When we launched CONNEK in 2018 the out pour of messages and notes about this project from queer folk outside Jamaica who were touched by this project was beautiful. A lot of amazing people living everywhere from NYC to Canada were excited to see a way through CONNEK to re connect and/ or come to Jamaica for the first time. With that said the CONNEK team reached out to a couple international ambassadors to interview them about their experience with queerness as it relates to their Caribbean heritage. We asked them why CONNEK was important to them and what they saw in the future for queer liberation through out the diaspora.
Tell me about your experience with queerness.
”In my life at this at this point is full of peace and fulfillment, i reflect on past experience some great and some disheartening and speak too my inner Child and I challenge myself to change the stigmas that once kept me paralyzed. My queerness now is a life that I created for myself , I realized what I was missing and I set out to get it. My queer experience is still very challenging living in a city where not that many people understand the person that I am . they only see me trough the stereotypes they hold, and use it to define me . My queer experience is protest, a protest against those that harm us, and also a protest to protect us. My queer experience is a love for myself , my heritage, my chosen family”
What is one of the biggest myths about Jamaica?
”The biggest myth I’ve heard as some not born and raised in Jamaica is , Jamaicans don’t celebrate pride. I was hyped to find out that they been celebrating pride for sometime now.”
Why is the CONNEK project important to you?
”It’s in the name . Even before I came out to my peers I came out to myself and with that I had a heavy heart, I know that I would have to turn my back on the culture that shaped the person I thought I was. For years I wouldn’t associate myself with the Caribbean culture for reason of fear , shame etc. When I came across CONNEK I saw my self for the first time in my culture and I said to myself “ I need to be apart of this something so revolutionary ,so free! “ It take strength of a community to invoke change in the world. And I truly believe Connek as that ability to make waves . With the All the different type of people and the stores they carry and share its nice to know that we all have a common interest, being proud being Caribbean and being free.”
What has been your experience of connecting to your Caribbean heritage?
As a kid I took it for granted. I never really paid attention to the stories being told by elders. I hold some regret not being able sit with my elders and hear their stories and see the world trough them. I’ve been blessed with a big family with a lot of different experiences as it pertains to our Jamaican roots. Unfortunately none of them connected with me in a ways for me to see myself reflected in my heritage. At a very young age that the queer experience and Caribbean culture never really mixed I found myself drifting away from both. As an adult those experiences are resurfacing and I am able to navigate trough them in a more healthy manner. I now speak of my queerness as it relates to my heritage, the good and the bad.
As a foreigner how do you feel about Jamaica’s queer liberation movement?
A mix of emotions. Not knowing what it’s truly like to live in the environment, I only have the news and social media to describe only a small part of the life experience. With that said , I do however feel huge amounts of joy, love, pride and gratitude when I see groups like Transwave and Equality JA doing the work for our sisters and brothers.
What does ally ship with the Caribbean community across international boarders look like to you?
Ideally ally ship for our Caribbean community would look like more open safe spaces for queer Caribbeans, young and old. It would look like us taking up space to share our stories safely with the support of the public backing us as we continue to fight for our human rights.
What is a dream project of yours in Jamaica or with the queer people there for the future if any?
Food has always connected me with others. It’s whats connecting me back to my heritage. One dream I’ve always had was to own land in Jamaica, grow my own produce and share with my community through mindful dinners. At the dinner we would unpack, learn, laugh and gwan bod! Pretty much a cyute piece of land where we can be cyute and eat fruits lol.