BLOG – THE PRIDE OF A PEOPLE

by Jamaican LGBTQI-activist Lorenzo A. Lucas

What truly is “PRIDE”, and why is it necessary to celebrate it?

These are two important questions that I have been considering since the beginning of June, as my country made preparations to celebrate PRiDE 2016 – the second staging – in a homophobic, Caribbean country.

Hi! My name is Lorenzo A. Lucas, but you may just call me “Lorenzo”. I am a young poet with a passion for human rights and equality. I am often referred to as a quite unique guy, and I belong to the LGBTQI community in Jamaica. I am currently in Amsterdam as part of the Shelter City Programme. The programme allows human rights defenders, who are being persecuted in their country to come to the Netherlands for three months to experience rest and respite – and tons of other activities to keep you active and a bit busy.

My country has a bad history of her people being extremely violent towards LGBTQI people, with incidents ranging from excessive wounding to murder – even arson!

The world was shocked several times by various cases extreme homophobia and transphobia that exists in the Jamaican society. In particular, the case of Dwayne Jones, who was murdered in July 2013 when he attended a “straight” party, dressed how he was comfortable – as a woman. Dwayne was identified by a mob – who after hissing “batty boy” and other anti-gay epithets – beat him, stabbed him, shot him, and ran him over with a car. Dwayne was 16 years old when he died.

This incident was a big blow to the Jamaican LGBTQI community as well, with many cowering in fear, while some went farther into hiding. I found myself crying and wondering if I was next. How do you cope with a situation like this? And, while I may not attend parties dressed as a woman, I am no more safer.

Jump forward two years – skipping over more incidents of violence towards the LGBTQI community! The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals, and Gays (JFLAG) planned its first gay pride celebration in Jamaica! Can you believe it?

This was strategically planned to give the LGBTQI community a sense of hope and of identity. It was also to challenge the society to acknowledge a group of people who are resilient and deserve to not survive, but LIVE!

“PRiDE 2015” didn’t see the LGBTQI community having a huge parade in the streets with costumes, alcohol, and naked people. A parade might have resulted in a mass murder! But, this pride provided several intimate activities that moved us emotionally – an early morning flash mob at a famous park, an art show, a symposium on resilience, and a night of music and poetry. It’s quite unfortunate that I was only able to attend just one of the events.

I had no idea that I would be part of the Shelter City Programme 2016, and it surprised me even more to find out that I would be participating in Canal Parade for Europride, on a boat. This would be my first official pride celebration. At the same time, the LGBTQI community back home was launching the second staging of their pride – PRiDE 2016!

Though I was homesick and missing PRiDE 2016, I was excited about the idea of a celebration, primarily for the LGBTQI community, but for ALL people – and all were looking forward. As the sun kissed my skin that bright Saturday afternoon and the alcohol met my appetite for excitement, I looked out into the streets of Amsterdam. All I could see were happy people. Men, women, children, queer and other people, whose love and approval manifested itself in their “hellos”, bright smile, and tossing of Heineken unto the boat. I cried! I was indeed happy, but I was also sad. Never before had I experienced an entire city celebrating LGBTQI people. Never before had I seen tolerance being replaced by acceptance, on such a large scale. And, I wondered if my country would get to this stage. A stage where all people will be able to celebrate and be ONE. Not a perfect society – which is quite a stretch – but as society that is willing to embrace and care for all its people.

What truly is PRIDE, and why is it necessary to celebrate it? Because, it is remembering of the things we have overcome in our individual and collective lives and celebrating these victories, while holding each other’s hands, physically or otherwise, knowing that we will continue to overcome. And, PRIDE is for all people to enjoy……in any way they choose!

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