Call to Action: Everyone has a Right to Be

Over the past two months we have witnessed an alarming increase in the number of hate crimes that have claimed the lives of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters from Haiti to Jamaica and Barbados. What’s worse is the mob mentality that has characterized these acts of violence, making the need for an intervention glaring. In recognition of how widespread homophobia remains in the Caribbean region, a number of LGBT and social justice organizations have been called to action.

Following the murder of two men assumed to be homosexual at an anti-gay, religious street demonstration in Port au Prince, the Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon announced that the Haitian government will not tolerate any violence against people because of their sexual orientation – “Be they gay or not gay that does not matter.”  This is, of course, not the first time that Haiti has shown revolutionary leadership in the region and we can use this opportunity to draw upon our collective history of freedom struggle to call on our elected leaders to make visible and concrete commitments to ensuring that the Caribbean’s future is one of justice and equity for all.

The CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network wants you to stand with them in calling on all CARICOM governments to join the Government of Haiti in collectively and publicly denouncing transphobic and homophobic violence, such as that which claimed the life of 17 year-old trans teen Dwayne Jones in Jamaica and the most recent stoning of Justin Poleon in Barbados’ Crop Over Carnival. Women’s, men’s, feminist, LGBT and social justice organisations are invited to commit to collectively doing one action on August 19, 2013 to honour lives lost to violence in the region and to celebrate the lives of all Caribbean people, as we continue to work toward transforming our societies. You can begin by signing on in solidarity here.

August 19th actions

Several organizations have responded to this Call to Action, with planned activities in their own countries or through virtual platforms.

Groundation Grenada has organized the screening of an LGBTQI feature film in a location TBA. In addition, this action collective will be hosting a big outdoor yoga session as a call to peace and a way of memorializing those who died and celebrating change makers.  For more information on this, please visit the Spice Harmony Yoga Studio website or facebook page.

Womantra, an online feminist platform has developed a digital-photography action “We Can Do It”, using a Rosie the Riveter theme. Contributors are asked to wear their country’s flags as a head tie and to hold a sign saying: Dear CARIMCOM, Take a stand on homophobic and transphobic violence, We Can Do It! After the photos are revealed on August 19th, virtual collages will be made for each participating country and contributors are asked to print and send to either their local government officials or plaster on the nearest lamp post. Visit the tumblr page for further details and to submit your photo.

Complexd Magazine an online women centered magazine, will be aiming to launch their latest issue on that day. The editor Kered is a British Grenadian and the issue relates to issues of gender and sexuality.

While our leaders have special responsibility, the work of transforming Caribbean societies is the responsibility of all of us. We call on all CARICOM citizens to stand with us in recognizing that each and every one of us has a right to be and a right to a life free of violence. We join other organisations such as:

CVC COIN, Jamaican’s For Justice, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, CARIFLAGS, KOURAJ, Caribbean DAWN and SeroVie which have released statements denouncing the most recent acts of transphobic and homophobic violence in the region.

Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice anywhere” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Stephanie Leitch is a social activist and conceptual artist. Her work focuses on issues of gender equality through performance and organizing. Her mediums include installation, public space intervention, street theatre and film. Stephanie is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at the Institute of Gender and Development Stds. UWI, St. Augustine – Msc Gender and Development and has been a tutor within the department for the past three years. In line with her popular alias Barefoot Contessa, Stephanie produces the series Barefoot Trails on the Caribbean’s premiere art magazine ARC’s web-platform, as well as weekly features at the Trinidad Express WOMAN magazine.

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