Dear Max-Arthur Mantle,

You have reached out to a few LGBTQI* people, organizations and allies from Grenada, other Caribbean countries and the diaspora to seek participants for your film. Your intention was to supposedly document our experiences yet disappointingly, many of your interactions in messages and on public platforms such as Facebook have been disrespectful and offensive. On a number of occasions you have reacted unprofessionally to individuals who have not responded the way you wanted or who informed you that they were not interested in being interviewed for your film, VISIBLE: Portraits & Narratives of LGBTQ People of the Caribbean Diaspora.

This is certainly not the biggest issue we have to deal with as LGBTQI* communities, and  while we stand with you in solidarity as a Caribbean person, a gay person, and a human being, it is our responsibility to hold you accountable for the inexcusable levels of arrogance, entitlement and patronization you chose to share with us.

We were appalled when your first point of contact with one of our sisters, was you sending a message asking what her sexuality was.  We were further appalled with your engagement with some of our other colleagues, whom you referred to as “b**ch” and “motherf**kers”. From the onset many of us had only first heard of you via your online messages that lacked warmth, such as “Hi are you LGBTQ?” and your rude demeanour when questioned about your lack of introduction. Some of your responses even amounted to “I’m short on introductions right now” and “Read my page, I’m busy…”.

When you were not getting participants as willingly and quickly as you wanted in Grenada you chose to make a Facebook post on May 18th attempting to publicly shame the Grenadians you had contacted. Instead of being understanding of the many reasons one might not want to be interviewed by you, you diminished our concerns to us not understanding what it means to identify as LGBTQI*. You took an unrelated post by an LGBTQI* activist group referencing “lifestyle choice” to assume that we all think of our sexuality in one way, ultimately misjudging and demonizing us.  As someone coming from the US, you acted callous and irresponsible by further dismissing our concerns by stating “I think the locals are still traumatized by 1983”.

Max-Arthur, we would like to caution you to not take in jest, the seriousness of our history, our attachment to those histories and the ongoing revolutionary fire that burns within all of us. Do not insult our ancestors and the ongoing work that we do, much of which continues to be inspired and fueled by those revolutionary warriors.

You classified our views as “primitive” and dismissively referred to us as “the locals”. You attempted to pass judgement without having one real and substantive conversation with a person in Grenada. Claiming that we are suffering from internalized homophobia because we chose to not be a part of your film is offensive and untrue. When you received push back about your Facebook post you lashed out with comments like “Google me bitch” and you even sent a message to a youth LGBTQ activist saying,

“…come at me! I have a lot of people supporting this project! After all this is a film project. I wouldn’t want you ugly motherfuckers fucking up my shit!”

Do you realize the ways in which you are feeding into the racist, colonial and capitalist tropes where again, our experiences are only deemed valuable once they can be exploited? Is this how we build community across borders?

In the past 24hrs since we have started an online discussion about your actions, colleagues from across the region and diaspora from countries such as Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent, the Dominican Republic and Barbados have come forward to voice similar concerns as those shared by us Grenadians. They have shared similar experiences of you being rude, pushy, bullying and also attempting to shame them for their choice – if they decided not to – participate in your film, VISIBLE. Regionally, people did not respond to you with the open arms that you expected. Our reasons are personal, political and our own. Clearly some of us sensed the person you have now publicly exposed yourself to be.

We would advise you to, next time, insert love and compassion into your approach. Our community is tender yet resilient. With trust, care and empathy being core elements of how we live, love and build relationships, we open spaces to have conversations; spaces we see as sacred and valuable in order for us to do the critical movement-building and relationship-building work that we hold dear. We are telling our own stories and we allow people who approach us with love and respect to document our lives as well.

When a journalist or filmmaker starts with the premise that they are “creating a voice” for someone, they are beginning with the false idea of voicelessness. You are not creating a voice for LGBTQI* folk living in the Caribbean or in the diaspora. You are not our storyteller since you are not willing to actually hear us. You’ve also made it clear from various posts, that you do not see yourself as part of our community. You reminded us repeatedly that you live in America. Now you choose to act surprised when the “voiceless” speak out. When they voiced sentiments that countered your own, your response became “I am keeping my ass in America.” It is again made clear that your goal is to exploit our lives and experiences in a way that reinforces geo-political power structures and that denies Caribbean people power and agency.

