BLOOM | Jamaica is an offshoot of BLOOM | NYC – a party thrown by Jamaican-born men and women who have spent their lives between the two countries. We are a celebration of the richness and diversity of our communities. We attract a broad range of guests of all sexualities and genders from North America, the Caribbean and from as far as Europe and Africa. It is because of the uniqueness and size of this group that Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica invited us to have our celebration on the island.
We’re willing to engage people who are seriously looking to interact with an open mind. We believe there is more than one approach to liberation. Jamaicans are not a monolith and the situation on the island is more complex than meets the eye. Many Jamaicans support human rights for all and the situation on the island is slowly changing.
We go to Jamaica because we are Jamaicans and know that it is just as safe for gay travelers on the island as it is for any other travelers. We go home and bring our friends with us because we believe that engagement around a drink and a conversation (aka contact) is a powerful tool for social change. Each year, minds have been broadened because of this trip. Many who come each year had previously vowed never to spend dollars in Jamaica. Those guests have returned year after year and always bring more of their friends. Many form lasting friendships locally that keep them informed about what is really happening. After legislative change has been accomplished around the buggery laws, there has to be a cultural shift — that’s the hard part, and this is where local engagement such as BLOOM | Jamaica will be important.
Why Jamaica? Because we are Jamaicans and know that while the island has serious issues concerning violence, it is not simply a matter of homophobia and hate the way it is often framed in the media. We know and understand that there are specific historical reasons for violence on the island that have been long steeped in our culture and been handed down from generation to generation. We know how the poor and marginalized among our friends and family on the island fend for themselves in a state traumatized by harmful colonial relics like sodomy laws instituted under British rule as well as devastating monetary policies by the IMF and World bank-all of which contribute to the shared horrors and lack of connection to normative (Western) social values. Not only have we seen the documentaries, we live the reality.
This however, is only half of the story…
Negril, where our party takes place was once called “hippie town” because of the open minded nature and super relaxed vibe augmented by American hippies who settled there and made it a popular destination some 30 years ago. It is a very safe place to be. Jamaica is a stunningly beautiful island with a rich and beautiful culture and people to match. We at BLOOM know openly gay people who live happy and full lives on the island without harm or worry. We love our country and our people and we cherish the opportunity to share what Jamaica has to offer with our guests. We believe in taking our rightful place within our families and community and celebrating each other there. Because though shaming and boycotting are valid forms of protest we choose to engage Jamaica with our presence.
The qualities that characterize the people who join us on this trip are fun, courageous, open-minded, intelligent, well traveled, and having a strong sense of self and humor. This is not a group of activists. It is a trip for human beings who can find their fun in dealing with the fullness of their humanity while enjoying evolved, thrilling and adult experiences in a Jacuzzi or a room, on the beach, at one of our themed dance parties or at the bar. At our gathering, BLOOMers including local members of the Jamaican SGL community participate in formal and informal discussions on a variety of subjects including activism, wellness and sexuality.
We don’t feel the need justify our methods-this is our birthright. We see the difference this makes in the lives we touch in and outside of the resort. This event is incredibly fun. The staff bends over backwards to make us feel welcome and ensure that we have a good time. Our guests all leave exhausted and smiling from ear to ear. It is very common to hear people making plans for “next year” on the shuttles departing the resort the final day. As the tourist board says: “once you go, you know.”