See below the full text of Father Sean Major-Campbell’s sermon at the Human Rights Day Observance Service, which took place at Christ Church, Vineyard Town, Kingston, Jamaica on Sunday, December 7, 2014.
Today was a special day for me.
It was the first in a very long time that I participated in a church service outside of attending thanksgiving service, the christening of my godson, or my dad’s annual appreciation service.
When I go I usually enjoy it, but I am rarely, if ever moved by the proceedings.
Today was different. Today was very different. Today felt like a celebration of the human family with all its diversity. And indeed it was. Because today, at Christ Church, Vineyard Town, Anglican Priest Father Sean Major-Campbell hosted a special service in observance of the upcoming December 10 internationally recognised Human Rights Day.
Today, in Mass, he delivered a very powerful sermon urging all Jamaicans to
- uphold and respect the rights of each citizen
- live together in peace in spite of our differences
- speak up in defence of the human rights of the vulnerabilised
- and to use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our guide to healthy living.
In his humility and in keeping with his value to lead by example, he washed the feet of two openly lesbian Jamaicans – Jamaicans who, in their own micro and macro ways are contributing to Jamaica’s National Development Plan – Vision 2030.
He also invited a transgender man – FJ Genus to briefly share with the congregation what life has been like for him here in Jamaica.
FJ was touched. He expressed a feeling of gratitude and appreciation to be allowed to speak in a space that is often considered by some to be a hostile space for the LGBT community. But today it was not so.
It was not hostile.
It was not discriminatory.
It was not stigmatising.
It was not judgemental.
All were welcome with open arms to the delight of many, including Jamaicans for Justice’s Chairman – Dr. Barry Wade who expressed that more services of this nature were needed.
Dr. Michael Abrahams in his piece on ‘Justice’ challenged Jamaicans to demand justice, everywhere there is injustice. We do not only want justice he said, we NEED justice. He also articulated (in no minor way) that Jamaica needed more Christians like Father Sean to advance the human rights of all of us.
In the end, I was quite pleased. It was pure awesomeness! Well done Father Sean!
Before I actively began to believe in myself, this young man saw quite a bit in me that was news to me. He has subtly pushed me, and pushed me, and pushed me to aim for more, reach for more, do more, and be more. In my one year at J-FLAG I have grown tenfold in many ways, in many areas of my life, and it is largely because Jaevion entrusted quite a bit to me that I did not even know I had the capacity to do. He will, for a very long time remain the most important person in my professional development beyond age 30.
If Marvia sees me, she may not instantly remember me by name or even face, but I don’t care. She has revolutionised the way I process religion as a system of beliefs. This is very important for me, after having tireless conversations with many persons on issues of religion, morality, and sexuality. She has enlivened what I thought was impossible – reconciling religion, morality, and sexuality. I wish all my gay friends knew her.
In an unplanned way, I have been learning quite a bit about advocacy and effecting change from this powHERhouse. I have seen the fruits of her work and her methodology, some of which I will emulate. In her calmest possible voice she always manages to get me to see my errors, when I do err, and she has never once made me feel insufficient because of them. More than many, she has witnessed my miraculous exponential growth in less than fifteen months; today I am happy she is proud of me.
For over seven years Rochelle has blessed my life and has impacted every single part of my being – every single part of my existence. She has taught me the art, elegance, and pleasure of forgiveness, and, as a hundredfold recipient I remain utterly grateful. She always had a vision for me that I didn’t quite have for myself and each day when I believe I am one step closer to that vision, I celebrate with pride and gratitude.
I met Kenita over a year ago and I have closely observed (when she’s not looking) how she manages her multiple roles and how she easily inspires others around her to make, and be the difference they want to see. She is my Caribbean shero particularly with regard to advocating on behalf of the women in the gay community. She always knows when it’s time for a lengthy Skype call, and what to say to keep me going, and going, and going to the next level.
My nephew. My godson. My youngest heartbeat. Lemarc has taught me the true meaning of unconditional love, and what it means to love someone just because they are. He is what I would call my fulcrum. If there was only one person in this world that I would never want to disappoint, it would be my Lemarc.
