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):
Alexa D V. Strauss-Hoffmann
Angeline Jackson, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica
Dr. Angelique V. Nixon, Caribbean IRN
Ayisha Sylvester-John, Groundation Grenada
CAISO, Trinidad & Tobago
Caribbean IRN (International Resource Network)
Carla Moore, Non-aligned anti imperialist activist
Castellanos Erika, Belize
Charlot Jeudy, Kouraj
Damarlie Antoine, Grenada
Debbie Douglas, Toronto, Canada
Dulce Reyes, Activist, Miami & New York City, United States
Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality
Hayden Bethelmy, GrenCHAP Inc.
House of Aquaria Dominica
Jeremy Steffan Edwards, Founder The Silver Lining Foundation
Jessica St.Rose Secretary, Board of United and Strong
Joshua Elahie, GrenCHAP Inc.
Kadon Douglas, Toronto, Canada
Kenita Placide, Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality
Kerlin Charles, GrenCHAP Inc
Kimalee Phillip, Groundation Grenada .
Kimani Parke, GrenCHAP Inc.
KizzyAnn Abraham, GrenCHAP 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-Lowe, Groundation Grenada & CatchaFyah Caribbean Feminist Network
Melissa-Anne Cobbler, Social Worker, Québec
Michael Thomas, GrenCHAP Inc.
Naomi Jackson, Author
René Holder, Equals Barbados
Richie Maitland, Groundation Grenada
Ro-Ann Mohammed B-GLAD
Sakinah Ambrose, GrenCHAP Inc.
Sharon Mottley, Women’s Caucus of Trinidad & Tobago
Saint Kitts Alliance for Equality
Stephanie Leitch, Founder/ 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
Yaneris González Gómez, Activist, Dominican Republic
Zeleca Julien, I Am One TnT
Groundation 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.