I remember reading about Brian Williamson's murder and being shocked. Williamson was an openly gay activist in Jamaica and for that, he was hacked to death by a mob in 2004. Born in 1945, Williamson was the co-founder of the Jamaican forum for lesbians and gays (J-FLAG) and was known for personally housing and caring for gay people in Jamaica. Fellow activists noted that he was extremely courageous and never stopped to think that of what he was risking--he worked hard to help those around him and lost his life for it.
I felt sick reading the Guardian article, my casual stereotypes of Jamaican culture challenged by what I was reading; by something that had happened just months before. I finished the article feeling sad and more informed, but not thinking there was anything I could really do.
Jamaica has one of the highest populations of Adventists in the world. According to the Adventist Review, 1 in 12 Jamaicans are Adventists, in a country whose majority population is Christian. The violence affects Adventists, including gay Adventists who, along with other Jamaicans with means, have escaped to the United States in search of asylum.
Traveling Muse Pictures, a Los Angeles-based collective of artists and activists, which I direct, has decided there is something we can do. We've started fundraising for a project called "Shoot 'Dem Like Birds," a documentary that will be a vehicle for the lost and silent voices of LGBT Jamaicans. We're fundraising through IndieGoGo in order to raise the funds for our budget and we need your help in donating and spreading the word.
We plan to spend the month of May in Jamaica. We plan to use existing connections and relationships we are currently building to meet with politicians and activists. We want to give voice to something that has gone unheard for too long. The film will feature stories of these activists and will ask those in power why this kind of violence has gone unanswered. We value social justice and believe that giving people a voice is a way of giving them power.
Over the last six years, Traveling Muse Pictures has been telling stories of people who are often forgotten or silenced, like victims of torture and rape; and for the last two years, we've been formalizing our collective as well as pursuing nonprofit status. After gaining our incorporation and a fiscal sponsorship, we felt that "Shoot 'Dem Like Birds" was a project that couldn't wait any longer.
A graduate of Southern Adventist University's film program, Leslie Foster is the executive director of Traveling Muse Pictures.