Resonance…by Jasmine Girvan

Resonance by Jasmine Girvan…, a set on Flickr.

Every year close to Christmas jeweler Jasmine Girvan has a show in Jamaica…This year the show was strong on sculpture as you can see from the photos. These photos were taken at the HiQo Gallery last night during the opening or vernissage of Resonance…one of the highlights of the show was an obvious commentary on some of the political pussyfooting at the 2011 Commission of Enquiry into the Government’s handling of the extradition request for former West Kingston strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

Exhibition runs til 13th December, Tues- Sat. 10 am – 3pm. Do go and check it out.

‘At this school we slap kids’…

An aside on corporal punishment in Jamaican schools with a quote from Professor Orlando Patterson on the terrors of Jamaican childhood as he experienced it.

I find myself bemused by the latest subject of public discussion in Jamaica–whether corporal punishment is a suitable form of discipline for children or not.  Alas it seems that if a poll were taken there would be overwhelming affirmation for this cruel practice despite there being instances of severe abuse, including a young boy who lost his eyesight after being struck with a teacher’s belt.

The subject hit the airwaves after a parent objected to her nine year old daughter being hit for not performing well enough at a popular Jamaican school. The following report in the Sunday Observer tells it all:

At this school we slap kids

THE administration of Kensington Primary School in St Catherine is coming under fire from the parents of a nine-year-old girl who are taking issue with the school’s use of corporal punishment in its administration of discipline.

However, the leadership of the school, which is arguably the best-performing primary institution in Jamaica, is hitting back, insisting that it has done nothing wrong, as the flogging of students plays a key rule in ensuring that they focus and display the behaviours that are conducive to learning.

What I find disturbing is the number of people i know, talk show hosts, Facebook friends and others, who defend the use of corporal punishment. One friend asked:

Shouldn’t we define corporal punishment  I believe there is a qualitative difference between a slap/hit in your palm as opposed to caning on the backside. When my children consistently do something that is wrong, I slap them with a short belt, not to hurt them, but to remind them that that particular behaviour is not what is expected of them. Over the years it seems to have worked. What is the alternative to correcting bad behaviour away from this physical reminder?

I think what I’m dumbfounded by is the fact that normal, responsible, well-educated adults genuinely don’t seem to know that there are other ways to discipline or teach children right from wrong. Another argument that keeps being repeated is:  WE were all brought up on the strap, the switch and the whip and look how well we’ve turned out.

No bredren, you haven’t turned out well, you’ve grown up into someone who thinks that its absolutely fine to beat a child into submission! You’ve taught that child the lesson that violence is the solution to ignorant behaviour not explanation or reasoning or education but application of pain. No wonder Jamaica is such a violent place. Colin Channer even wrote a story once called How to Beat Your Child the Right and Proper Way.

In fact the whole sorry state of affairs reminded me of an email  I recieved from Orlando Patterson some years ago. He was responding to an interview I had done with Rex Nettleford in Caribbean Beat in which Rex had rhapsodized over his idyllic rural childhood in Western Jamaica. Orlando’s memories of growing up in the Jamaican countryside were altogether darker. I hope he won’t mind if I quote the relevant paragraphs here…

