In April, I had the opportunity to sit in on a training on Advocating for Improved and Non-Discriminatory Services for LGBT People. One of the facilitators spoke of the different levels and stages of advocacy, these being from: 1 Inform ➡️ 2 Motivate ➡️ 3 Persuade ➡️ 4 Move to action ➡️ 5 Champion the issue. The facilitator also said that advocacy can take place in many forms, including through public education, lobbying, research, training and through media; and it is important to engage all sorts of people in different spaces.
It has been interesting to see how J-FLAG engages its community, the public, the government, and intergovernmental organizations, through various levels and methods of advocacy, but all with the overall goal of advocating for a better Jamaica. This includes, but is not limited to, advocating for the rights and protection of LGBT persons, the environment, children and youth, vulnerable and marginalized communities, etc.
I cannot speak for the experiences of others, although the J-FLAG social media can give a nice overview, but here are some highlights from how I have been able to experience J-FLAG’s advocacy in all shapes and sizes in the past months:
J-FLAG, its community members, and volunteers were moved to action in the clean up of Hellshire Main Road beach back in April. Cleaning up and preserving spaces around them is important to ensure that beautiful spaces continue to exist and be accessible to all Jamaicans in the future. Following the clean up, there was a Twitter chat to discuss #BanStyrofoamJa, on how potential bans in the use of Styrofoam could reduce the harmful environmental impact and allow for potential creation of alternative sustainable substitutes.
J-FLAG engages in a lot of visibility activities. Two that I got to participate in were the Montego Bay City Run and the Food for the Poor Run in Kingston. These activities are not only great opportunities for the volunteers and community members to get together, have fun, and stay active, but visibility is crucial in sharing to the public the presence of the LGBT community and the work of J-FLAG. Visibility is important in creating equality in representation.
The 4th Annual Larry Chang Human Rights Symposium, which took place on IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia), was a day of celebrating a community of love (see Mya’s post on the symposium). The event was followed by PRISM, an evening of arts, poetry, singing, dancing, and celebrating, it was a beautiful opportunity to come together and showcase the talent of members of the community. These two events were once again opportunities to challenge negative perceptions and accurately inform the public about the LGBT community.
The community also met with parliamentarians around IDAHOT, to speak with representatives of the government about issues that affect them, to persuade them to act on improving the rights and protection of LGBT persons in Jamaica, as well as, improving the lives of all Jamaicans. I had the opportunity to attend meetings with the Minister of Labour and Social Security and the High Commission of Canada in Jamaica, along with very passionate J-FLAG staff, volunteers and community members.