Montego Bay Pride wants to Love Up Jamaica!

Activists in Montego Bay have come up with a particularly Jamaican campaign for LGBTQ rights — “Love Up Jamaica.”


Montego Bay Pride explains:

Montego Bay Pride wants to Love Up Jamaica!

June 25, 2020 — During June, which is celebrated as Pride month Montego Bay Pride has been running a campaign dubbed “Love Up Jamaica.” Sharlene Kessna-Duncan, the Coordinator of Montego Bay Pride and a straight woman, explained that “love up” was chosen as a tag line because it is both a Jamaican phrase meaning to shower with affection and an encouragement for citizens to rise up against LGBT discrimination.

Sharlene Kessan-Duncan, coordinator of Montego Bay Pride. (Photo courtesy of McKoy’s News)

Male same-sex intimacy is illegal in Jamaica and carries a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment at hard labour plus mandatory registration as a sex offender. In 2011 the country also introduced a constitutional ban on all forms of same-sex unions. These laws have contributed to the island being known as one of the world’s most dangerous places to be gay with several homophobic attacks, including murders recorded each year.

Kessna-Duncan therefore reminded Jamaicans that “LGBT people are our family and friends and they also deserve to be loved, so, love them up Jamaica!”

In response to Montego Bay Pride’s appeal LGBT Jamaicans and their allies on the island as well as in the Diaspora have taken to social media sharing messages of love for various aspects of their country, with the hope that this love will be returned to the vulnerable LGBT communities.

Maurice Tomlinson
Maurice Tomlinson, founder of Montego Bay Pride

The founder of Montego Bay Pride, Maurice Tomlinson, who now serves as the organization’s Development Coordinator, said that this campaign reflects Jamaica’s true spirit of “One Love”. Tomlinson explained, “I grew up in a Jamaica that was defined by love for oppressed people and we were the first country to impose sanctions on Apartheid South Africa. We did this because as a majority black country we understood the devastating nature of discrimination. So, during this year’s Pride month when the world focuses on the fight for LGBT equality and an end to racial injustice, we want Jamaicans to also show love for oppressed LGBT people here at home. All black lives matter!”

A dozen short videos have been shared on Montego Bay Pride’s Facebook page and Tomlinson advised that more are expected before the end of June. Tomlinson thinks that the number of videos is very encouraging as several LGBT persons expressed fear of a homophobic backlash if they went public.

Any LGBT Jamaican or ally at home or in the Diaspora is encouraged to submit a video by contacting Montego Bay Pride at [email protected]

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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