I attended another event with a specific hue this week (I love that word…hue). This time, it was pink.
Laughter and music floated out from the venue as I approached. There was an atmosphere of celebration, and indeed it was… The Colour Pink Group’s early day-long celebration of International Human Rights Day – which, of course is Thursday, December 10. As I stepped in, to my immediate left, two dancers spray-painted in silver struck graceful poses. Tables labeled with large pink signs lined the walls, describing Colour Pink’s main activities: Outreach, Vocational Training and so on.
There was also a coffee table in one corner, labeled “Ask Jessica.” I sat down with Jessica, the founder of Colour Pink on the sofa nearby, and asked her a question. No, she didn’t offer me a cup of tea. Jessica Burton is the founder of Colour Pink, and one of the most extraordinary Jamaicans I have met. She is driven. Let’s leave it at that for now…
What question did I ask Jessica? I asked her what she found most fulfilling about her work. Her answer was quite typical of her outlook on life – positive, let’s go for it and get things done. That kind of attitude. She said what she enjoys most is now being able to help homeless youth – those in desperate and difficult situations, with no one to care about them. Now she feels she is able to help them turn their lives around to a life of dignity and fulfillment. Jessica was once living on the street herself. “Who feels it, knows it,” as the Jamaican saying goes. Many gay, bisexual and transgender youth (some very young) are rejected by their families and communities and find themselves on the street, vulnerable and alone. Forced to drop out of school, they face stigma, harassment, violence and extreme poverty. Their physical and mental health is at serious risk. Many turn to sex work in order to survive. They are among the most marginalized in Jamaican society.
The Colour Pink Group helps the boys come back from those margins, finding educational opportunities for them, including vocational training, and provides them with much-needed psycho-social counseling and health services. This is, of course, not an overnight transformation; it takes time and patience, and hard work. Colour Pink’s partners include J-FLAG, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and the National Family Planning Board, the government agency that focuses on sexual health and describes itself as “providing leadership, guidance, advocacy & implementation of quality, equitable sexual health education & services to enable Jamaicans to achieve optimal health.” All these supporters, and more, were at the event.
Well, it was not really one event, actually. It was a series of small events – vignettes, if you like – protests, short speeches, poems, rants, videos, songs, makeup sessions, health talks – and some extremely lively dancing. It all added up to a hell of a package, and I wished I had come earlier; I was repeatedly told what I had already missed!
By the way, Jessica will be starting a YouTube series in January. I will let you know when. You will be impressed by her energy, focus – and her sheer love of life. It’s hard to describe unless you meet this inspiring Jamaican.
And it’s coming up to Christmas. I just wish Jamaicans would be kinder to their fellow citizens. A little more compassion, more encouragement for these young people would be good. They so need it; and they deserve it too.