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Providing space and leadership to impact change

June 30, 2017

Pride is a time for great celebrations, but it is also a time for greater deliberation and dialogues. Through the series of human rights panels The 519 hosted or co-hosted this year, we encouraged discussions that are important – for the past, present and future of LGBTQ2S communities, in Canada and abroad.

Latoya Nugent, a prominent Jamaican LGBTQ activist, recently participated in a panel discussion at The 519 –  “Until We Are Free: The Global Struggle for LGBTQ Human Rights.” The discussion was part of the series Human Rights Panels organized by Pride Toronto and The 519 during the month of Pride, 2017. 

Nugent – a co-founder of the Tambourine Army, an organization that campaigns against sexual violence to safeguard the rights of women and girls – was one of the five panelists discussing some of the grassroots organizing efforts taking place around the world. Nugent also works with J-Flag, Jamaica’s leading LGBTQ rights organization, and is the Executive Director of “WE-Change,” an organization committed to increasing participation of women in social justice initiatives. 

It was only in March this year that Nugent was arrested and charged with three counts of breaching the Jamaica’s Cybercrimes Act, an arrest that came just days after she helped organize the country’s first major protest against sexual abuse. 

But a mere three months later, she finds herself in front of a packed room at The 519 recounting her story, and talking about the trials and tribulations of her grassroots advocacy. 

“My message today is directed toward Canadians of the Caribbean diaspora,” said Nugent. “It’s my hope that these individuals can play a more critical role in helping Jamaicans achieve some of what you’ve been able to achieve here in Canada.”

She said that some of the areas where support can be provided, beyond funding, include offering technical support, and sharing knowledge and lessons learned – as it relates to the strategies used to successfully fight for LGBTQ human rights protections in Canada over the past 20 years. 

“Canada was not always a progressive place for LGBTQ rights. We know there was a process followed and countless lessons learned by gay and lesbian Canadians that can be shared with advocates on the ground in Jamaica,” said Nugent. 

Nugent said she first became an LGBTQ advocate as a result of university life in Kingston, Jamaica where she experienced constant bullying because of her sexual orientation.

This motivated her to become vocal about the rights of LGBTQ people in Jamaica over the years. Technology played an important role in this journey. She started using her BlackBerry status updates to engage in a discussion about the rights of LGBTQ people among a broad network of friends and colleagues. Quickly gaining confidence in her own voice, Nugent then went public taking to Twitter where she began engaging with J-Flag, eventually getting involved with the organization in a formal capacity in 2013.

Side mid-shot of Latoya speaking in a panel on an orange sofa with a mike in hand. Four other panelists in the background sitting and listening.

Nugent traveled to Toronto for the first time in 2014 to attend World Pride celebrations, and first became familiar with The 519 through a member of The 519’s management team who was leading the refugee support program.

“This year, in particular, I have been in regular contact with activists and advocates in Canada, discussing ways in which we can help LGBTQ Jamaicans in Canada benefit from the services of organizations like The 519 – and ways in which activists in Jamaica can gain insights from such programs and services,” Nugent said.


[Edited] Original article contributed by Andew Perez, Communications Volunteer at The 519