The week-long event included an opening ceremony that featured the raising of a rainbow flag, a flash mob in the island’s capital, and a showcase of the talents of local LGBT members:
Although Jamaica has an international reputation for general intolerance towards same-sex relations, there were no reports of violence related to the pride celebrations. Strategically scheduled between Jamaica’s observance of Emancipation Day and Independence Day, the celebration, though muted, won the support of some local politicians.Kingston Mayor Angela Brown-Burke gave her support to the event during the opening ceremony:
I’m here this afternoon to support the LGBT and ally community in celebration of their resilience, in celebration of their reaching out over the last decade and more.
I support the right of all Jamaicans, including members of the LGBT community, to express their opinions through lawful means […]
As the LGBT community embarks on a week of activities to build awareness of the rights and needs of their members, I urge all Jamaicans to respect their right to do so in peace.
The event also attracted international endorsements: Canada-born Hollywood actress Ellen Page lent her support in person. Page, who “came out” publicly last year, participated in the flash mob organised by J-FLAG.
— Los Angeles LGBT Ctr (@LALGBTCenter) August 3, 2015
Latoya Nugent, the organisation's associate director, thought the event was a turning point for members of the Jamaican LGBT community, since so many people never thought they would see the day when a gay pride parade could take place on the island—especially without incident:
I think we will look back on this and see it as a turning point because many persons thought that it would never actually happen.
The LGBT community remains committed to ensuring that efforts to squash our freedoms, silence our voices, restrict our agency, and derail our progress regarding the recognition, protection, and promotion of our rights will fail. We continue to demonstrate our resilience as a community, our emancipation from oppression, and our right to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people living, working, raising families, and doing business in Jamaica.
Don't do it Jamaica. Too dangerous. http://t.co/RsZOM8ovH2
— The Great Guanfranco (@ThatGuanfranco) July 29, 2015
By the time the pride celebration was complete, many people could celebrate a second time that no violence occurred:
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) August 5, 2015
Facebook user Martin Carroll expressed his delight at seeing Jamaica “growing up”, and Amandee Mendez questioned calling Jamaicans homophobic, in light of the success of the pride celebrations. Michael Stewart called for a “live-and-let-love” approach, where Jamaica’s LGBT members are left to do things their own way.
A country with strong religious sensibilities, Jamaican society's intolerance of gays has long been regarded simply as part of the island's cultural expression. There is a history of violent crimes against the LGBT community, and colonial-era “buggery legislation” is still on the books. Today, there appears to be a lack of political will to enshrine equal rights for gays constitutionally.
Despite this legacy, what was recently unthinkable is now a reality in Jamaica—it's hosted a genuine LGBT pride event. Might it happen again? Whatever the enduring prejudices, there are proud Jamaicans willing to risk a great deal for their freedoms and right to be recognised.