Will Jamaica come out of the closet?

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Sunday, August 11, 2013

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TABOO Yardies, a Jamaican film-maker's documentary on her country's indifference toward homosexuality, is doing the promotional rounds.


The 77-minute film, produced by Selena Blake, had a screening Monday at the International LGBT Film Festival in Dublin, Ireland. According to a spokesperson for Taboo Yardies, the project "went over very well" with the audience.


Though Taboo Yardies also had screenings in Jamaica in February at various locations, including the University of Technology and the University of the West Indies, Blake says no official release date has been set.


The St Catherine-born Blake began work on the documentary six years ago. She interviewed persons such as then Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding, United States Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, journalist/gay activist Staceyann Chin, psychiatrist Dr Aggrey Irons and Jason McFarlane of JFlag.


In 2008 when Blake interviewed Golding, he had controversially told Tim Sebastian of the British Broadcasting Corporation that there were no plans to legalise homosexuality in Jamaica. He was adamant that no gays would be considered for positions in his Cabinet.


Blake believes Jamaicans have become more tolerant of gays since then.


"When I started, numerous folks whom I reached out to for an interview both in Jamaica and abroad rejected my request. Now they are willing and ready, that's an indication that something has changed," she told the Sunday Observer.


A statement from at least one senior politician gave Jamaican gays some hope. In the televised debate for general elections in December 2011, People's National Party (PNP) leader Portia Simpson Miller, said a PNP administration would consider revising the country's buggery laws.


Her comment did not go over well with many Jamaicans but was welcomed by the gay community. The PNP scored a resounding victory but Prime Minister Simpson Miller has said little about the promised revision.


Blake says there are plans to screen Taboo Yardies at film festivals in the US and Canada. One of her main goals, however, is to show it in Jamaica to legislators.


"We are open to an invitational screening from the PM, (we) would love to do a private screening for her, members of parliament and other stakeholders," she said.


Born and raised in Old Harbour, Blake moved to New York City in 1979, working as a model and appearing in television commercials. In 2005, she made her debut as a filmmaker with Queensbridge: The Other Side, a revealing documentary about the low-income Long Island housing project.


In 2007 when she began preparing Taboo Yardies, gay rights groups in Europe and North America launched their latest campaign against Jamaican dancehall artistes who denounce their lifestyle as immoral. Show promoters on both continents were forced to cancel events featuring those acts.


With same-sex marriage becoming legal in the US and parts of Europe, Selena Blake says it is inevitable Jamaica's longstanding aggression toward homosexuals will eventually end.


"Change is ahead for the gay community in Jamaica and it will be for the better. Let's not forget, change is never easy but necessary; history proves that."


  


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