Hundreds expected to attend Jamaica Pride events

A series of LGBT Pride events that are scheduled to take place this week in Jamaica are expected to draw hundreds of people.

PRiDE JA 2016 began on Monday with a day-long sports day at the University of the West Indies in the Jamaican capital of Kingston.

An organizer told that the university provided referees and security for the event, which took place on a national holiday that marks the emancipation of slaves in the former British colony. The High Commission of Canada to Jamaica later in the day hosted PRiDE JA 2016’s opening reception that a Jamaican parliament, academics and others attended.

“In Canada, recognizing and respecting diversity, at home and abroad, is a priority,” Colleen Pigeon, chargé d’affaires for the High Commission of Canada to Jamaica, told on Tuesday. “As Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau has repeatedly stated, diversity is a source of strength, not of weakness.”

An open mic night took place on Tuesday at the University of the West Indies.

A family symposium and a gala are among the other events that are part of PRiDE JA 2016. A picnic is scheduled to take place at a beach in the town of Ocho Rios on Sunday.

First day of Pride was ‘a joy’

PRiDE JA 2016 took place a year after Jamaica’s first-ever LGBT Pride celebration took place in Kingston.

Kingston Mayor Angela Brown-Burke was among those who spoke at the opening ceremony. Then-Jamaican Justice Minister Mark Golding also endorsed the events that were a watershed moment for the country’s LGBT rights movement.

“PRiDE JA 2015 was historic for me, but there are no words to describe how I feel about PRiDE JA 2016 thus far,” told Latoya Brown, a member of the PRiDE JA 2016 Planning Committee.

She noted the sports day “had tremendous support from the LGBT community and allies.” Brown told the Blade it took place despite Tropical Storm Earl that was heading towards Jamaica.

“It was such a joy to see so many people out, having fun and competing for prizes,” she said.

Jamaica is among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Anti-LGBT violence and discrimination remain commonplace in the country, even though activists have become more visible over the last decade. PRiDE JA 2016 is taking place less than two months after Attorney General Marlene Malahoo sparked outrage when she described the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica’s decision to raise the rainbow flag in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla., as “insensitive.”

“I’m very happy to be so integrally involved in the planning and organizing of Pride,” Brown told. “It’s amazing to see what we have been able to achieve for the community through Pride.”