Kingston Mayor Angela Brown Burke speaks at the opening of the first Jamaica Pride, PRiDEJA 2015.
In a change from Jamaica’s often-deserved reputation as a violently homophobic nation, Jamaican politicians have spoken positively about the country’s first Pride celebration, currently under way. To reduce the possibility of anti-LGBTI violence, PRiDEJA 2015 does not include a parade.
Jamaican gays and lesbians are quietly expressing hope for change in the island’s anti-gay laws after getting government’s support for the ongoing gay Pride celebration in Kingston.
The celebration is the first of its kind in Jamaica, a country known for being largely intolerant of the gay lifestyle. It boasted a high-profile guest at Saturday’s opening ceremony – the Mayor of Kingston, Angela Brown Burke.
The LGBT community has been sharing photos of the celebrations on social media. Pictures include inspired-looking participants listening to the Mayor’s speech and posing with her at the opening ceremony; rainbow flag-waving gays and lesbians taking part in a flash mob; and revellers on a bus rocking to soca music.
“I come from the point of view that I, as mayor, have a responsibility to all the individuals of Kingston,” Brown-Burke, explaining her decision to speak at the celebration, reportedly told gay newspaper Washington Blade.
“There are individuals who are minorities who have been struggling in terms of their identity and finding their own space,” she continued. “It is important for us to provide safe spaces for them.”
Minister of Justice Mark Golding also issued a statement in support of the gay Pride celebration. [Editor: It’s really more an appeal to refrain from violence than a statement of support for PRiDE 2015.]
“I support the right of all Jamaicans, including members of the LGBT community, to express their opinions through any lawful means,” Golding said.
“As the LGBT community embarks on a week of activities to build awareness of the rights and needs of their members, I urge all Jamaicans to respect their right to do so in peace.”
For more information, read the full Loop Jamaica article “Gay Pride participants rub shoulders with Kingston Mayor, express hope for change.”