It was interesting to read a bit about Rex’s childhood although it is heavily filtered by him. I grew up in rural Jamaica too– May Pen mainly, (then a small village) and Lionel Town (a couple of horrible years; I can still recall the stench of the hospital which suffocated the entire town) and spent holidays in St. Elizabeth. Rural life at that time had its brutal side: hunger, beatings from parents and grandparents who firmly believed in not sparing the rod and spoiling the child; sexual abuse of young girls (and, possibly young boys, although I was spared that), overcrowding and just mindless boredom. Rex and myself were among the very, very lucky ones who escaped through education. What I recall are the farm kids who never turned up to school on Fridays, then never on Thursdays and Fridays, then by age 10 or 11 never at all. The teachers were nearly all pretty sadistic, all of them armed with heavy leather straps, some with forked ends. I just don’t see how one can romanticize most of that.  It was serious alright, seriously oppressive. Sure there were the good moments– the moist light of the early mornings; the evenings before sleep when the older kids told stories; the rainy days when the teachers briefly rediscovered their humanity and treated us like the children we were; the occasional country fair ( in my case, the early days of the Denbigh Agricultural Show). But they were few and far between, and even the public rituals and fairs had a scary element for a young kid: the Jan Cunu and Horsehead  mummeries were genuinely terrifying; the Hussay festival which the Indians in Vere enacted  annually scared me near to death as I gasped at grown men  flagellating themselves and seeming as if they were about to chop each other to pieces; the crop-over market dances which always had at least one fight or worse. For nearly all but the fortunate few, life for a kid growing up in rural Jamaica (it was a lot better in Kingston, then) during the thirties, forties and fifties, was raw, unhealthy, painful, often hellish, and for far too many, brief.

Sorry if this depresses you. I am still reeling from the shock of  New Orleans and the horrible ineptitude of the federal and local governments here.  In a better mood I might perhaps remember rural Jamaica in terms more like Rex’s, but I doubt it.

One good thing is that beatings are no longer administered in most schools in Jamaica after determined efforts by the Ministry of Education to discourage it. The outcry in the media concerning Kensington Primary’s use and defence of corporal punishment is also encouraging.  Hopefully the number of children living in terror of physical violence will continue to decrease.

How Bal Thackeray got his English surname…

Isn’t it odd that the man who changed Bombay’s name to Mumbai has such a seemingly Anglicized surname? Bal Thackeray. How did that happen?

Isn’t it odd that the recently deceased and hyper-mourned Hindu leader Bal Thackeray had such an Anglicized last name? After all he famously led a campaign to change the city of Bombay’s name to Mumbai, arguing that the original Marathi name of the city had been Anglicized by the British. But so in fact was his last name Thackeray an Anglicism. Apparently his father Keshav Thackeray was such an admirer of British writer William Makepeace Thackeray that he changed his Marathi last name ‘Thakre’ to ‘Thackeray’. Logically then Bal Thackeray should also have changed his last name back to Thakre…I wonder if there was ever any discussion about this in the nineties when cities in India started reverting to their regional language names as a direct result of Bal Thackeray’s sustained campaign against British influence in India. The two excerpts below give you slightly more information on all this.

From Wikipedia:

When did Bombay become Mumbai?

Officially, in 1995. That year, the right-wing Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena won elections in the state of Maharashtra and presided over a coalition that took control of the state assembly. After the election, the party announced that the port city had been renamed after the Hindu goddess Mumbadevi, the city’s patron deity. Federal agencies, local businesses, and newspapers were ordered to adopt the change.

Shiv Sena’s leadership pushed for the name change for many years prior to 1995. They argued that “Bombay” was a corrupted English version of “Mumbai” and an unwanted legacy of British colonial rule. Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray once installed a marble plaque with the name on the Gateway of India, a famous sandstone arch. The national government objected to the renaming, though, fearing that Bombay would lose its identity internationally.

The push to rename Bombay was part of a larger movement to strengthen Marathi identity in the Maharashtra region. The Shiv Sena party also declared their intentions to do away with the term “Bollywood,” a conflation of “Bombay” and “Hollywood” that refers to Mumbai’s film industry. That name, though, has stuck around.

And when did Bal Thackeray’s name change from Thakre to Thackeray? According to Wikipedia it was Bal Thackeray’s father Keshav who Anglicized the family name:

Keshav Thackeray was born on 17th September, 1885 in Panvel. In his autobiography, Keshav Thackeray writes that one of his ancestors was a kiladar of the Dhodap fort during the Maratha empire. His great-grandfather Krishnaji Madhav(“Appasaheb”) resided in Pali, Raigad, while his grandfather Ramchandra “Bhikoba” Dhodapkar settled in Panvel. Keshav’s father Sitaram adopted the lastname “Panvelkar” as per the tradition, but decided to give his son the surname “Thakre”, which was apparently their traditional family name before their ancestors moved to Dhodap. An admirer of the India-born British writer William Makepeace Thackeray, Keshav later anglicized the spelling of his surname to “Thackeray”.