While my interaction with this phenomenal woman is only a few months old, she has imparted a small fraction of her knowledge about many development-related issues on me, which keeps motivating me to learn even more. This is one encyclopaedia I never want to lose. One day I hope to amass even a quarter of the wealth of knowledge she has amassed in her time here.
Maria has a subtle way of always keeping me grounded. She always seems to flick the idea switch in my head without realising it. If there is one person who I am certain will always keep me going, it’s her; she says the right things at the right time. Maria helps me to always see the big picture and avoid thoughts of throwing in the towel.
Carlene is very dear to me. She is so committed to helping me improve everything I do and everything I am. She provides a safe haven for a multitude (that’s an exaggeration) of people, and watching her give of herself to others always makes me pause and reflect on what, and how much I give to humanity.
Richard is the kindness person I know on the face of the earth. His selflessness is second to none, and he never complains in the midst of helping others, regardless of the circumstances. To watch someone constantly care for, and help others with such ease, is breath-taking.
When I get older I want to facilitate any and every learning session the way Karlene does. She is simply the best, and it’s a quality I appreciate because of the profound impact it can have on others. This is something I will emulate over time with my own style, because I certainly can’t speak at her speed. Her passion for teaching is orgasmic.
My Rev. Dad. If the story written in the Bible about Job was written in the year two thousand and fourteen, it would be renamed The Book of Steve. My dad – Steve – lives his principles and is almost never found wanting. As father, as minister of religion, as teacher, as brother, as friend, as colleague, as uncle, as granddad, as everything that he is, he positively impacts every life he touches. He is so cool, so calm, and so effective in all his roles and he never short-changes anyone who needs his time and support. If humans were perfect, he would be the measure. His life inspires me.
Thank you. Thank all of you…
A soft voice against GBV…
When the GoJ publicly invited submissions on the review of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) 2009 it was very clear in its intent. The primary aim of the review was to secure greater protection (and security) for women and children who have been vulnerabilised by the law with regard to power over (or lack thereof) their anatomies. In his judgement, the Minister of Justice – Senator Mark Golding and his Joint Select Committee recognised that possible amendments to the SOA, could also affect provisions in other related Acts such as the Child Care and Protection Act, The Domestic Violence Act, and the Offences Against the Person Act.
While the related Acts are being considered, they are not the primary reason for this review process. It is the SOA that is up for comprehensive review, which, to my knowledge is not homophobic. It does discriminate, yes, but primarily against women and girls as a collective class – gay women and girls, bisexual women and girls, straight women and girls – regardless of and not because of their sexual orientation. It is also discriminatory against boys and men, regardless of their sexual orientation and not because of their sexual orientation. It discriminates based on anatomy and not identity. So, for example, under the SOA men cannot be raped because their anatomy does not include a vagina. Boys cannot be raped because their anatomy does not include a vagina, and the SOA makes it clear that only a vagina can be raped. Also, in a ‘healthy marriage’ a man can never be charged for raping his wife – supposedly because it is her duty to spread her legs for him at his behest (as per marriage certificate?). Persons under 16 cannot legally access contraceptives without parental consent, so if there is no consent from parents, by the time they get to 16 (the age of consent), the law implies that they are supposed to be clueless about how to have safe sex. Another useful example is the fact that women cannot be charged for committing rape because they do not have a penis, and if a woman is forced to perform fellatio, that is not considered rape, and the perpetrator (depending on the mood or discretion of the judiciary) may serve less than three years in a correctional facility…
The misogyny (that must be the term for it) that is being proliferated by some human rights advocates is evident in the narrative being crafted into the SOA – that the SOA is homophobic – clearly this exists in their minds only. What I find quite disheartening in this regard is that scores of individuals and organisations have been writing to the Joint Select Committee calling for all sorts of actions about this ‘homophobic piece of legislation’, and have wilfully ignored the mainstay of the review, which is to provide more protection for women and children, and any possible revision of the SOA into an Act based on the principle of gender equity. Gender equity in this regard means that persons will be punished in an equitable manner once they exact any form of sexual violence against any individual regardless of their sex or gender. It is for this reason that some human rights advocates are calling for the use of gender neutral or gender blind language throughout the Act, and for a ‘redefinition’ of rape that includes all forms of forced penetration of mouths, anuses, and vaginas…
Why are we hijacking the review of the SOA with our misogyny? Don’t be surprised if the LGBT community labels you as an ally of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship et al. Your advocacy on this is reflective of theirs.
