Montego Bay Pride 2016 was another amazing time of community building, entertainment, and education!
There was indeed “Equality and Inclusion in the Bay,” thanks to our generous sponsors, including the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Round Hill Hotel and Villas, WestJet, the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, InterPride and Total Advantage Travel & Tours Inc.
One question that is often asked of Pride events is how do you measure their success? Is it the number of participants compared to previous events? Well, Montego Bay Pride 2016 had over 244 participants, a whopping 50 percent increase over last year, with persons flying in from Kampala, London, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal to join Jamaicans from across the island in the festivities.
Or, do you judge success by the variety of events at Pride? Again, Montego Bay Pride had a good mix of public education, community mobilization and building support for litigation and other advocacy. For example, there were timely public fora in Kingston and Montego Bay addressing the buggery law and the church with excellent and thoughtful presentations by Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda, Rev. Father Colin Coward of the UK and the Very Rev. Father Sean Major-Campbell of Jamaica.
We also had moving screenings of the powerful award-winning documentary: “God Loves Uganda” after which members of the LGBTI community and our allies engaged in a spirited debate with some religious fundamentalists who support the anti-sodomy law.
A social justice project was included for the first time and saw some “Pridesters” volunteering to provide a much-needed facelift to the exterior of the Day Centre for the Montego Bay based Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI). CUMI is the only non-governmental organization focused on assisting persons impacted by homelessness and mental illness in Jamaica.
An interactive dialogue addressing the ongoing constitutional challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law was also held and Pride goers weighed in on the question “Will changing the anti-sodomy law make a difference to the level of homophobia?”
Sumptuous and free meals were provided throughout the day to cater to the many members of the LGBTI community whose financial situation is precarious — simply because of their sexual orientation and/or gender expression.
Dynamic entertainment supplied by professionals and spontaneous Pride participants made for a truly fun event. One significant highlight of Montego Bay Pride is always the “Flash Stands” where we “painted the town gay!” These short 10-minute pop-up protests occurred around the city while we were driven around in the Pride bus! An overseas participant who had initially expressed fears about attending Pride in Montego Bay was impressed with the idea and execution of the unannounced Flash Stands and suggested that this was an effective and safe way to do Pride “marches” in hostile and criminalized contexts.
We also had team-building games and exercises to help reduce the class and other barriers that sometimes manifest in the LGBTI community.
Success could also be judged by the absence of security incidents. Here again, Montego Bay Pride “knocked it out of the park.” This year we used a much bigger and more secure venue, but even so, the address was not revealed to anyone except the core planning team. Pride participants were required to register for the event using their email addresses, and these emails were vetted to ensure that there were no “trolls.”
Then registered participants were emailed the location of a pick-up spot on the night before Pride, where they were then again assessed before being transported to Pride. At the Pride site we had more security checks to ensure that no dangerous items and/or individuals were allowed on the premises.
All these structural security measures meant that we did not have to rely on armed security (which carry its own risks and can be off-putting for some people) or the police (who have contributed to violations against Jamaican LGBTI people and are not trusted by many members of the LGBTI community).
Success could also be measured by feedback. In a random poll, most Pride participants gave the event 4 out of a possible 5 points. Some of the comments included:
“The event was fun and I enjoyed myself to the max. I learnt a few necessary things and it was very informative.”
“I particularly liked that Montego Bay Pride made great effort to include and accommodate less privileged persons from the LGBTI community. I no longer live in Jamaica but I know that less privileged persons are unlikely to have safe spaces as we did at Pride. I also love that Pride was at the beach, a place that is generally very public and we would all have to refrain from being ourselves. Montego Bay Pride was clearly well organized and I’m happy that it was such a success.”
“It was awesome!”
“The venue was perfect; the music and entertainment were great; loved the food, though I wanted more (zipped lips)…. Simply Amazing.”
“I personally liked the location/settings of Montego Bay Pride 2016 because it allowed us to have fun while expressing freedom and being safe at the same time.”
“Everything was absolutely amazing!! The entertainment was off the chain, the food was great, the vibe was up! Incident free!”
“It was perfect. Loved it! For my first event like that! Next year can’t miss me!”
“I had a 101% fun time.”
“It was AMAZING! This was my first ever pride and I had loads of fun. When I got home I literally couldn’t walk. It was very educational also. The session at the town hall [about the anti-sodomy law and the church] was quite interesting.”
“Thanks for giving us more voices in Montego Bay!”
“It was a blast! The venue was fun and safe.”
“Pride was ‘kicking it’ with laughter on the beach. Tired but had a blast in Montego Bay meeting new faces and people I’ve never met before in person.”
“Montego Bay Pride was everything!”
“So I think I won’t wait tell December 11 to show my family the rainbow wings and mascara in my closet!”
“There is now a huge fire in my heart and its colours are RAINBOW!”
“I’m tired as hell but I can’t sleep! I’m reliving every moment of Montego Bay Pride 2016!”
“My first Pride Stand in Montego Bay! Very emotional and monumental.”
But this comment from one of our overseas guests perhaps best captures the significance and success of Montego Bay Pride:
“We just heard the Jamaican National anthem. May the Pride flag also fly high — and claim the rights that rightfully belong to the brave LGBTI community who is out here early on a Sunday morning to show support, solidarity and strength. We know there are many of you out there with us in spirit. Together we WILL win.”
- Jamaican success: Fun + advocacy at Montego Bay Pride (October 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Montego Bay Pride – here’s why (August 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Deliriously happy after Jamaica’s first Montego Bay Pride (October 2015, 76crimes.com)
- How Jamaican dad supports gay son’s activism (76crimes.com)
- Lawyers, activists target anti-LGBT bias in Caribbean (76crimes.com)
- Us vs. them (Caribbean): ‘If they only knew …’ (76crimes.com)
- Death threats won’t stop Jamaican LGBT advocate (76crimes.com)