Astro, the Morning Star, shines his light on us in Kingston…

A note on Astro Saulter’s exhibition at Studio 174

Astro, the Morning Star…, a set on Flickr.

Thoroughly enjoyed the opening of Astro’s show at Studio 174 last night…Born with cerebral palsy into the talented Saulter family (brother Storm Saulter is the acclaimed director of the film Better Mus Come and responsible for injecting new life into the filmmaking circuits in Jamaica and the Caribbean), Astro is a poster boy for the cause of creative development and nurturing for everyone no matter the physical challenges they’re saddled with. The artworks he’s produced using a computer and his head to direct digital tools are at once graphically sophisticated and chromatically intense, products of a refreshingly unjaded, ingenuous eye. Spotted at the opening in addition to many other notables was evening star Chris Blackwell; Blackwell Rum lubricated the occasion and the inimitable Nomadzz graced it with their rhymes, chants, curses and drums…

Check out the exhibition which will be up till January 19, Wednesday to Saturday 10:30am-4pm. Studio 174 is at the intersection of Harbour Street and West Street in downtown Kingston, an atmospheric space worth visiting in its own right. For more details and information on Astro’s ‘process’–how he actually makes his art–visit Kate Chappell’s blog here.

Mothers, Sons and Amru Sani…

Two excellent articles on Mothers and Sons in India and an intriguing Indo-Jamaican singer who’s been erased from our memories.

So in lieu of an actual post here are two of the most compelling articles I read today. I’m grateful to my old friend Tejaswini Niranjana for the first one about Amru Sani, an Indo-Jamaican singer who broke through the sugarcane curtain to the metropolitan circuit in the 50s. Absolutely fascinating…would love to know more about her.

Second, a totally revealing article about Indian mothers and their sons, by a young, would-be Bollywood star, rehearsing for an audition as an Indian mother figure. The thing is you could probably substitute Jamaican for Indian and find that the piece pretty much describes the love affair many tough Jamaican men have with their mamas…

So here enjoy. trust me, these are two gems…

Evidently, Sani didn’t do much to clear up the confusion. In various interviews, she claimed to have been born in Panama, to have grown up in India, to have been educated in Europe, and to have served as an airplane mechanic in England during World War II because she was too young to become a female pilot.

Amru Sani in Bombay

Perhaps the most credible explanation of Sani’s origins come from the Gleaner, published in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1943, the paper noted that Sani “was going to England shortly” to join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. The article listed her as “the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. P. Sani of 10, Lundford Road, St. Andrew”, Jamaica. That would mean that Sani was probably the descendent of Indians shipped off to the West Indies to work as indentured labourers on the sugarcane plantations.

Those humble beginnings didn’t stop her forging a very respectable career for herself. In addition to her music, stage performances in New York, Paris and Rome, she appeared in at least three films: a spaghetti Western called Maracatumba . . . ma non è una rumba (Italy, 1949), The Naked Maja (1958), and John Huston’s The Bible: In the Beginning (1966).  She also made several appearances on the Ed Sullivan television show, including in the episode in which Elvis Presley made his debut.

For more visit Tajmahal Foxtrot….
And now, read all about the inexplicable bond between some mothers and their sons:

A few days ago, a male friend shared with me the tremendous unease he felt at the news of his mother’s impending breast reduction surgery. “It’s not that she wants her breasts smaller or firmer that bothers me—it’s the thought of the surgeon’s hands all over them!” he exclaimed. His mother, also very close to me, had discussed the same matter with me earlier: “I really want to wear pretty bras like you girls can. I want to be able to wear dresses and blouses rather than always loose kurtas. But I haven’t told my son yet. I don’t know why, but I just feel so shy to tell him.”

