You completed your undergraduate degree in Management Studies in Jamaica. What brought you to Swansea?
I wanted to do a Master’s in Social Development & Communication. Unlike most people, I typically start my search with the programme of interest rather than looking at what a specific university offers. So, I did a Google search and found Swansea. I did some research on the university, including reviewing the league tables and decided it would be perfect. I was successful in gaining the Chevening Scholarship which made it possible for me to be there.
"I have lots of fond memories at Swansea, both at the University and around town..."
What are your best memories of your time at Swansea?
I have lots of fond memories at Swansea, both at the University and around town – from drinking and partying to protesting with other students for one of our courses to not be discontinued. I quite often reminisce about cooking and chatting with my flat mates on hall, playing Mr Tumnus in the annual Christmas pantomime), going by the beach for the Guy Fawkes celebrations, the restaurants, pubs and clubs in town and on campus, and just how friendly and kind everyone was as well as driving around the city late at nights. Lastly, though not at the University but I spent a really lovely time in West Wales with an elderly couple and was introduced to very lovely Welsh and English foods.
What did you do after you completed your MSc in Social Development & Communication?
Immediately after completing my programme, I returned to Jamaica to work at J-FLAG as the Programme & Advocacy Manager and use some of the findings from my research to bolster the organisation’s work.
How did you end up as the Executive Director of J-FLAG in Jamaica?
Prior to starting the programme at Swansea, I volunteered with J-FLAG for two weeks as I had already made up my mind about what I would be conducting my dissertation research on. It was an opportunity to learn about the LGBT community and connect with some of the main community organizers well in advance of the commencement of the dissertation. Luckily, a month or so before the programme ended, there was an opening. I applied and was successful.
What has been your biggest achievement since joining J-FLAG?
It’s difficult to point to one thing but there a quite a lot of things that I am proud of and consider to be major achievements since joining the organisation. I was able to expand the organisation’s advocacy and programmes to focus on a broader range of issues affecting LGBT people in Jamaica, including on development and how LGBT people are affected based on my dissertation. As part of this, I conceptualized and coordinated a successful five-year programme called “Fight the Hate” to build the capacity of and sensitize stakeholders, including parliamentarians, policymakers, LGBT persons and the public about the rights of LGBT people. I am also really proud of an initiative I developed to provide LGBT people with opportunities to advocate directly to Ministers, Members of Parliament and other policy and decision-makers and influencers so they can hear first-hand from those who are affected by homophobia and transphobia and learn about the actions they can take to address the ongoing challenges. Lastly, within three years of joining the organisation, I increased its income by 380% between 2010 and 2013 to broaden advocacy and programmes and thereby increase the staff complement by 150% by 2015.
Your work has also seen you consulting for the UN and other NGO’s. Does this give you different perspectives for your own work as an advocate and journalist?
Yes, I am always keen on ensuring that my work as an advocate, opinion journalist and public affairs commentator is informed by all my experiences and my engagement with people from a variety of backgrounds. I think it helps to keep me cognizant of the realities on the ground and being able to connect to a wide range of persons from different groups.
The LGBT community has come a long way in recent years. What do you feel are the next big challenges for the community?
I think the next big challenges for the community is making families and communities safer so that LGBT people, youth especially can get the support they need and not be kicked out of their family and community. Working on mental health issues in the community is important. Addressing the challenges in accessing a broader range of health services for vulnerable members of the community and improving access to social protection and support services. Specific programmes addressing bullying in schools is critical to reducing the harm LGBT youth face as well as looking at adverse childhood experiences and the kind of impact it has on persons.
Your work keeps you busy, but what do you do in your free time?
I like to cook (sometimes), go out with friends to chill at bars, spend lots of time idling online on social media or watching movies and my favourite series, going out on adventures, and, importantly, like a true Jamaican, party.