reports
f) Never sign to a statement other than the one produced by you in the presence of the officer(s)
g) Try to capture a recording of the exchange or incident or call someone so they can hear what occurs, place on speed dial important numbers or text someone as soon as possible
h) File a civil suit if you feel your rights have been violatedi) When making a statement to the police have all or most of the facts and details together for e.g. "a car" vs. "the car" represents two different descriptions
j) Avoid having the police writing the statement on your behalf except incases of injuries, make sure what you want to say is recorded carefully, ask for a copy if it means that you have to return for it