I am trying to establish myself as an actress in Mumbai, so it was charming to hear a story about breast reduction rather than breast enlargement. But more importantly, I happened to have an upcoming audition for the role of a young woman who, resenting her husband because of his relationship with his mother, redirects all her affection towards her son. While this premise is hardly original, being neither married nor a mother myself, I realised I would have lots to gain in terms of characterisation by paying close attention to the mothers and sons around me.

For the rest of the article go here.

So that’s it for now! back soon-

On the future of America’s children or whether Obama will have a different approach this time around | Greenpeace International

On the future of America’s children or whether Obama will have a different approach this time around | Greenpeace International.

Barack Obama: Certified Worl’ Boss

Images of Obama after historic second term win…

The US Presidential race is over. And Obama has prevailed. What a relief.  The race was so close Zina Saunders who was asked to design a cover image for the New York Observer had to come up with three cover images to cover every eventuality:

On Sunday afternoon, Ed Johnson at the NY Observer wrote with a cover assignment that thrilled and terrified me at the same time. The thrill? Painting the election cover! The terror? They needed to have 3 variations to cover all possible election outcomes (Obama wins, it’s a tie when they go to press, and Obama…gulp…loses). So, yeah, the prospect of Romney winning struck terror in my heart. And it was an awful feeling painting a sad Obama face for the Romney Wins variation. Awful, awful.

Read Zina’s blogpost for the full 100….

Meanwhile below are some other images i acquired from Facebook. They say it all I think…

And my favourite tweet of the evening was the following just before Obama finally made an appearance to give his speech:

Rob Hyndman@rhh

I want Obama to come out in a huge Afro wig. To the soundtrack of Shaft.

And favourite Facebook update:

Colorado, yes we CANNABIS!


By Charis Tsevis, via Michael Thompson
Random images circulating on Facebook

Literate mobs: UWI’s 2006 Brush with Gay Lynching

In which i resurrect my 2006 Herald column written on the occasion of the near lynching of a suspected gay man by a mob of 2000 UWI students…

In this post I reproduce my column in the Sunday Herald, April 2006, Keeping Men Safe at UWI, written  following an unprecedented attack on a man said to have made a pass at a male student on the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus. In that incident a mob of 2000 students descended on the unfortunate man and the security guards concerned actually protected him till the police arrived. But first here is an excerpt from the Gleaner’s editorial on the subject Barbarous bloodlust at UWI, published on April 6, 2006.

What happened was not a reasoned protest against what they consider deviant homosexual behaviour, but rather so violent an overreaction that the police in riot gear had difficulty controlling the mob. Shots had to be fired in the air while some students reportedly hurled missiles at the police. It seems clear that if there had not been strong and timely intervention by the police, the alleged homosexual would probably have been beaten to death.

 And below is the column i wrote in response to the attempted lynching. 

Keeping Men Safe at UWI

So now UWI has joined the exclusive club of tertiary-level institutions in Jamaica turning out bigots and murderers. Depressing, but somehow predictable, isn’t it? First there was NorthernCaribbeanUniversity where a few years ago five students suspected of being homosexual were severely beaten up after which to add insult to injury the university’s rescue vehicles refused to take the students to hospital. Then a year or two ago UTECH students cornered an alleged car thief on campus and killed him in the most barbaric manner suggesting that the expensive education spent on them had left little or no mark.

Now comes the crowning touch, the finale. Students at the crème de la crème of universities in Jamaica, the University of the West Indies, practically murdered a man who wandered onto campus and allegedly made an ‘advance’ towards a male student in one of the bathrooms on campus. It’s entirely possible that the alleged homosexual wasn’t quite right in the head judging by the fact that he had been escorted off campus earlier in the day for loitering on the premises. He came back and peeped at someone using one of the male bathrooms. Instead of politely declining the man’s advances and notifying security the student raised an alarm that summoned forth a mob described as being 2000-strong that proceeded to chase, beat and stab the man who narrowly escaped with his life after the police, with great difficulty, intervened.

