Introduction to Love | Hope | Community
Sexualities & Social Justice in the Caribbean
Online Multimedia Edition
Welcome to the second online collection of the Caribbean IRN, love | hope | community, this one co-presented with journal Sargasso. The call for submissions for this project stated that “Movements for sexual citizenship and equal rights for sexual minorities across the region (particularly in the Anglophone and Hispanophone Caribbean) are growing and have garnered local and international media attention.” This continues to be true. This collection is presented in the wake of multiple ongoing Caribbean lawsuits and appeals within the Caribbean related to sex (including the legal work of The University of the West Indies, Faculty of Law, Rights Advocacy Project).
And in the past year, a rise of regional outrage over gender based violence speaks to dynamic movement building at the intersections of women’s rights and sexual rights. The #LifeinLeggings movement started in Barbados (late Nov 2016) in response to street harassment and violence, and expanded quickly across the region with Caribbean women sharing personal stories of pain, outrage, survival, and empowerment. The Tambourine Army in Jamaica grew out of this movement with a sharp and clear focus on child sexual abuse and empowerment of women survivors. Say Something in Trinidad and Tobago launched a Carnival 2017 Campaign speaking out against gender based violence (building upon their 2016 protest against sexist comments by a public official). And the International Women’s Day 2017 marches throughout the region around women’s rights focused on gender based violence, speaking out against sexual violence, reclaiming the streets, and survivor empowerment. These issues related to the ongoing struggle for gender and sexual justice continues as movements expand and change.
This collection focusing on Caribbean Sexualitities and Social Justice across the region offers a space for reflection, sharing, and exchange. We feature related content already published in print but published online for the first time, alongside new materials and resources. The print edition of the Sargasso Journal (released in July 2016) includes a detailed introduction that describes the history of the collaboration between the Caribbean IRN and Sargasso and provides an overview of the scholarly and creative pieces in the journal. Here, we present that introduction, as well as a selection of the formidable collection, along with additional materials collected and curated for an online space. The Caribbean IRN considers the arts to be vital, and we are proud to include here a conversation between two artist-activists: the legendary Puerto Rican choreographer Arthur Avilés and the provocative Dominican performance artist Nicolás Dumit Estévez. And we are also thrilled to include a powerful collection of poems by the fierce Puerto Rican writer and activist Yolanda Arroya Pizarro, whose work is transgressive and affirming of same gender love and desire. These featured online selections offer a vital engagement with LGBTQI activists and artists in the Spanish speaking Caribbean.
This collection is also presented in the wake of the death of Michelle Cliff (1946-2016). Although she passed in 2016, many readers and critics – and of course her family and friends – continue to feel the loss of her voice. So just as the Caribbean IRN and Sargasso choose to focus on love, hope, and community in a context that also includes violence and oppression, the Caribbean IRN co-directors, when we learned about Cliff’s passing, decided to channel our grief into a celebration of life. We sent out an open call for submissions of Write It In Fire tributes (in any form) to Michelle Cliff that reflect the intersections of her work, particularly Caribbean experiences and contexts of same-sex desire, women, trans people, and the many shades of Blackness. Write It in Fire honors Michelle Cliff with prose, poetry, and visual and performance art.
Finally, this collection launches a new online resource for “Caribbean Sexualities” that features three-related interactive digital projects, which will roll out over the next few months (dates to be announced):
1) Digital map of Caribbean LGBTI (sexual minority) organizations;
2) Timeline of Caribbean LGBTQI stories, activism, events, gatherings, etc.;
3) E-Knowledge Portal as an online space for sharing community, creative, and academic resources.
This website: www.caribbeansexualities.org not only features what we present here now, but will continue to grow. We will put out calls for submissions to these projects. For more information about the Caribbean IRN and our projects, please read more here.
Welcome to this space of love | hope | community: sexualities & social justice in the Caribbean, where we reflect on the recent past and look towards a challenging, but promising future.
Rosamond S. King & Angelique V. Nixon
Co-Directors, Caribbean International Resource Network