Members of the local LGBT community and their allies attended the South Florida showing of the documentary, Taboo Yardies: Homophobia in Jamaica at the Broward College Davie campus on Wednesday, November 18. The screening was presented by local organizations Thou Art Woman, Very G TV and the Broward College Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), as a way to highlight the plight of LGBT Jamaicans and as a fundraiser for the Jamaican organization Quality of Citizenship, Jamaica (QCJ).
Taboo Yardies is an eye-opening film that examines the socioeconomic and sociopolitical environment of Jamaica that allows for violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Filmmaker, Selena Blake, who has been on tour throughout the United States with her film, was hailed as a master storyteller as she wove the stories of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals with politicians, members of the clergy, and many Jamaicans, some of whom vehemently oppose homosexuality. It also gave the audience a forum to discuss the film and the subject matter in a post screening Q&A segment.
According to Blake this segment was “fascinating” since “several audience members had no problem expressing their disgust pertaining to the lack of compassion and the hypocrisy surrounding the plight of LGBT members back home in Jamaica.” She hopes Taboo Yardies will be “a vehicle that will cultivate dialogue amongst our people near and far, for a better Jamaica regardless of sexual orientation. So when we say: “One Love,” “Out Of Many One People,” and “No Problem Mon,” we aren’t hypocrites.”
Local LGBT activist, Attorney Ghenete Wright Muir, coordinated the event after she was contacted by Angeline Jackson, executive director of QCJ. Wright Muir had heard Jackson’s story of “corrective rape” and admired her courage for taking a stand and creating an organization to defend the rights of Jamaica’s LGBT women. When President Obama visited Jamaica recently, he took the time out to highlight Jackson’s bravery. He said, “As a woman and as a lesbian, justice and society weren’t always on her side…but instead of remaining silent she chose to speak out and started her own organization to advocate for women like her, get them treatment and get them justice and push back against stereotypes and give them some sense of their own power. And she became a global activist.”
Wright Muir, who decided to be openly gay only a few years ago, said, “I myself faced many challenges as a lesbian of Jamaican descent. Once I became comfortable living openly gay, I was inspired to help others like myself and create more spaces for the LGBT community here in South Florida. I created “Thou Art Woman” to celebrate LGBT women and people have really embraced it. When Angeline contacted me to coordinate the film screening I was happy to create yet another space for the community and for the opportunity to help the LGBT community in Jamaica. Although much of the film was painful to watch, it was important for us to see how hate and homophobia really hurts so many and to learn how we can work on changing that mindset.”
Many who saw the film knew of Jamaica’s reputation as a homophobic nation, but had never had to see the scars or hear the stories of those affected. The film brought this to light in a very bold and undiluted way, which according to Kathy DeSouza, social media coordinator, “forced myself and many others to open our eyes and see the horror that the LGBT community in Jamaica goes through on sometimes a daily basis.”
DeSouza now lives in the US where, she points out, many LGBT persons are “free to get married, have children and be themselves without fear … I pray that with more awareness and support for the LGBT community in Jamaica, maybe one day, our Motto “Out of Many One People” will truly mean something. Unfortunately, it has to start with the Government. If laws are not passed to protect ALL citizens, nothing else really matters.”
This sentiment is echoed by Optometrist, Melanie Reese who said, “It is very unfortunate that so many people are still living in a state of constant fear in their own country. I hope this film reaches a larger Jamaican audience, and helps to educate people about the prejudice and injustice their fellow citizens face. Hopefully, one day we will truly have equal rights for all in Jamaica.”
Praising the work of Blake, artist and activist Niki Lopez said, “Though the film targeted the issue of homophobia in Jamaica, Selena Blake did a great job of ensuring every voice and opinion was heard. It’s great to see forward movement and spaces where dialog and growth can occur.”
Wright Muir, hailing the screening a success, said while she was pleased about the turnout, she was excited that this group was “truly engaged and extremely concerned about the people who are suffering in Jamaica and how that can change. I am also pleased to see that local businesses are willing to support by way of sponsorship so that I and the wonderful team of friends that work with me are able to bring events like these to South Florida.”
The Taboo Yardies Film Screening was presented by Very G TV, Thou Art Woman and the Broward College GSA and co-sponsored by Nadine’s Catering & Baskets, Niki Lopez Creative, David iPhoto, PNC, the Law Offices of Megan D. Widmeyer, Reese Vision Care and The Credit Group.