What is perhaps even more alarming is the fact that senior lecturers at UWI seem bent on making spurious arguments which sound dangerously as if they are justifying the action of the students. “Imagine that the alleged pervert had entered the female bathroom and it was your daughter, sister, girlfriend or wife” equivocated one pun-derous (stet) academic who writes a column in the Sunday Gleaner.

Needless to say if every man on campus, student or otherwise, who made advances towards a woman, were similarly lynched men would soon become an endangered species. Perhaps male students should take lessons from us females in how to fend off unwanted advances without panicking that their manly virtue is about to be ravished. Isn’t it interesting, said a female colleague, that the slightest homosexual advance on a man is interpreted as a grievous assault almost amounting to rape? Suppose women were encouraged to do the same every time a lecherous male leered at them?

“I’ve always been told that if you’re robbed in downtown Kingston, its better to shout ‘B-man, B-man!’  rather than ‘Thief! Thief!’ quipped a Trini friend when he heard the news. According to him it’s a well-known fact that Jamaicans will barely take notice if they come across a thief or a murderer but confront them with a gay man and they react as if faced with a weapon of mass destruction or the devil himself.

It’s excellent that the University has come out and condemned the near-lynching in no uncertain terms. It must go further however by undertaking educational campaigns to rectify the prevalent mindset among both students and academics. What is absolutely astonishing is that in spite of such outrageous behaviour senior academics are still claiming that Jamaicans are ‘homo-antipathetic’ rather than homophobic. One shudders to think of the kind of research such scholars are producing given that their grasp of reality is so questionable.

It also does the university no good when it issues stern warnings to its students indicating zero tolerance of such violations of human rights when its own senior academics are to be found in the leading newspaper making weak puns about ‘homocide’ and ‘backlash’ in an attempt to underplay the seriousness of the situation. Noteworthy also is the tendency of such academics to be critical of ‘mob behaviour’ rather than the rabid homophobia which fuels such a mentality. Likewise it raises questions about the Gleaner’s own position on the matter that it carries such columns while at the same time thundering against the behaviour of the students in its editorials. All of this is sending mixed signals to young people who it could be argued seem to know no better though they’ve had the benefit of university education. But can they really be blamed when those who teach them prefer to purvey prejudice rather than knowledge?

This is why I thought the campaign by prominent gay rights organizations in the UK and the US against Jamaican DJs and their homophobic lyrics was fundamentally misguided. Most DJs, almost 99% of them have not had the benefit of the kind of education UWI students have had. How and why should anyone expect them to see the light when highly educated students and lecturers do not? Homophobia must be attacked in the places it really spouts from, the numerous fundamentalist churches that spew hatred and ignorance and in institutions of learning, higher or otherwise.

If at all anything was gained by the campaign to educate DJs against expressing homophobic sentiments it has surely been undone by the example of UWI students who not only engaged in flagrant gay-bashing but also vociferously defended their criminal behaviour on national television afterwards. Shame, shame, shame.

“…a mob of educated fools”: How will Jamaica staunch its homophobia?

Publication of Tanya Shirley’s poem The Merchant of Feathers II in response to the brutal beating of an allegedly gay student on a Jamaican university campus…

The Merchant of Feathers II

Is the mother whose son is found

in a compromising position with a man

in a university bathroom

and is beaten by security guards

who police anuses

while girls walk unguarded in the night

and a mob of educated fools chant

for more blood, more fire.

This mother must put her son back together again

paint his wounds with Gentian Violet

ice swollen tendons, protuberant eyes

find the scars deeper than skin

and like a seamstress mend what’s broken within

and when his father who isn’t worth two dry stones

or a shilling sees his son on the news and appears

at her door to beat her son some more

she will turn herself into serrated edges

stand sharp and poised to kill

for her son is her only gold

and if the father’s thirst for blood is too great

she will pacify him with what he needs

to prove he is not like his son.

In her, he will bury the fear.

And in the morning she will stir soft words into

the cornmeal porridge, carry it to her son’s bed

blow a benediction into each spoon full she brings

to his bruised and beautiful lips.

