Pride Memorial 2019

Moving forward with purpose requires looking back and learning from our history. This was
the underlying theme of Pride Memorial 2019, which took place on June 30 at the Big Black
Box, Murray Street, Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain.

Memorial, hosted by the NGO Friends for Life ((FFL), is an annual remembrance of
members of the LGBTI+ community who have passed away, whether from HIV/AIDS,
murder, illness and other causes. Feature speaker Faye Ferdinandus-Gomes reminded the
audience that “each one of us wants to take a moment, a bit of time to be in a space to offer
support, to get support, to react, to remember, to affirm those who are not here, with us,
anymore.”

She said FFL grew out of an idea to help persons diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, with the
founders visiting friends and others doing what they could. She urged those present and
watching online to continue to care for each other. “What was needed was community and
caring. The community was and continues to be vulnerable. Even though the contraction of
the virus is no longer a death sentence, as many are living longer productive lives with
proper treatment, for others here it is a struggle. For many of our icons from our vibrant
community, who we have gathered here to commemorate, these treatments did not come
soon enough. What they had was a community of people that uplifted each other when
others did not. Those folks, as they struggled, had others that took the time and made the
effort to celebrate and to love each other. You are never alone. It may often feel like it. You
have us, each other, friends, family, you, we, only have to reach out and ask for help. Our
community has so many great moments of love, community, activism, support, just such a
moment is this one, here at the memorial. There are many moments that are not enjoyable
and downright difficult and divisible but we as a community must endure and focus on the
special times such as Pride.”

Ferdinandus-Gomes said support is especially crucial as “we live in a society that is violent,
physically, emotionally and socially towards us, the LGBTQI+ community. We are trying to
make the most of life while living in a world that is not only not built for us, but seems built to
try to prevent our existence. There is no doubt the negative atmosphere takes its toll. We are
called names, labelled, insulted, beaten, discriminated against, shamed, denied our rights
and protections and face condescension. But, these same actions we perpetrate upon our
own community, often with the same venom, spite and hate. You don’t have to go back too
far to find an instance of it.”

She said she looks forward to a future where “LGBTQI+ people are fully included and
embraced. To bring about the change we wish for/ we must come together. There is a
saying “Life is a stage” it is and each of us has a role to play. There is a duality of gay life –
many still hide and cover their tracks. They have to, as it is very unsafe for them to be who
they are and who they want to be. We often risk everything to be open and always forfeit
something, whether a promotion, a job, a family, a home. For it to get better some forcibly go
back into the closet.”

FFL representative Luke Sinnette said he was grateful and hopeful to see the number of
young people who have become involved with Pride and were present at Memorial. He said
they are the wave of the future who will continue the work being done by FFL, other NGOs
and individuals in supporting the LGBTQI+ community.

Audience members shared their stories of what Pride means to them, ranging from a need to
honour friends and loved ones both living and dead, to celebrating the growth of new
communities, to stories about growing up gay, to acknowledging that they were still there
when many friends had passed on. Memorial ended with performances by artiste Rainy
Weather and the reigning Queen of Queens.

For more information on upcoming Pride events, visit www.pridett.com.