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Deliriously happy after Jamaica’s first Montego Bay Pride

Scene at Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Scene at Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Unqualified success: Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, Oct. 25, 2015

The Jamaican and rainbow flags both flew above Montego Bay Pride on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

The Jamaican and rainbow flags both flew above Montego Bay Pride on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Keke entertains the gathering at Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Keke entertains the gathering at Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

We are deliriously happy to report that Montego Bay Pride 2015 was an unqualified success!! The best quote from someone who attended the intense one-day event was that it felt like a real Pride, as nearly 100 persons of all classes, sexualities and gender expressions (including several straight allies) freely and easily rubbed shoulders in a safe, fun and incident-free environment!

We are truly sorry that we have to limit the photos that are shared due to security concerns for some participants. However, we will try to ensure that you get a taste of the amazing and incident-free celebrations!

We are incredibly grateful for all the persons who journeyed to share their Sunday (Oct. 25) with us, especially the folks from Kingston who had to get up really early to catch the free-return shuttle at 6 a.m.!

All our drivers were excellent and went out of their way to ensure that Pride attendees were dropped off as close to their homes as possible at the end of day. I am especially proud of my own dad, who happily sported two rainbow flags on his bus the entire day!

Activist/attorney Maurice Tomlinson helped organize Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Activist/attorney Maurice Tomlinson helped organize Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Our major sponsors (The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, The Round Hill Hotel and Villas, the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and Miracle Transport) were awesome and we simply can’t thank them enough. Through their overwhelming generosity we were able to ensure that Pride was accessible to all by providing free meals, entertainment and ground transportation to our happy revelers! Several persons also donated Pride swag — especially the critical rainbow masks that allowed members of the community to freely and safely enjoy the day without fear of unintended exposure.

The entertainment (spontaneous and otherwise) was thrilling. A huge shout out to Keke, who shared her imitable (and sometimes scary) talents with us!

The most hilarious moment for me occurred off site.  The officers at Summit Police Station agreed to our holding a 10-minute spontaneous Flash Stand for equality in front of their building. But, when we went to do the same thing at the “Welcome to Montego Bay” sign in front of Sangster International Airport, a passing politician called the police to break up this peaceful and jubilant affair!  Talk about irony!

Regrettably, there was a technical glitch that caused us to postpone the free public screening of “The Abominable Crime” documentary and discussion of the theme “Is Jamaica anti-gay?” However, that minor set-back allowed the closing show to start early and so persons from Kingston who were scheduled to leave before Pride ended did not have to miss anything.

When it was finally time to say goodbye, persons really did not want to leave and took to the dance floor to show off some very acrobatic moves!

In the words of Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network:

Jamaican activist Yvonne McCalla-Sobers addresses Montego Bay Pride on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Jamaican activist Yvonne McCalla-Sobers addresses Montego Bay Pride on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

“Raising of the rainbow and Jamaican flags, singing of the national anthem, welcoming remarks from leading activists including Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, a brief address on homosexuality and the Bible, several stands for equality around the town, a visit to the beach, dancers who can shake it all, singers, a fire breather, rainbow light show, and lots of sweaty happy, fierce people of varying sexualities and gender identities having a good time in safe queer space. Big congrats… for the community-building of the first Montego Bay Pride!”

Below are messages that were received about Montego Bay Pride.

  • “I just want to [say thanks] for a wonderful day out yesterday. I had mad fun, I laughed really hard, almost didn’t have any voice left and the food was delicious. Lol. I enjoyed every bit of it. Even though I didn’t get to watch the film but the day was well spent.”
  • George (“Tommy”) Tomlinson, father of activist Maurice Tomlinson, supported his son's work by driving a flag-adorned bus to transport participants to Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

    George (“Tommy”) Tomlinson, father of activist Maurice Tomlinson, supported his son’s work by driving a flag-adorned bus to transport participants to Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

    “I want to extend a hearty thank you for an exceptional get together. Plainly speaking, PRIDE was AWESOME! I enjoyed myself and made new friends, of which; I want to thank you for because of you all of this was possible. The thrill also, at liberating ourselves in public really gives me a rush. It was my first time and, trust me, it is one of the most highlighted events of my life of which I’ll forever remember. I thank you, your husband and the rest of people who made this possible. You’re truly inspiring. I thank you deeply for everything.”

Most Pride patrons agreed that we must — and will — be hosting another Pride event in Montego Bay in 2016. Truly, Pride is Here to Stay in the Bay. We hope to see you there!

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