Tanya Shirley

Shirley’s poem quoted in full above with her permission is a timely intervention into the barbarism threatening to drown us. She speaks eloquently for those of us who yearn for a healing of the nation not unlike the one administered by the mother in this poem.

The fish in this cartoon references current Jamaican slang for male homosexuals; in addition to ‘batty bwoy’ ‘fish’ is a popular synonym for gay men here. So the security guards at UTECH were exhorted to ‘Beat di fish!’ by the mob. Obviously the common expression ‘like a fish out of water’ would also apply to this cartoon by Clovis, November 05, 2012, Jamaica Observer.

And a postscript to my previous post on whether gay bashing is a national policy. No, it isn’t. Here is what the education minister said as a coda to the whole ‘sex text’ imbroglio (as reported in the Gleaner):

“The principles that must be at all times respected is that the Ministry of Education promotes sexually responsible behaviour in the context of faithful union between a man and woman while offering respect and compassion to those who adopt a different lifestyle.”

It’s how to get more Jamaicans to adopt this reasonable outlook that is the problem. The visual below captures the absurdity of the Jamaican lynch mob well.

copyright Norman F Cooper

Gay Bashing in Jamaica a national policy?

There is no agenda for change in relation to attitudes towards homosexuals in Jamaica, in effect this resulted in the beating of allegedly gay student on the University of Technology campus.

Clovis, The Jamaica Observer

Personally i think the right punishment for the University of Technology (UTECH) students so eager to lynch an allegedly gay student should be a year’s community service at JFLAG…that’s the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays. I also think that all of Jamaica’s major institutions, its leaders and its citizens are responsible for the beating the unfortunate UTECH student received. I’ll explain in a minute but first for anyone who doesn’t have the requisite background on this latest episode of homophobic violence in Jamaica please read Petchary’s Blog and the post titled Sticks and Stones for details.

Here’s why i say almost everyone is to blame for the violence that exploded on the UTECH campus this Thursday. The Education Minister Ronald Thwaites was on air yesterday righteously denouncing the episode and calling for the mob of students to be expelled. Yet only a few days before that he was in the media talking about a ‘gay agenda’ which had apparently had a sinister hand in the reform of the health and family life education curriculum for high schools in Jamaica.

Las May, The Gleaner, March 4, 2011

To quote the Gleaner article which reported on this at the time:

The Sexuality and Sexual Health: Personal Risk and Assessment Checklist segment of the third edition of the curriculum geared at grades seven to nine was what caused the uproar.

Contentious Questions

Among the questions posed to students were: Have you ever had sexual intercourse? Have you ever had anal sex without a condom? What caused you to be a heterosexual? When and how did you first discover you were heterosexual? If you have never slept with a member of your own sex, is it possible you might be gay if you tried it? Why do heterosexuals seduce others into their lifestyle?

The book also instructed students to perform a number of exercises to better understand their sexuality.

Yesterday, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites ordered the curriculum pulled, saying some of the material was “inappropriate”.

“I have been made aware of widespread public concern about certain sections of the health and family life education programme curriculum used in Jamaican schools. There is strong objection to some of the questions on sexual behaviour and the commentary on heterosexuality/homosexuality,” the minister said.

“I consider sections of the material inappropriate for any age and certainly for the grade seven and eight students for which it is designed.”

He added, “I have instructed that the material be withdrawn from all schools and rewritten then redistributed so as to prevent disruption of the health and family life education instruction.”

Meanwhile the Jamaica Observer devoted an editorial, Not Enough Mr. Thwaites, to denouncing the sinister plot to sensitize Jamaican children to alternative sexualities. Here is part of what it said:

WHILE the practice of homosexuality is accepted and considered a basic human right in many other countries, Jamaican law and cultural norms disapprove.

The situation as it relates to Jamaica will perhaps change in time to come; but not yet, and not, we believe, for some time yet.