We hope that those considering funding and supporting your project think twice, as you have not only been unprofessional and disrespectful, but your use of violent language has done great harm to many organizers who continue to put their lives on the line. Your intentions have been made clear and we, members and allies of diverse Caribbean LGBTGI* communities at home and abroad, would like you to know that we condemn the harmful approach you have insisted on taking and your profuse lack of accountability and self-reflexivity despite being called out time and time again.

 

List of signatories (Alphabetical):

 

Abiola Clement

Alesia Aird

Alexa D V. Strauss-Hoffmann

Angeline Jackson, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica

Dr. Angelique V. Nixon, Caribbean IRN

Ayisha Sylvester-JohnGroundation Grenada

CAISOTrinidad & Tobago

Caribbean IRN (International Resource Network)

Carla Moore, Non-aligned anti imperialist activist

Castellanos ErikaBelize

Charlot Jeudy, Kouraj

Colour Pink Group

Damarlie AntoineGrenada

Debbie Douglas, Toronto, Canada

Dulce Reyes, Activist, Miami & New York City, United States

DomCHAP

Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality

Equals Barbados

GrenCHAP Inc.

Groundation Grenada

Hayden BethelmyGrenCHAP Inc.

House of Aquaria Dominica

Jeremy Steffan Edwards, Founder The Silver Lining Foundation

Jessica St.Rose  Secretary, Board of United and Strong

Joshua ElahieGrenCHAP Inc.

Kadon Douglas, Toronto, Canada

Kenita Placide, Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality

Kerlin CharlesGrenCHAP Inc

Kimalee Phillip, Groundation Grenada .

Kimani ParkeGrenCHAP Inc.

KizzyAnn AbrahamGrenCHAP Inc. & CatchaFyah Caribbean Feminist Network

Dr Krystal Ghisyawan, The Silver Lining Foundation

Lisa Harewood, Filmmaker, Barbados

Lysanne Charles-Arrindell, Alliance For Equality, St. Maarten/St. Martin 

Malaika Brooks-Smith-LoweGroundation Grenada & CatchaFyah Caribbean Feminist Network

Maria Fontenelle

Maureen St.Clair

Maurice Tomlinson

Melissa-Anne Cobbler, Social Worker, Québec

Michael Thomas, GrenCHAP Inc.

Michelle Pascal

Naomi Jackson, Author

René Holder, Equals Barbados

Richie MaitlandGroundation Grenada

Ro-Ann Mohammed B-GLAD

Sakinah Ambrose,  GrenCHAP Inc.

Sean Macleish

Sharon Mottley, Women’s Caucus of Trinidad & Tobago

Soraya Palmer

Saint Kitts Alliance for Equality

Stephanie LeitchFounder/ Co Director, Womantra, Trinidad & Tobago

Stévia P. Arthur

Timmia Hearn, I Am One TnT

Dr. Tonya Hayes, CODE RED for gender justice & CatchaFyah Caribbean Feminist Network

Patrice M. Daniel, Gender justice activist, Barbados

Paula Lindo

Yaneris González Gómez, Activist, Dominican Republic

Zeleca Julien, I Am One TnT

 


cropped-cropped-cropped-realgroundationlogo1.jpgGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change. We are a co-founder of Grenada Community Library & Resource Centre.

Open letter to Max-Arthur Mantle of VISIBLE documentary
Tagged on:             
  • Max-Arthur Mantle

    This is my mission. Anything else is just noise.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article47624020.html

  • Max-Arthur Mantle

    What was a Facebook disagreement where I agreed to disagree and months later offered an “olive branch” after realizing that my passion was misinterpreted, has now become a vindictive attempt to derail my efforts. We make mistakes and I made steps to correct the error. I was not aware that asking someone a mere question of their sexual identity was disrespectful. In America, it is not. I was not aware of many of the things that were taken offense to from people living in the Caribbean, having left 25 years ago, but upon visiting in June 2016, and having a firsthand experience of your reality, the very nature of my documentary of being visible is not possible.
    Being visible where you are free to walk down the street holding your same-sex partner’s hand, where you can marry, where there are no anti-sodomy laws that makes what you do in the privacy of your bedroom with your same-sex partner a crime punishable up to 25 years to life, where you are not ostracized and regarded as an abomination by religious beliefs, is an American and concept of the diaspora. The original intent is to tell stories that I can relate to, which is being LGBTQ and Caribbean, living in the diaspora. This is the focus of my project and I am therefore requesting that this post is deleted, and/or anyone reading this will realize the sincerity of my efforts and apology to those LGBTQ living in the Caribbean who might have thought that my approach was offensive. I have moved on from this headache and misunderstanding.
    My main concern is that when information is requested from the web regarding my documentary, this letter is the first to appear, and I find this slanderous and irresponsible on the part of Groundation Grenada. What benefit does this serve but to derail my efforts, and how would you gain from this?
    “Mi dey a farrin too long fi know how Caribbean people tink and how den gallan. Karma is a bitch!”