Will the ‘real’ human rights advocates please stand up???
Before I became a part of the J-FLAG team, I used to hear persons complain that the organisation had almost completely ignored and invisibilised lesbians and bisexual women.
I believed it.
And I got angry too.
I tried to analyse it but had very little information to make a decent analysis.
Then with more information came enlightenment.
I revisited my anger and reflected a bit on a J-FLAG-facilitated training in which I participated several months prior to becoming a part of the team. The training session had a few more women than men, if not evenly spread.
But then all the talk about buggery and the Offences Against the Person Act in the media had me playing tug-o-war with my views on J-FLAG’s androcentrism. At the time, I too was guilty of all that buggery talk. I realised, however, that there were more structural and social barriers to the livelihood of gay men, bisexual men, transgender women, and transgender men than lesbians and bisexual women. So while lesbians and bisexual women were indeed affected by these barriers, things were just a little bit harder for the rest of the LGBT community.
JFAG – as it was (is) affectionately(?) called by some – had a bag ah man ah wuk fi dem. I suspect this was also a determinant of the programmatic focus of the organisation. Furthermore, much of the discourse on LGBT issues was wrapped into the public health garb – maybe code for HIV. As we all now know (if we believe the statistics), HIV prevalence is high among men who utilise the sexual function of the anus and that’s where the mighty funders wanted to put their monies in order to reduce this high rate. Thankfully, we are slowly but surely moving away from that restrictive thinking and realising that all sorts of stigma and discrimination exist out there, and LGBT advocacy organisations that invisibilise women are perpetuating a different kind of discrimination and exclusion, but it’s still discrimination and exclusion.
Sadly, there are still some advocates who believe that women should remain invisible, but I am thankful that J-FLAG has recognised that it can no longer perpetuate the old status quo. Over the past two to three years more ahn more ooman ah full up de organisation ahn ah speak up more fi de ooman dem. It’s still not where it should be, but things are changing.
Now, why am I annoyed? I am annoyed for two reasons:
- It seems as if some of us believe that to our own detriment we must hold on to the old J-FLAG and ignore any and every incremental steps it has taken to be more inclusive in its programmes and initiatives.
- Some women are still refusing to get involved in their own advocacy. Wi cuss de man dem sey dem tek ova de ting ahn nuh business wid wi, yet we fail to realise that by not seizing every opportunity, and multiplying those opportunities, we are leaving it in the hands of the same men to forever monopolise the LGBT movement.
I could use some lines to talk about how J-FLAG has been transforming its programmes and initiatives and making them women-inclusive, but mi know nuff people nuh buy de disclaimer up top and will think this bit of blogging is all about defending and promoting the organisation. So I will just advise you to do your own little research and make informed claims.
Wi cyah jus cuss, cuss, cuss, every day and expect that we will begin to make more than incremental steps. Everybody in the LGBT community needs support, and all of us need to support each other. We won’t all get it right all the time, or at record pace, but that doesn’t mean we can’t engender change for ourselves.
Saturday, June 14, 2014 was like a Friday the 13th for me. So many things happened that day – a day that seemed packed with a few more hours than the 24 to which I have grown accustomed. But it wasn’t all bad. Some of it was quite productive and inspiring.
For those of us who watch the nightly news and have active social media accounts, or know someone who knows someone who was in May Pen, Clarendon the afternoon of the 14th, you would have heard the teeth-gnashing, heart-piercing story of a 16-year-old who had to run for cover in a clothing store in the town.
