Advocates across the Caribbean diaspora continue to galvanize the LGBTQ+ community against those who tell them that their existence contradicts the laws and cultural values of their home countries. But in 2018 and 2019, an unprecedented shift in policies affecting LGBTQ+ people of Caribbean & Central American heritage arrived: Colonial-era anti-LGBTQ+ laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy and transgender visibility were successfully challenged in Belize, Trinidad & Tobago and most recently in Guyana, where four trans women won a lawsuit contesting Guyana’s “cross-dressing” laws. And despite the existence of similar anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Jamaica & Barbados, LGBTQ+ communities held the first-ever Pride celebrations in their respective nations. With Dominicans, Jamaicans, Guyanese, Haitians and Trinidadians comprising five of the ten largest immigrant groups in New York City, people of Caribbean heritage - who make up almost thirty percent of the city’s 3.3 million immigrant population - have made prominent contributions to New York City’s food, music, business, political and cultural scenes since the first Jamaican immigrants arrived in the late 1800s.
Less prominent were the Afro and Indo-Caribbean LGBTQ+ migrants, whose identities and stories remained hidden from their conservative migrant communities. The founding of Caribbean Pride by Trinidad-born activist Colin Robinson in the late 90’s, Curry Club NYC and Sholay Productions – two of the first known Caribbean and South Asian LGBTQ social spaces - in the early 2000’s provided that small taste of their island homelands, while allowing opportunities for queer & TGNC immigrants and first-generation Caribbean-Americans to dance, network, celebrate cultural diversity and organize around social justice issues. This then gave rise to a generation of activists whose quiet, but significant contributions to the LGBTQ rights movement brought us Caribbean-oriented Pride events, rainbow flags staking their claim at widely celebrated religious and cultural holidays, and groundbreaking legislation spanning over 20 years.
Caribbean Equality Project celebrates and expresses gratitude to the brave individuals who have made it all possible: from the activists, drag queens, lawyers, and academics, to the various others. The continued archiving and curation of "Queer Caribbeans" in the diaspora ensures they forever will be commemorated.
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Queer Caribbeans of NYC is curated by Mohamed Q. Amin and Kadeem Robinson of Caribbean Equality Project. The online exhibition is a part of JCAL’s Building Equity initiative, funded in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York Community Trust and the Howard Gilman Foundation. Additional supporters of Queer Caribbeans of NYC include the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, City Council Member Daniel Dromm, City Council Member Adrienne E. Adams, the Queens Memory Project, and Neighbors Against White Supremacy (NAWS) Central Queens. In honor of this historic exhibition, the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio declared September 7, 2019 “Queer Caribbeans of NYC Day.” The closing of this online exhibition will mark the one-year anniversary of the archive’s launch.
Caribbean Equality Project
The Caribbean Equality Project (CEP) is a Queens, New York-based organization that empowers and strengthens marginalized voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of Caribbean origin and descent through advocacy, community organizing, education, cultural, and social programming. To date, CEP is the only educational-based agency serving the Caribbean-American LGBTQ+ community in New York City by cultivating a supportive and progressive Caribbean community free of violence, oppression, and discrimination. CEP’s advocacy efforts are directed toward fostering community partnerships and greater family acceptance. Additionally, the organization acts as a liaison to government agencies and elected officials with the collective vision of an equitable society based on respect, inclusion, and equality, regardless of an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity within the Caribbean diaspora.