Trouble is we are not very good at properly documenting our journey, an issue I have always had a problem with and continue to, hence this entry. It flies in the face of the aforementioned participants and their role in the slow raising of the visibility of LGBT people in Jamaica; I can recall the backlash the male netballers received when the major dailies paid some attention to them; upon winning a major championship in Trinidad the press did not want to interview them, the local parish championships at the arena fields had it share of issues, there was no social media around then to do their own press so the photos and cut outs of articles were archived somewhere are near lost or forgotten. Speaking of archives to show the lack of appreciation of journeys past and how we got here just think back to the Gay Freedom Movement archives and how they were (mis)treated; after much quarrels they were finally reposed to the co founder Larry Chang, who is also a co-founder of JFLAG. Sadly when requested of previous members of the netball teams or even the cheerleaders they either cannot find the photos or cannot be bothered to go hunting them down; then we wonder why their own legacies are being effectively white washed.
The infamous matches at the Lela Robinson netball courts or the national arena east field courts back in the day were legendary as neighbouring basketball matches would come to a stop in some instances to watch, tease, throw homophobic remarks or just express surprise at men playing netball and doing it damned good. Even school coaches would join in, in recruiting players to guide their young female teams and some former players also sojourn into coaching with one main face that is almost a fixture on quality netballing in Jamaica. The contributions of the late Steve Harvey to the coaching aspect of the sport is also not to be outdone
Then there is the issue of the claim of first Pride in 2015, a claim that rubbed some folks the wrong way in the community as what should have been the clarification is the first ‘public’ pride; to say first pride ever suggests no such activity took place prior and is a slap in the face to event planners and even JFLAG itself when previous programs managers such as Emily Paul had pride events though low keyed were marketed to the LGBT populations with various events. Under Gareth Henry’s tenure the legendary Harmonica Sunbeam performed in Jamaica to a sold out crowd in 2004 during the gaycipation weekend as we termed it then. Then there was the Pridefest initiative by the now defunct Couture Elements team of which loads of photos are available thankfully. Pridefest combined business alongside the arts and identity themes successfully; JFLAG ironically was invited to set up a booth there to which they snubbed much to the surprise of many including the organizers.
It is important that folks claiming firsts do their research ever so carefully and not end up distorting the journey as if only their tenure matters and everyone else’s part is of no moment, with heightened visibility also via social media platforms older individuals need to also tell their stories which is not being done in a large scale. The separation of community based events versus publicly done events must be defined carefully so as to present the movement of the journey if not struggle. But with bloggers with older blogs deleting said blogs as well they clearly do not understand their own contribution by that act to the distortion and only attaching themselves to present activities as if nothing happened before. We better think on these things, what timeline do we want to leave behind, one of embellishments or one of truth?
Peace & tolerance