Apparently persons were disturbed by the decision to purchase a lip stain, so they proceeded to verbally attack Candy [pseudonym] with the always lurid Jamaican derogatory terms set aside for gay and gender non-conforming persons. I don’t care about Candy’s sexual and/or gender identity, but apparently it is a critical national (well maybe local government) matter that needed the urgent attention of the citizens who busied the streets of May Pen that afternoon.
It took several Area 3 police officers to successfully, and without incident provide safe exit for Candy who was locked in the store by one of the store attendants to prevent the chanting mob from causing further harm. When I heard about the incident, I became worried and my heart swelled with anger.
I thought of writing about the incident because of the anguish in my heart. I thought about writing because of the pain, because of the disappointment I felt. But I decided instead to write because of the goose pimples I got when I heard the very young female store attendant Kelene (pseudonym) tell me via phone that she “couldn’t push [Candy] on the outside. I honestly couldn’t push [Candy] out. [Candy] was so afraid… [Candy] is human just the same way as I am.” She “just could not” let them hurt Candy.
In a moment when I was angry at the mob of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, human beings who were ready and willing to hunt for the ‘kill’, a child who preferred a little colour, a little gloss, a little stain on the lips, Kelene gave me more than a glitter of hope.
I don’t know her age, but her voice and stature would make me guess that she was somewhere between 18 and 20 years of age, if not younger. She didn’t know Candy. She simply felt the urge to help, and in that moment made a brave and perhaps risky decision to protect Candy from the hunters outside. I don’t know if we will truly understand how much she has risked protecting this person unknown to her. I hope the universe will reward, and not punish her…
Several minutes later, I boarded a bus to head back into Kingston. And all the hope escaped me for the entire journey from May Pen. Certainly after all that drama and the density of the population involved, I was not surprised that the incident and other ‘related’ occurrences became the topic of discussion.
Without turning your stomach too much, let me just say that there are some Jamaicans out there who unswervingly believe it is absolutely necessary for gay men to be put to death in the most gruesome ways, and that it is the responsibility of ‘straight men’ to ‘correct’ lesbians through sexual intercourse. Why? That’s easy. Being gay is an abomination!
It got me wondering: what accounts for the diametrically opposing views of Kelene and some of the passengers on this bus? I couldn’t find the answer, I don’t even know whether there is an answer, unless we are going for the insanity plea: mens rea not found…
I am still thinking, still wondering, still hoping, and still inspired by the little voice that was on the other side of my Huawei.
I believe we need more Kelenes, and we must find a way to transform the minds of some of those passengers on the bus, otherwise, we are doomed.
Thank you Kelene for recognising as Desmond Tutu did, that “we can only be human together.” And I implore you to continue to “do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
There is a dearth of discourse and opportunities for students to learn about human rights issues in Jamaica. This is particularly true of those sociocultural, political and legal issues that affect the rights of vulnerable and marginalised populations such as people living with HIV (PLHIV), women and girls, people living with different abilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who experience layers of stigma and discrimination.
Discourse on human rights is important because it raises awareness, encourages research, and engages stakeholders in an effort to reduce and eliminate all forms of stigma and discrimination experienced by the most vulnerable among us. Such discourse also underscores the principle of respect for diverse populations entrenched in our motto – ‘Out of many one people’.
The Essay Competition
Given the limited exposure of secondary school students to human rights issues, it is important that avenues be created for secondary school students to conduct research in this area while developing their critical thinking skills. J-FLAG has therefore partnered with the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) to launch a secondary school essay writing competition for students 13 to 19 years of age.
This essay writing competition will encourage students and teachers (who will supervise students) to incorporate knowledge garnered from their participation into their classrooms, clubs and societies, and in discussions with their peers to continuously raise awareness about this and other related issues.
We also hope that this will encourage the development of a stronger sense of citizenship and a deeper understanding of the rights guaranteed by all persons under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom regardless of being male or female, race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinion. All essays will be uploaded to an online repository accessible by the public as part of J-FLAG’s public awareness and education programme.
