Alex Blaze

Gareth Henry opposes Jamaican boycott

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 16, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: boycott, Canada, Gareth Henry, homophobic behavior, J-FLAG, Jamaica, Jim Burroway, LGBT, LGBT people, Michael Petrelis, music, raggae, transphobia, Wayne Besen

Yesterday, Wayne Besen responded to JFLAG's opposition to Boycott Jamaica mainly by taking a quotation from former JFLAG co-chair Gareth Henry out of context. I pointed out that Henry's statement was not in support of the current boycott - it was instead referring Egale Canada's proposed boycott of Jamaica over music with homophobic and violent content.

They're two different situations, and it's misleading to say that a person who supported one is in fact supporting the other.

Well, Gareth Henry released a statement Wednesday night (via email) denouncing the current boycott of Jamaica and Boycott Jamaica's use of his statement last year:


I think it is disingenuous of Michael Petrelis and the group in San Francisco to use my release of last year to support your boycott issues of this year.

I was part of the Canada-based attempts at a boycott last year. We learned numerous lessons from that attempt, not least among which is the fact that the lives of LGBT persons in Jamaica are at risk. I have therefore changed my strategy and will do nothing without the inclusion of my colleagues in Jamaica. I implore you to do the same and do not support your present efforts.

The struggle to gain rights and freedoms for the LGBT community in Jamaica will never be won by groups acting independently, but through a coordinated effort of selfless persons, groups and organizations, both locally and internationally.

This call for a boycott of Jamaica is outrageous and counter productive. The attack on Red Stripe is appalling and unacceptable; of all the corporate organizations in Jamaica, they were the ones who were willing to stand out and denounce violence against any group of persons.

This self-seeking effort/campaign of the group in San Francisco needs to end now. JFLAG has stated they do not support the boycott and that needs to be respected. If the community that you claim that this boycott will benefit is not in support, what is your purpose of continuing?

It is only when we work together we will make the difference.

Gareth Henry

Former Co-Chair and Program Manager

Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays

It was highly questionable from the beginning for Boycott Jamaica to take one statement from one Jamaican LGBTQ activist out of context to support their action, as a trump card to the nearly-unanimous opposition to their boycott coming from Jamaican LGBTQ people, but now we know that not even that person supports the boycott.

Mr. Henry raises many of the same points I've lain out before on Bilerico: that any boycott or action that performed on behalf of another group of people should go through them first, that the groups' specific action is counterproductive to the goal of reducing homophobic violence in Jamaica, and that Red Stripe is a particularly poor target for this boycott because of its history as a corporate ally to Jamaica's LGBTQ community.

I've asked the organizers (to no avail) repeatedly for even an argument as to why they think this boycott would reduce violence instead of handing Jamaicans in general a scapegoat (LGBTQ people) for economic woes that are likely to come anyway as the recession continues. There is a risk with any demonstration or action, and the people who will suffer if the action fails are the ones who should be able to decide, themselves, what level of risk they're comfortable with.

Furthermore, the boycott organizers are not the experts on Jamaica here. Jamaican LGBTQ people are far more knowledgeable about their own country than almost any American is. Boycott Jamaica has repeatedly tried to ignore JFLAG's opinion by making the dismissive argument that Jamaican LGBTQ people can't speak on their own behalf and need generous Americans to do it for them, generally pointing to that one statement from Gareth Henry as proof of their claim.

The real question here is if there was any way at all for Jamaican LGBTQ people to express their opposition to the boycott and be taken seriously by the American boycotters. I hope that Gareth Henry's statement causes some people to at least examine their positions more closely.

Further reading:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Oh, ay, ,

Petrelis and company are completely shameless, aren't they? Nothing, nothing seems beyond them...

Chitown Kev | April 16, 2009 3:14 PM

The idea behind a boycott is OK but this boycott seems to be ill conceived and poorly planned.

While I don't view this as being racist, I do see it as a knee jerk reaction to much of the rhetoric that did come from the Jamaican government itself. I wish they had coordinated this better with Henry, J-FLAG, and the Canadian and British groups that have been working with J-FLAG.

And my question from the get go of this has been, "A boycott and...what, exactly? Rep Jared Polis is now working with the State Department on the execution of gays in Iraq. Obviously, Besen and Co. made no overtures to Polis, Frank, or the State Department itself.

Alex, thanks for your thorough reporting on this subject!

Even if BoycottJamaica has a change of heart, haven't they painted themselves into a corner?

Chitown Kev | April 17, 2009 1:30 PM

IMO, not necessarily, but they a plan.

Chitown Kev | April 17, 2009 2:58 PM


not necessarily, but the need a plan.

Marc Paige | April 18, 2009 3:29 PM

I believe that straight and gay Americans, and Canadians and Europeans for that matter, should boycott traveling to, and spending money in, Jamaica, until that nation starts dealing with the horrific violence and homophobia that is currently endemic in Jamaica. To have these murders and violence directed against the LGBT community in Jamaica be acceptable, is shocking, and Americans have no business spending money in this country until they stop oppressing innocent people. The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) has every right to come out against the boycott, just as Americans have a right to stop spending money in a nation with this level of hatred.