We should recall that this newspaper is on record — as is the current Prime Minister Mrs Portia Simpson Miller — as saying that the country needs to revisit the archaic, centuries-old buggery law.

However, in the meantime, Jamaican law and culturally accepted behaviour should be respected.

In that respect, we are unsurprised by the suggestion from Minister of Education Rev Ronald Thwaites that at least two persons involved in the drafting of the Health and Family Life Education Programme (HFLEP) curriculum, recently pulled from local high schools because of what can perhaps best be described as ‘gay friendly’ sexual content, “had a particular agenda and were able to embed it in the curriculum”.

For, in our view, loaded questions for teenagers, which were reportedly included in the rejected curriculum, such as “have you ever had anal sex?” and “if you have never slept with a member of your own sex, is it possible that you might be gay if you tried it?” suggest an agenda of sorts. We say this particularly in light of the Jamaican context.

Also, this was clearly not a stand-alone case. The minister tells us that “it does appear that there were previous instances, and there were warnings, and it was a clear intention of some who have very clear predispositions regarding sexual conduct… who got away on this one”.

A look back to 2007 will reveal that the then Minister of Education Mr Andrew Holness felt compelled to tell the country that a book on home economics was not endorsed by his ministry. This followed revelation of a section which claimed that “when two women or two men live together in a relationship as lesbians or gays, they may be considered a family”.

The problems with the withdrawal of the revised curriculum are succinctly stated by Maurice Tomlinson, a former UTECH lecturer, who had to flee Jamaica when he recently married his partner in Canada. In a post titled Countdown to Tolerance Tomlinson points the finger at the brands of Christianity practised in the country for this interference in school curricula.

Previously, in August 2011, to be precise, both Jamaica’s national TV stations refused to air a public service announcement designed to address the problem of intolerance towards gays in this country. To view the PSA in question and for further details read the post i wrote at the time, No Unconditional Love? Jamaica and its homosexuals, part of which i excerpt below (I’m indebted to both Winsome Chambers and Sonjah Stanley Niaah for reminding me of the PSA episode):

The situation in Jamaica concerning the status and well-being of its homosexual citizens continues to evolve in a one step forward-two steps backward manner. The video above,  featuring former Miss Jamaica World (1998) and Miss Jamaica Universe (2004) Christine Straw with her gay brother, Matthew, was launched by the advocacy group Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) at the beginning of this month.

The video was designed as a PSA (Public Service Announcement) and was intended for airplay on Jamaica’s main TV stations, CVM and TVJ. Apparently in yet another display of media gutlessness both stations have declined to air the PSA in fear of public reaction.

So the point I’m making is: how is the change so desperately needed to prevent further episodes of violence towards homosexuals in Jamaica going to occur if those responsible for change through education–the Ministry, the media and the Church (in all its multi-denominational glory)–refuse to undertake the dissemination of material designed to change hearts and minds? What are our tertiary institutions going to do about this? In a separate post i will detail the history of similar incidents at the University of the West Indies and Northern Caribbean University to show that although UTECH is now in the spotlight such an episode could well have occurred (and have occurred in the past) at any of Jamaica’s tertiary institutions.


Finally Owen Black Ellis has just detailed on Facebook an instance that actually happened in Jamaica which highlights the lethal absurdity of local hostility towards gays:


The whole Utech saga has me remembering something that happened couple years ago to a couple I know and their friends. This is a true story. It was valentines day and two couples were having a meal in an uptown fast food joint. The girls were sitting down at the table and the guys were in the bathroom writing up the valentines day cards they bought earlier to give to the two girls who were waiting outside. They were laughing and reading and comparing each other’s cards when a man walked in and assumed they were giving the cards to each other, so he raised an alarm “yow people, two battybwoy inna di bathroom a exchange Valentines day card’. People, in no time a crowd converged, and no amount of explaining from the guys and begging for mercy by the girls could save them. And as they crowd grew and people asked about what happened, some added ‘dem mussi did in deh a have sex’ etc.. etc…so the details got more sensational and the condemnation got more intense, and the beating was wicked…




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