The competition will run from Monday, April 7, 2014 to Friday, May 9, 2014 at midnight.
The winners will be announced on Friday, May 16, 2014 and the winning essays will be read at the Annual Larry Chang Symposium as part of J-FLAG’s observation of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).
- Category 1 – students who are 13-15 years old and registered at a secondary high school in Jamaica. Students will write on the following:
Human rights are for everyone. Discuss
- Category 2 – students who are 16-19 years old and registered at a secondary high school in Jamaica. Students will write on the following:
The right to freedom of expression is absolute. Discuss
The winner from each category will receive a 7” Samsung Tablet 3, a gift certificate valued at $10,000 each and a winner’s plaque. The winning teacher from each category will be rewarded with a spa treatment.
The runner up from each category will receive a gift certificate valued at $10,000 each and a gift basket. The runner up teacher from each category will also be rewarded with gift baskets.
- All essays should be typed with 1.5 line spacing, using APA guidelines, and must be accompanied by a reference page.
- For category 1, essays should be 300 – 500 words in length. Essays exceeding this limit will not be considered. Essays below the minimum word count will not be considered.
- For category 2, essays should be 1000 – 1200 words in length. Essays exceeding this limit will not be considered. Essays below the minimum word count will not be considered.
- All essays must be submitted via email to email@example.com in Microsoft Word format only. You will receive an immediate verification that your essay has been received. If you do not receive a verification email within one hour of your submission please call 849-1403.
- A cover page with your full name, age, name of school, your email address, contact number, and mailing address must be submitted with your essay. Your cover page and reference list are not included in the word count.
- Proof of age must be submitted with all essays. This may be a certified copy of your birth certificate or a letter from your JP, teacher or doctor, which should be scanned and emailed along with your essay to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Essays will be graded based on the following rubric:
Content – 10
Analysis & Persuasion – 8
APA formatting & Reference – 4
Style & Grammar – 3
Contact Information: Latoya Nugent, Education and Outreach Manager, J-FLAG
Email: email@example.com Phone: (876)849-1403
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2014
J-FLAG Partners with UWI LEADS to host The Great Leadership Debate
J-FLAG is partnering with UWI LEADS, a leadership development programme, to host a debate among student leaders from three of Jamaica’s most prestigious tertiary institutions on the role of leadership in responding to the rights of vulnerable populations. The Great Leadership Debate is a tertiary level competition which uses the parliamentary debate style to discuss issues that are pertinent to national development, traditionally between the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona and the University of Technology (UTech).
This is the third staging of the competition and with J-FLAG’s partnership it has been expanded to include the debating societies at UWI Western Campus and Mico University College. The competition will be held on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at the UWI’s Regional Headquarters and will commence at 2:30pm. Specially invited guest, Elizabeth Lee Martinez, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the United States will bring greetings.
J-FLAG believes more dialogue around the sociocultural, political and legal issues that affect the rights of vulnerable and marginalised populations, such as people living with HIV (PLHIV), women and girls, people living with different abilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who experience layers of stigma and discrimination is desperately needed. According to Latoya Nugent, J-FLAG’s Education & Outreach Manager, “more opportunities are needed to facilitate meaningful discussions about human rights to allow people, including human rights advocates to learn about these important issues if we really intend to be a safe, cohesive and just society by 2030.” Rasheen Roper, Coordinator for UWI LEADS adds that “The Great Leadership Debate is one such opportunity that allows for the investigation of our thoughts and how we treat with the role of leadership in advocating for, and protecting the rights of our most vulnerable citizens.”
A panel discussion and Question & Answer featuring members of the participating debating societies will follow the debate. Editors’ Note: UWI LEADS – Leaders Engaged Activated Dedicated ready to Serve (UWI LEADS). UWI LEADS is the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) leadership development programme which offers leadership development opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at UWI Mona. -END- Contact Rasheen Roper, UWI LEADS 351-0133 Latoya Nugent, J-FLAG 849-1403