  • Max-Arthur Mantle

    The letter posted on the link http://groundationgrenada.com/ 2016/05/23/open-letter-to-max- arthur-mantle-of-visible- documentary/ I am requesting to be removed immediately from the website and/or any electronic medium.

    I have addressed the concerns by your group in an email response after realizing the error of my approach. As such this information posted on this link which does not inform anyone of the outcome and my response I regard are libelous and a defamation of my character, and tarnishes the image of my project.

    My documentary VISIBLE – THE LGBTQ CARIBBEAN DIASPORA will address issues pertinent to participants living in the DIASPORA. Quite frankly it does not INCLUDE you and your organization as well as the other people and organizations that signed this letter.

    And with every party who for some reason wish to air their two cents, this letter will only serve as a vindictive fuel to motivate them to come after me. I do not have time for this negative energy. Haters are going to hate. What have you done with your life but to criticize and try to tears down people? I attended Howard University, served in the military, published photo books, my photos have graced the covers of international magazines, I have written a novel that took 4 years, and now I’m directing a documentary. My point is not to brag, but to show you that if I sat on my ass and listened to people like you and your negative energy, I would never accomplished anything. When I was at Howard University, the only out Caribbean undergrad at the time, where were you when the homophobes taunted me, but I rose to become the Homecoming Fashion Show Coordinator, the most coveted image builder at Howard University. When I was in the US Navy and I was subjected to abused from low-functioning “crackers” where were you, and I survived and wrote a book about it. When I was running with my head cut off in the fashion industry working with arrogant superficial assholes, where were you, but I shot the last cover of BLUE+66 magazine, Australia’s most prestigious bi-monthly photo-art magazine and got a book deal. And you come at me with your bullshit, be prepared to take it if you can dish it, because I will survive you. My purpose here is greater than the time you take to hate and try to be relevant.

    I certainly do not see Groundation Grenada with Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe and Richie Maitland at the helm making a documentary. You are free to if you have the resources. My project is not meant to suggest or represent all LGBTQ people of the Caribbean diaspora. It’s my vision and portraits of narratives of participants I have chosen.

    Max-Arthur Mantle
    Director – Producer
    VISIBLE – The LGBTQ Caribbean Diaspora
    http://www.visiblelgbtqcaribbean.com

  • Beemore

    Well, I have to lend support to this letter. I recently had interactions with this said “filmmaker” and in the span of 3 emails he revealed himself to be exactly what was described above. I am an established filmmaker and I wanted to lend my skills to this project. It was very disappointing that such an important topic was being so poorly represented on screen; the trailer I saw was very poorly done. However, Max was very unprofessional in our brief conversation. I will definitely spread the word here in the states that he does not have the community’s best interests at heart.

    • Max-Arthur Mantle

      Interesting that “you people” are quick to call me out without relating the full details. Brynmore Williams you say you have been a filmmaker for 15 years and you do not know what is a Steady cam is? Really? And you then gave me a quote as a cameraman that’s unethical by the industry standards. Did I stutter, “Fuck off nigger!” Maybe I am a bit too transparent and not afraid to say what people really want say. I don’t need a filter. I’m running for popularity. I could careless what your opinions are of me, especially that I do not know you and you are not my peer. I have no energy for bullshit from anyone, any organization, any agenda. This is my project, my vision, my investment. If you don’t like what I’m doing, go make your own fucking documentary!!!

      • Beemore

        As I like to say, arguing with a fool is like trying to catch a fart in a bottle. What’s the point? Cause even if you do succeed you still just have a fart in a bottle.

  • mauricetomlinson

    I deeply regret that this was the experience of persons in the Caribbean. Our liberation strategies may differ but we are not the enemy. When Max interviewed me in Toronto I raised similar concerns with him about how I felt the process went. I suspect that I was not clear enough. I therefore have to endorse this letter and urge Max to reflect on these words: “We are telling our own stories and we allow people who approach us with love and respect to document our lives as well.”

    • Max-Arthur Mantle

      You have showed you true face Maurice Tomlinson to me and I will not sling any mud. Just realize that the image you project to everyone I hope it lasts and the funding, speaking engaging keep coming in. Nothing last forever darling.